Summer’s over, but summer’s here…how can that be? That’s the perennial effect of a Teenage Fanclub album – “Simple pleasures are all we need/ Sinful leisure, it’s all we need.” Recorded between Provence, Glasgow and Hamburg, Here is album number ten from a band that took the seeds sown by the finest B-bands – Big Star above all else – and made the heartlands of Scotland a rival to the American west coast when it came to pristine pop music.
The time between their records has been unhurriedly expanding – six years on from Shadows the template remains unchanged as ‘I’m In Love’ strums Here into life, soaring into the choruses with Norman Blake imparting a typically swooning “It feels good when you’re close to me/ That’s enough.” As ever with Teenage Fanclub it’s an egalitarian endeavour; four songs each by Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley, each taking the mantle from the last and injecting themes of love and loss and life and all the rest into the mix.
Relishing their return, Blake and McGinley let fly with twinned and intertwined guitar solos during ‘The Darkest Part of the Night’, dispensing one yearning couplet after another to one of the records loveliest melodies. Gently chiming notes lift off the woozy, backward-effected guitars of ‘I Have Nothing More to Say’, with Dave McGowan’s cyclical keys sounding like the distant, stoned cousins of the synthesisers on ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Then, all it takes is a shaker, a sudden surge in the harmonies, to change it up at the midway point…one of those subtle skyward inflections that Teenage Fanclub excel at. ‘I Was Beautiful When I Was Alive’ similarly gains momentum at the repeated “What are you gonna do about it?” coda, lifting off from the measured and spaced-out keys that galvanise the hazed comedown.
Even with the soul jazz pulse of ‘The First Sight’, the album seems to take a more reflective turn in the latter half. A languorous, ebbing ‘Steady State’ is TFC at their most sombre, and ‘With You’ delves even more into uncertainty (“I will walk with you through darkness/ See what we can see/ I will hide with you from sadness/ And bad philosophy”) until the soul-injected organ takes precedence…because everything is going to be okay. ‘It’s a Sign’ confirms that very sentiment, with Beach Boys backing vocals echoing one another into the higher reaches of the power pop stratosphere.
‘Connected to Life’ ultimately brings things to a bucolic end, evoking Ronnie Lane’s more rootsy solo work; a melancholic close to the record, where things appear much darker than the band seems to be implying (“Disappear into shadows/ Into light”). When all’s said and done, Here is one more effortless Teenage Fanclub sojourn into the depths of the heart, awash with oscillating guitar solos and licks as closely entangled as those seamless harmonies and sumptuous backing ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ that have been honed over almost thirty years of sonic collusion. It’s just one of those simple pleasures they sing about – another collection of gorgeous Songs From Northern Britain. Justin McDaid