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The Graham Album Review #2181

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Teenage Fanclub: Nothing Lasts Forever

(Merge Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/10/2024)

Being old, I tend to be attracted to music that evokes styles that were around in my youth, and there seems to be quite a bit of that going around, with all kinds of retro projects, often from bands whose members play styles inspired by the music of their grandparents’ generation.

This week, we another album that evokes the sound and atmosphere of music from nearly sixty years ago, though in this case, it’s from a band who may not date back to mid 1960s folk-rock era, but have been at it for coming on 35 years. It’s the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub, and their new release, their eleventh studio album, is called Nothing Lasts Forever.

Teenage Fanclub was formed in 1989 in Glasgow, Scotland, after a band called The Boy Hairdressers broke up. Three of the members, Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love formed Teenage Fanclub, which apparently in its early days was a more punk-oriented outfit, releasing their debut album A Catholic Education in 1990. Love departed in 2018, and since then the group has revolved around the songwriting and co-lead vocals of McGinley and Blake. In fact, the two do dual harmony vocals throughout the album. That and the folky but electric guitars conjure the sound of the Byrds, and the folk-rock of the mid 1960s. Further retro touches include some guitar influence from the psychedelic era, and the electric organ sound of the day. Even the drumming style evokes folk rock or British invasion records from nearly six decades ago. Francis McDonald, who was a founding member of Teenage Fanclub and departed to complete his education, returned to the group, and serves as the drummer on the new album, with the group rounded out by Euros Childs on keyboards and Dave McGowan on bass.

What’s interesting about the band is how songwriters Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley work independently to create their individual songs, but they perform them together with the constant dual-lead and harmony vocals. And writing independently, they both came up with a series of songs in which light played a prominent part lyrically. Otherwise, the songs are sometimes contemplative, and often melodic and having a kind of folky undercurrent.

Opening is a piece called Foreign Land, by Blake, that embodies the 60s folk-rock aura, with a touch of British Invasion pop, in this song about aiming to look at the future, and not dwell in the past. <<>>

With a similar sound is the following track, Tired of Being Alone, by McGinley with its lyrical theme of the end of a metaphorical season, moving on to the next. <<>>

The subject of light takes center stage on I Left a Light On, by Blake. The band brings in a small string section. <<>>

Norman Blake wrote another of the light-themed songs, See the Light with a little more upbeat sound, with the addition of sax player Stephen Black. <<>>

It’s Alright also evokes the 1960s folk-rock and British Invasion sound, in one of the album’s most appealing songs, both musically and lyrically. <<>>

Another charming track is Self Sedation also by Norman Blake. Its bouncy rhythm can recall the Beach Boys or even the Beatles. It’s a kind of psychedelic-tinged love song. <<>>

The theme of light is turns up again on another Blake composition, Back to the Light with a thoroughly retro sound with its ringing folk-rock-style guitars. <<>>

The album ends with a lengthy piece by McGinley whose lyrics are a kind of rhapsodic love song, that also makes some social commentary. The track is called I Will Love You and the repetitive music motif is perhaps intended to make it trance-like, though some might consider it a bit monotonous. <<>>

Nothing Lasts Forever the new 11th studio album by the long-running Scottish band Teenage Fanclub, is a great piece of musical retro, evoking folk rock, British Invasion and California pop in an engaging but relatively short recording of 10 mostly succinct songs. Co-leaders Norman Blake, and Raymond McGinley wrote their songs separately, but they weave together in this album’s lyrical motif of light. The two do all the lead vocals as two-part harmony, thereby also conjuring the sound of 1960s folk-rock groups like the Byrds, and do it very well.

Our grade for audio quality is about a B-plus, with the mix and overall sound a little murky at times, but with an avoidance of unnecessary studio effects.

For those whose musical memory is long, but you don’t want to wallow in repeating the same old tunes from decades ago, there is a lot of interesting music being created now that should fill the bill. Teenage Fanclub’s new album Nothing Lasts Forever is a great example.

(c) Copyright 2024 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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