Teenage Fanclub, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Friday 11 June 2010
"I've got a pocketful of words in my brain/ I pull something out when I think I should," Raymond McGinley croons pleasantly on the exquisite "Verisimilitude" from 1995's Grand Prix, Teenage Fanclub's majestic pop album that's nearly right up there with Fool's Gold, Sugar's Copper Blue and Help!. It contains the sort of shimmery loveliness you could safely shoot off into space, confident it would enhance intergalactic relations. While their latest, Shadows, doesn't scale these giddy heights it still feels as summery as Sue Barker biting on a strawberry on Centre Court, and the new tracks, such as the plinky-plonk new single "Baby Lee", don't sag (that much) tonight.
Formed in 1989 and now nine albums down the line, this fortysomething Glaswegian outfit still make pop seem so easy. A tad too easy. They've never seemed too fussed with courting public favour, nonchalantly going about their melody-strong business. And it appears to suit their similarly aged and attired – T-shirts, jeans – audience just dandy. However, it's hard to forgive how absurdly understated and low key they appear on stage. They don't rock out, they don't much sway, they just play and rarely explain themselves. Sometimes the set errs perilously close to nodding-off territory. The mood, thankfully, lifts with each Grand Prix song – "Neil Jung", "Sparky's Dream" and their rousing "About You".
The Fannies, as they're affectionately called, have acquired many cheerleaders in their 21 years, including Kurt Cobain, Liam Gallagher, Nick Hornby and most crucially Alan McGee, who signed them to his Creation label and oversaw their 1991 breakthrough Bandwagonesque. And "The Concept" off that grunge-tinged album is a [nearly] raucous highlight.
The Fannies are very easy to admire, but just a little less easy to love. They rarely get to the "guts" of the matter. They're too comfortable with their pretty melodies. There's not enough spite, insight or vitriol. But that's my problem.
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