Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hooks and Harmonies

Most great bands’ creativity depends on either one or two people: there are those that are beholden to a single song-writing visionary, such as The Jam’s Paul Weller, and there are those that are fortunate enough to have a writing partnership. These are either genuinely collaborative, such as Strummer and Jones, or a convenient handle for separate writers such as Lennon and McCartney. What is unusual is to have three equally strong but distinct songsmiths; when it comes to Teenage Fanclub this is precisely the case.

The Bellshill band’s albums have always seen the writing duties shared amongst their trio of guitarist/vocalists Norman Blake, Gerry Love and Raymond McGinley and this year’s superb album, Here, is no exception with a very exact and democratic four tracks apiece. Despite this demarcation of composition, Teenage Fanclub have always achieved a unity of sound and this was ably demonstrated at Concorde 2 in Brighton on Thursday night with crowd-pleasing numbers such as Verisimilitude, Ain’t That Enough and Sparky’s Dream from their mid-nineties salad days.

The gig was not an exercise in nostalgia, however, as half of the songs from Here featured in the set and showed that the Fannies’ fabulous grasp of melodies, hooks and harmonies is as strong as ever. There was the shimmering pop of Love’s Thin Air and the well-crafted sentimentality of Blake’s I’m In Love, which featured some gorgeously effortless lead guitar playing from McGinley. And, although I overheard one punter afterwards describe the new material as “more morose”, I think “mature” was the word he was grasping for. On McGinley’s Hold On, it is experience and reflection that shines through: “think of the ones you love and what they want and what they need...hold on to you life, to your dreams.” If this is the voice of middle-age talking, then Teenage Fanclub are talking to me.

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