Teenage Fanclub – Songs From Northern Britain

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 6)

I don’t believe that all good things must come to an end. That’s bullshit. But in the case of Teenage Fanclub, this was the beginning of the end for me. This is where the band took a turn towards the pastoral, naps in hammocks, and a warm blanket for those fall evenings in the rocking chair on the front porch. From this point forward, the songs were more about craft and less about art, and certainly lacking the fire and energy of the old days. That’s okay – by this point they’ve basically perfected that craft, and the songs can be lovely. I hung on for a few more albums. I will always love Teenage Fanclub, regardless.

What I Think of This Album

I’m not gonna lie . . . I was very disappointed in this album when it came out, and I remain so. I like it better now than I did before, to be sure, but I miss the Teenage Fanclub that turned its guitars up loud. This celebration of gentle domesticity sounds very pretty. It is an undeniably pretty album, with meticulous harmonies and some sublime melodies. The band has arguably never sung better (certainly not before this and probably not since). Nonetheless, I would have preferred something messier and noisier and more fun. There are guitar solos on here, actually, but they are so gentlemanly, and all in the service of songs about tea kettles or something.

Raymond McGinley provides a wiggly, whammy bar lead part on “Can’t Feel My Soul,” which may be the furthest the band strays from the straight and narrow on this disc. His second contribution – “It’s a Bad World” – is decent, with some flashes of guitar muscle, but still fairly staid. “I Don’t Care” could have benefitted from the rebellious spirit the title implies, but alas, what McGinley affirms is “I don’t care about where I’m going / Because I’ll be there and so will you.” His last song is an acoustic-based number with a slight country feel and a strongly treacly message, which is to be expected from something called “Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From.”

Norman Blake and Gerard Love split the remaining eight tracks (though Blake shares credit on one of his songs with former (and at this point, future) drummer Frances MacDonald). Blake gets the privilege of opening the disc and “Start Again” is an excellent Byrdsy tune with two nice solos (the second one being better) from McGinley and smooth harmonies. The saccharine “I Don’t Want Control of You” just makes me roll my eyes; this is something 60 years old cue up as the soundtrack to their vow renewal ceremonies. The solo is okay. A song titled “Planets” should be more exciting than what Blake and MacDonald serve up, another slow piece, this time with strings. Blake comes up with another great melody on “Winter,” again recruiting Love and McGinley for perfect harmonies; there is a nice chiming (and chorused) guitar part.

Love, as usual, delivers in spades. “Ain’t That Enough” is a sunny song that is the musical equivalent of rolling hills, with jangle and harmonies for miles and miles. The wah-wah pedal inflections elevate the already resplendent “Take the Long Way Round” to a whole new level of genius; the vocal break is wonderful, too. There is a somber beauty to the brooding “Mount Everest,” with two solos that approach the old Neil Young worship of past such efforts, while “Speed of Light” has unusual sonic effects and a surprisingly tough chorus, as well as some fine “whoo hoo hoo”s from the boys.

Two great Blake songs and four tunes from Love that range from great to phenomenal, plus one good McGinley song. Not bad, but this is not the Teenage Fanclub you were looking for.

The Best Thing About This Album

Those wah-wah parts of “Take the Long Way Round” – there should be more of them.

Release Date

July, 1997

The Cover Art

Some people love this artwork. I think it is boring, and the font is terrible.

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