Teenage Fanclub – Shadows

January 01, 1970





In the early 90s, if you and your friends had a band with a
local following, there was a period of time when you were gonna get signed, and
your city was gonna blow up for a second or two. It was often thought of as the
search for the next Nirvana, and the Midwest was pillaged for a new Seattle (remember the Cincinnati scene?). DGC pushed Teenage
Fanclub’s major label debut Bandwagonesque as the next this and that. And all the sudden a record by four Glasgwegians
beat out Nevermind on Spin‘s end of the year list, and they
were being introduced by Jason Priestley on SNL.


Those were the greatest heights Teenage Fanclub would reach
commercially, despite going on to perfect their own brand of harmony and
shimmering melody. (In a stretch from 1995-2000, TFC’s B-sides rivaled almost
any bands’ A-sides.) Thankfully there was no rock star burn out. They were
pretty average guys who loved the World Cup, and put off writing lyrics until
the last minute (hence the shrugged off, beside the point triteness, and little
sense of poetic importance). So normal that come the apocalypse, the members of
Teenage Fanclub will probably cite their families as the greatest accomplishment
of their lives.


Shadows, their
third indie since parting ways with Columbia
a dozen years ago, finds Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley
relaxed, reflective, and satisfied with the comforts of middle age. The first
single, Blake’s “Baby Lee,” is worth dragging people in from other rooms to
listen. The beauty of the high harmony in the chorus doesn’t just bring to mind
The Byrds (as is to be expected), but the way great Fairport Convention crossed
over with The Byrds. Blake’s the rock: the most consistent since the band’s
inception. Love’s contributions are his best in years, delivering on the
chilled out vibe he now favors over the glistening classics of his past. “Sweet
Days Waiting” layers softly plucked guitars over the warmth of a pedal steel,
and Love’s reverb-heavy vocals settles in pleasantly with the kind of calm that
comes after an airplane rises above the clouds and there’s a white world below
you. The downbeat vibe is a good fit for McGinley’s consistently woodsy tunes.
Ruminating on the seasons, his hushed voice fits in well amid quietly lush
production and subtle hooks.


With Shadows, the
abundance of skill in the songwriters’ collaboration is unmatched in the modern
pop songbook. Entering a third decade, it’s clear that there’s too much good
here to ever move on. Let’s hope that’s the way it really is.


Standout Tracks: “Baby Lee,” “Sometimes I Don’t Need
To Believe In Anything” ZACH BLOOM


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