It hardly feels like six years since Teenage Fanclub released Shadows, an album that demonstrated just why the band are still held in such high regard as the elder statesmen of indie-pop. In the interim period, the main constituent members of group have spent their time going down different musical paths, with Gerard Love releasing an album under the Lightships moniker, Raymond McGinley joining folk-rock band Snowgoose, and Norman Blake recording a wonderfully bonkers album with Euro Childs under the name Jonny, among other things. Now the band have reconvened for their tenth studio album, the rather understatedly titled Here, and anyone worried that their musical sojourns will result in something unfamiliar will have nothing to fear with what’s on offer, for Here is a very comfortable record indeed.
It opens with ‘I’m In Love’, a song that is perhaps the most optimistic pop song that the band have released in a long time. This is followed up by ‘Thin Air’, a song that shows Teenage Fanclub doing exactly what they do best - mid-tempo guitar tunes filled with optimism, a little bit of pathos, and glorious three part harmonies that come together like a beautiful dream.
Many of the songs appear to adhere to this pattern. ‘The Darkest Part of The Night’ has a real ‘Ain’t That Enough’ feel to it, ‘It’s a Sign’ is a twinky little indie-pop number with rolling harmonies, whilst ‘The First Sight’ is just brimming with exuberant optimism. ‘Live In The Moment’, which would make a good post-album single if such a thing is still seen as essential these days, mixes things up slightly with some mariachi-esque horns and throws in a little bit of light existentialism for good measure.
A rare moment of unfamiliarity on the album lies in ‘Steady State’, a song that feels like a thematic sequel to Songs From Northern Britain’s ‘Planets’, is a more reflective, wistful and introverted tune which somewhat oddly, called to mind ‘Pantomime Horse’ by Suede. Teenage Fanclub do this sort of music rather well, as ‘Tears’ and ‘Going Place’ from Grand Prix can attest to, but alongside other more reflective songs on the album, like ‘With You’ and ‘Connected To Life’ , it feels very much an outlier on an album of heartfelt indie-pop, although it does offer an interesting juxtaposition from the more exuberant moments.
After being away for so long, and being pulled in so many different musical directions in the interim period, it is somewhat reassuring that Here is such an undeniable Teenage Fanclub album in sound and in spirit. It may eschew the rough edges of their earlier records, and adhere to the templates the Fannies have used since Songs…, but when you’ve got the formula just right, and have the songwriting chops of three of the finest melodic songwriters these isles have to offer, then the result cannot be anything less than sheer joy in the here and now.
8Christopher McBride's Score