Lightships – Electric Cables

January 01, 1970

(Domino)

 

www.dominorecordco.com

 

If you grew up with Teenage Fanclub, there’ll always be a
bit of Bandwagonesque nostalgia tugging
at you when something current emerges from any (or all) of the band’s three
stellar songwriters. So when exposed to Electric
Cables
, the first release from bassist Gerard Love’s new outfit Lightships,
your first task is to acknowledge the nostalgia and then see where else these
songs take you. It’s a job made easier – and much more rewarding — if you
welcome the warm and intricate textures that have replaced those enormous hooks
and giant banks of guitar fuzz.

 

Take “Muddy Rivers,” a five-minute slice of near-pop
perfection channeling life’s disappointments into the Zen-like sense of the
surging river. A part of you may want to hear a luscious melody like this
engulfed in that Big Star/Crazy Horse guitar-blend and Byrds-meets-Beatles
harmonies rather than poppy organs, the Clientele’s tremolo/vibrato jangle and
wavering flute accents. But the song’s own logic quickly emerges, its subtle
but insistent momentum will out, and you’ll embrace this sound – or, more
likely, the sound of these warm and intricate textures will pick you up and
carry you along as advertised.

 

Chances are Electric
Cables
will win you over when the first chiming guitar notes (and for once,
chiming actually means chiming here) and thick organ swatches of LP opener “Two
Lines” envelop you. And if not then, then probably by first-single “Sweetness in
Her Spark,” with its hammer-on/pull-off riff-refrain embedded in glowing organ
and voluptuous harmonies. Both rank
among the best pop songs Love’s ever delivered.

 

Even most of the songs on the quieter end of the spectrum —
the gentle ballad “Girasol,” for instance, or the shadowy “Every Blossom” — generate
enough heat and sonic complexity to keep our interest throughout.  And where a young Teenage Fanclub would’ve relied
on little more than guitar volume and three-part harmonies to lift a melody
like “Stretching Out” to majestic heights, here Love shows the effect that
working with Tortoise’s John McEntire — on TF’s 2005 Man-Made — had on him as odd electronics bleep and bubble just
below the surface of fuzzed-out guitars, chugging basslines and harmony vocals.

 

In that regard, Electric
Cables
feels like a spin-off from the last Teenage Fanclub LP, 2010’s Shadows, which itself sounded like a
logical follow-up to Man-Made. And no
wonder, really, since Love sought out a cast of fellow Glaswegians to flesh out
Lightships, including Dave McGowan (guitar, Teenage Fanclub), Brendan O’Hare
(drums, from the first incarnation of Teenage Fanclub), Tom Crossley (flute,
International Airport and The Pastels) and Bob Kildea (bass, Belle &
Sebastian).

 

Even when Love does crank up the guitar fuzz, it’s done
judiciously — almost surreptitiously.
The choruses of “Silver & Gold” may kick the song into familiar Teenage
Fanclub territory (though more Songs From
Northern Britain
than Bandwagonesque),
but only after they’ve been introduced by jazz-flavored verses so fluffy they
threaten to float off first.

 

The LP’s weakest moment winds up almost being a cautionary
tale of what these components in less astute hands could’ve become. “The Warmth
of the Sun” is where the pendulum swings too far the other way and threatens,
however briefly, to dissolve into a puddle of soft-focus Bread melodies,
laughable Ron Burgundy flute soloing, and maudlin twee pastels. But that, thankfully,
is the rare exception on otherwise gorgeous
outing from one of rock’s best pop-smiths.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Two
Lines” “Muddy Rivers” “Silver & Gold” BY JOHN SCHACHT

 

 

 

 

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