Teenage Fanclub - Shadows

by Dan Clay Rating:8.5 Release Date:2010-05-31

It's a truth universally acknowledged that Teenage Fanclub's Grand Prix is one of the best album of the 90s, if not the best. Fifteen years on and five from their last album Man-Made the Fannies have made a real companion piece to that record's slower feel with their trademark blend of catchy melodies, harmonies and jangly guitar pop. The overriding feeling though is that this is less 'Sparky's Dream' - the best song of the 90's - and more Parky's dream.

That doesn't mean to say the album's MOR, far from it; just that, as Man-Made showed, Teenage Fanclub are more at home with the volume turned down nowadays than blasting out the big tunes of their youth.

Opener 'Sometimes I Don't Need to Believe in Anything' kicks off the album in lively fashion, followed up well by 'Baby Lee's simple but catchy acoustic drive. 'Into the City' and 'Dark Clouds' find the band in contemplative mood, the latter utilising a light piano melody to hint at a better day; "Dark clouds are following you/ They'll drift away," they sing on one of the album's top songs.

The best though is saved for a rousing latter-middle section. 'Shock and Awe' hints at the band's contentment at their laid-back sound; "Wake me when the conflict is over/ I aim for a peaceful life," sings Gerard Love showing the Fannies' more mature outlook. However it's 'When I Still Have Thee' that shares the strongest comparison with their earlier work. As it is, it could easily fit onto their two best albums, Grand Prix and Nick Hornby's favourite Songs From Northern Britain. Norman Blake sings over the most melodic song on the album full of mandolin, crunchy guitars and soft-rock piano. It also features the album's best lyric, highlighting perhaps the band's own humility; "A minor song in a major key," sings Blake, although I'd bet their fans might argue it's the other way around.

The album fizzes out afterwards but not before 'Sweet Days Waiting' has brought us a laid-back calypso feel, again lyrically used to reflect the band's confusion and displacement with the wider world: "This big old world's getting darker/ Sometimes it's hard to know what's going on", they sing on what should have been the album's closing song.

Savvy bands grow up with their fans, and those students who embraced 1995's Grand Prix are now the early 30s culture vultures eager to settle down. As it is Shadows delivers exactly that; the sound of a band at ease with their own sound and safe in the knowledge their fans will think likewise.

It's a true Teenage Fanclub record where everything's just as it should be. For 45 minutes you can forget the worries of the world and step out of its bright lights and into the shadows - it's much cooler there.

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