Teenage Fanclub: Norman Blake’s 5 Life Changing Albums

teenage_fanclub_1200Kurt Cobain once supposedly called them “the best band in the world,” while a slightly more sober Liam Gallagher ranked them as merely “the second best band in the world” (after Oasis, of course).

tfc_hereIn either case, Scotland’s own Teenage Fanclub is well worth knowing. Surpassing waves of slacker rock, Britpop and power-pop while managing to influence numerous generations of indie bands despite their cult status among connoisseurs of classic pop music, TFC is one of the most celebrated, cherished and simultaneously overlooked U.K. bands of the last 25 years.

Though they could easily rest on their laurels, ‘the fannies’ are back at it again with their first new album in six years, one already praised by critics and fans alike. Here has been described by as Uncut as ‘maybe their best this millennium; a triangulation of mature soppiness, mitigated contentment and indelible tuneage.’ Meanwhile, Pitchfork points out how their music has evolved over the years as a long and stable love affair propelled by intimacy, comfort, and shared admiration, describing the album as ‘a series of quiet revelations, the kind of thoughts you have in moments of clarity, surrounded by people you love.’

Teenage Fanclub emerged out of the town of Bellshill, near Glasgow, flourishing in the local jangly indie scene alongside wonderful bands like BMX Bandits and The Soup Dragons. Their noisy album debut, A Catholic Education (1990), is commonly considered a predecessor to the coming grunge craze.

tfc_bandwagonWith their breakthrough album Bandwagonesque released just a year later by way of Alan McGee’s legendary Creation Records things really started to come together for the band. Immediately praised upon release for its exceptional take on power-pop (think The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Big Star), Bandwagonesque was to be found atop many of the year’s best of polls, with Spin Magazine even placing it ahead of landmark albums like Nevermind, Loveless, Out of Time and Screamadelica at #1.

Though they didn’t achieve the same commercial success with their underrated follow-up Thirteen (1993), TFC were far from history. Grand Prix (1995) and Songs From Northern Britain (1997) stand as pillars not only in their catalog, but also in the annals of ‘90s pop music. In the years since they have continued to explore new terrain, evolving as a band while still staying true to the formula of classic and elegant pop craftsmanship. Working with cult icon Jad Fair (Words of Wisdom and Hope, 2002), Tortoise’ John McEntire on Man-Made (2005) and flirting with various styles within their loose framework over the years, the band in question is still very much alive and well and potent as ever.

Here is described as a record that embraces maturity and experience and hugs them close while expertly consolidating nearly three decades of peerless songwriting amongst the band’s three founding members: Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love. Long story short, Here marks but another victory for a seasoned act that’s still considered a cult band despite the fact that they ought to be rightfully praised as pop kings.

We invited main spokesman Norman Blake for a round of our series 5 Albums That Changed My Life.

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clash_ropeThe Clash:
Give Em’ Enough Rope (1978)

I could have picked anything by The Clash but this was the first record that I bought with my own money. Brilliant songs and it still sounds incredibly fresh and relevant.

painful_yolatengoYo La Tengo:
Painful (1993)

We toured with Yo La Tengo when this album was released 23 years ago. Very fond memories of hearing these songs every night on the tour. We ended up covering “I Heard You Looking.” Yo La Tengo are still good friends.

wire_chairs_missingWire:
Chairs Missing (1978)

Wire were the most idiosyncratic band plying their trade in the UK in the late 70’s. There is no one quite like them and their music is instantly recognizable. They could be abstract and angular on a song like “Another The Letter,” and then write the most sublime pop song in “Outdoor Miner.” Brilliant album.

 

del_shannon_home_awayDel Shannon:
Home & Away (1967/2006)

Recorded in 1967 but unreleased until 1978. Produced by Andrew Loog Oldham. Del’s best and most interesting album, and completely overlooked at the time. I suppose they thought that at 33, Del was past his best. Loog Oldham’s orchestral arrangements are beautiful as is Del’s voice.

kinks_village_greenThe Kinks:
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

Ray Davies is a master songwriter and this is his masterpiece. Brilliant melodies with great lyrics. Nuff’ said. If you’ve never heard this album, do yourself a favour and purchase a copy immediately. God save the Village Green.

Bjørn Hammershaug

Opprinnelig publisert på read.tidal.com, september 2016

71. Telstar Ponies: Voices From The New Music (Fire, 1996)

Telstar Ponies: “A Feather On The Breath”  Telstar Ponies har historie tilbake til band som 18 Wheeler og BMX Bandits og forgreininger til Teenage Fanclub (trommis Brendan O’Hare). De utga kun to hele album midt på 90-tallet, og er i dag sørgelig glemt.

Men Telstar Ponies bør ikke glemmes. De foregrep mye av den blomstrende scenen som kom ut av Glasgow, ikke minst Mogwai som nok hentet en del av uttrykket sitt fra Telstar Ponies. De kan også høres som en mer parallell avart av neo-folkband som Current 93 og Nurse With Wound – alle sentrale for den senere oppblomstringen av slik musikk i England.

Voices From The New Music, deres andre og siste, er et omfangsrikt album på over 75 minutter. Forsterket med blant andre Richard Youngs, senere kjent for en fremdeles oppegående solokarriere, beveger de seg sømløst mellom folk, post-rock og mer eksperimentell støy. Slett ikke alt er like vellykket, men som et ambisiøst byggverk er dette imponerende saker. Stort sett lange låter – sånn mellom 6 minutter og opp mot kvarteret – brukes til å utforske hovedsaklig mørke utposter langs musikkens vidstrakte elv, der de støter innom alt fra Albert Ayler til Nick Cave på sin ferd. Det er en lite opptråkket rute de følger, hvor de sneier innom flekker på kartet som stort sett var hvite i 1996. Bare det er god nok grunn til å plukke fram igjen denne. At Voices From The New Music fremdeles evner å bevege en herdet lytter 15 år etter utgivelsen vitner også om at materialet var laget av solid stoff. “A Feather On The Breath” får fungere som beskrivende eksempel på et album som ikke så lett lar seg oppsummere på én låt. De er alle fantastiske på sitt vis.

Kuriosa: Grunnlegger David Keenan, en profilert bidragsyter for The Wire (han lanserte like gjerne begrepet “freak folk”), grunnla senere det oppegående plateselskapet/sjappa/distributøren Volcanic Tongue sammen med Heather Leigh Murray (fra Houston-duoen Charalambides). Ifølge internettets usikre kilder skal karakteren Gareth Keenan i The Office løselig være bygget på David.