Teenage Fanclub are a bit like Blue Peter, or jars of Bovril, or the Radio Times. I don’t necessarily always have a need for them, but it’s very reassuring to know they are still around. There are times though when you really need them, as they provide a sensation unlike any other band, not just the uplift of summer but also a very British (or should I say Scottish) sense of melancholy. They also seem more or less bulletproof, the sort of band of whom you rarely hear a bad word.
What have they built that reputation on? Why have they had this longevity when the majority of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside? The answer, by and large, is through reasonably good records, not always great, but never awful. They have also mutated from the tuneful grunge of Bandwagonesque to a shimmering, melody led band of distinct songwriters, instantly recognizable the moment they come on the radio. Sure, the albums do sometimes sound the same, but despite this you feel compelled to listen to all of them to truly appreciate that fact.
Now on their 9th album, Shadows feels like a collection of songs very much with the sun on their backs but a hint that summer has passed, that the leaves are darkening, of cooler evenings and the waft of autumnal bonfires. Current single ‘Baby Lee’ is great, slow paced but never dragging, slightly sullied by additional strings that smother rather than enhance the tune. They crop up again on album opener ‘Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe Anything’, but with a bit more restraint, the song held together by a tumble of drums and earnest strumming.
The best songs come in the middle, ‘The Past’ a song of long shadows and the light of evening, ‘Shock and Awe’ gutsier with some superb guitar work. It is a track that could have been lifted straight from Grand Prix, with crystal clear production and sparked with energy. From here, things do settle to a more sedate pace, ‘Sweet Days Waiting’ meandering onwards, as does album closer ‘Today Never Ends’. If you like Teenage Fanclub (and as we said before who doesn’t) then there is nothing here you will not be familiar with. It’s more of the same, but when that sameness is so very good, maybe its not such a bad thing.