Teenage Fanclub – A Catholic Education

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

My. Fucking. God. I love Teenage Fanclub. I first came across the band in 1991, via the “Star Sign” single, and I could not get enough of it. Fortunately for me, this came at the start of a run of outstanding albums from Teenage Fanclub that lasted for years. One of my greatest memories as a music fan is finally seeing Teenage Fanclub live – they were older and had short hair by then, but the music was as magical as ever. I belong to a Facebook group called, appropriately, Teenage Fanclub fanclub. I have spent quite a bit of time watching old TFC performances on YouTube.

What I Think of This Album

You might think this album starts and ends with the superior “Everything Flows.” You would be wrong, but it would be understandable; certainly nothing approaches the loch-deep grandeur of that song, but there is other worthwhile stuff here.

Easily the shaggiest, noisiest TFC studio album, it suggests a youthful, carefree band just returned from playing a backyard party. This album is definitely less impressive than what was coming, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. And frankly, it’s a shit ton more fun that the last few Fanclub releases.

While the superb vocal harmonies of the next several albums attest to the band’s abilities in that department, here they are content to sing in the vicinity of the relevant key, as demonstrated by the lackadaisical vocals on the frothy, crunchy “Everybody’s Fool,” which benefits from a cool, slowed down coda. There is a shoegaze quality to “Eternal Light,” which, like many of the songs here, finds the band casually churning four chords over and over, adding Neil Young riffs here and there, but the thing is it never gets boring, and it is almost always super melodic. In fact, breaking down the monumental “Everything Flows” reveals that it follows the same basic blueprint – cycling through the chords while Raymond McGinley peels off Neil Young licks from 1975; it just so happens that the repetition makes your brain conform to it and the riffs are first rate.

Just to prove how special it is, compare the song to “Heavy Metal,” an instrumental which is not what it claims to be; while this and “Everything Flows” share a similar framework, the former sort of trudges along listlessly, with a mundane guitar part. The band strikes gold again with “Critical Mass,” showcasing the strong melodic sensibilities that would pay dividends just one year later, and too, “Too Involved” is an obvious precursor to the songs of Bandwagonesque. More attenuated, “Don’t Need a Drum” sounds like a pale version of what Teenage Fanclub would become.

“Every Picture I Paint,” much like “Everything Flows,” reveals that there is not as much daylight between TFC and Dinosaur Jr. as you might initially think. The title track chugs along nicely, with a strong ‘70s classic rock subtext and some energetic drumming (I’m guessing from Brendan O’Hare) as well as lazy “ba ba ba’s.” Also on display is the band’s odd sense of humor, with tracks titled “Heavy Metal II” and “Catholic Education 2;” the latter adds a teasing intro and ridiculous guitar leads to its namesake, while the former adopts the same sludgy approach of its twin. The band would eventually record “Heavy Metal 6” and “Heavy Metal 9.”

Most of this was recorded with original drummer Frances MacDonald; some tracks (it is never specified) were rerecorded with O’Hare.

The band thanks Stephen Pastel (the Pastels) in the liner notes; Norman Blake and bassist Gerry Love had both been in the Pastels. This was released on Paperhouse in Europe and on Matador in the U.S., with different sequencing.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Everything Flows” has been deservedly covered by Velvet Crush and Dinosaur Jr.

Release Date

June, 1990 (U.K.); August, 1990 (U.S.)

The Cover Art

I have not the first clue what this is supposed to be, or why anyone thought this would be a good album cover.

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