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Stage Buzz: Teenage Fanclub at Metro

| February 28, 2019

Teenage Fanclub


March 6, 2019

The third album by Glasgow, Scotland alt-rockers Teenage Fanclub was a breakthrough that earned enduring devotion from a small but loyal clutch of power-pop fans. Bandwagonesque rocketed into late 1991 with big, buzzy and cathartic electric guitars serving beautifully laconic pop melodies. The chaotic but sublime sound suggested intermingled loves for Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine, the Raspberries and Big Star. The quartet might have ascended to the greater heights attained by peers ranging from the Lemonheads to the Gin Blossoms in 1992, had the album and favorite cuts like “Star Sign” not arrived just as worldwide rock audiences were being swept away by the angsty wave of tour-mate Nirvana’s Nevermind.

Although the band members would surely have enjoyed any well-deserved stardom, things may have at least worked out for the best interests of the band’s core audience. Teenage Fanclub has outlasted pop trends in grunge, slacker pop, Britpop and other fleeting fashions while steadily producing memorable work and playing shows for euphoric crowds around the world. The band’s guitar-based sound has become less howling and unhinged since Thirteen, but the emotions, melodies, and pop hooks have only gotten bigger en route to songs from 2016’s Here.  Sources like the Byrds and Badfinger gradually became dominant in the band’s writing, resulting in confections like the buoyant “I’m in Love,” dreamy “Steady State” and harmony-laden “The Darkest Part of the Night.”

On Here track “Live in the Moment,” guitarist and vocalist Norman Blake described growing accustomed to rolling with life’s changes. “Feel good not knowing / What tomorrow and what’s following may bring / Need only think about today,” he wrote. The song proved prescient for the band when founding bassist Gerard Love decided to retire at the end of 2018 after almost 30 years of service. Followers were understandably sad to see a key songwriter with credits including UK #17 hit “Ain’t That Enough” make his exit during an otherwise celebratory tour last fall, but even the most ardent listeners seem to accept Love’s decision as a reasonable one.

The band wrapped its tenure with Love by playing a string of multi-night stands around the UK. The shows featured full-album performances from the band’s celebrated run on Creation Records including Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, Grand Prix, Songs from Northern Britain, and 2000’s Byrds-and-Beach Boys-influenced Howdy! For their upcoming show at Chicago’s Metro, the quintet is expected to draw from a similar well in addition to introducing fresh material.

Despite suffering the recent departure, the group is already firing on all cylinders with a retooled line-up. Returning to Metro alongside Blake will be bedrock singer-guitarist Raymond McGinley and veteran bandmates Francis MacDonald and Dave McGowan. As McGowan shifts from keyboards to cover Love’s former bass post, the group is augmented by new keyboardist Euros Childs.

Teenage Fanclub has wasted no time settling into the new dynamic. The songwriting triumvirate may be reduced to a two-headed monster, but the band’s February release of a video for new single “Everything’s Falling Apart” reflects its wry sense of humor and bodes well for the future. The song chugs, chimes and shimmers, echoing the hallmarks that have made the band beloved for three decades. The romantic and regretful “Everything’s Falling Apart” is the first song to be released from recent recording sessions in Hamburg, Germany for a new album.

Teenage Fanclub perform at Metro on Wednesday, March 6th

– Jeff Elbel

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