TEENAGE FANCLUB: London Kentish Town Forum

(Taken from New Musical Express, 16 December 1995, Page 28)

Should you happen to care about affection and chrysanthemums and heartache and damp bedrooms lit with a warm glow, then Teenage Fanclub will not only stoke up your engine, but actually take you higher.
On the other hand, if your vision of society is one of maggots gathering round for a nightly feast on disease ridden dead rats (Hello? - Ed) - that is, if you're a cardcarrying misanthropist you'd want to have them flogged repeatedly for selling THE BIG LIE.
Tonight, of course, Scotland's finest revivalists and revisionists fall between both camps. Sure they can have you gasping away in admiration for minutes on end at the awestruck loveliness of classically written songs that shred hearts and seem like the simplest things in the world. But then, in equal measure, your attention can wander from the matter at hand to the 'kids' trying to convince themselves there's some reason why they should like this mess.
Teenage Fanclub have been stuck, in terms of progress and the art of writing direct. witty, pop identified songs, since the days of 'Bandwagonesque'. Which isn't to completely discount subsequent efforts, but to point out they reached a crest, perfected a formula and have contented themselves with making structural adjustments ever since.
Once you take your mind off the legions of fans, students, Riggers socialites and rock'n'roll heads, and try to concentrate on the vortex of the sometimes muddy noise, you'll find a yearning and an emotionalism and some craftiness that reaches Alpine heights on the frosty, tearjerking, unrequited lament that is 'December'.
The actual show has now been honed to comic perfection - in an antishow kind of way, of course. Either Norman Blake or Gerry Love precedes each song with a quip, a joke, an anecdote or an aside, and no matter how pretty or devastating or nasty what follows, the jester shrugs off the effusive applause with another barbed quip, another sharp joke.
And TFC still shamble like the worst of them, playing the self-chastising 'Don't Look Back' as if it had suddenly dropped into their laps, or mauling the ever exquisite 'Star Sign' in a manner that brings memories of The Allman Brothers to mind. The key is that, for what it's worth, Teenage Fanclub clown around with professionalism.
However much these cheeky adults try to irritate you, you can't completely hate them. Not when one of the three main songwriters - who seem to compete to out-do each other in passion and plaintiveness - declares to his lover that he'd "Steal a car to drive you home". Not even when the song constructed around railroad imagery brings to mind wide open American spaces, the opening up of the frontier, and the annihilation of Native Americans that followed - simply because, with its chug-chug boogie and exagerrated bass licks in tow, the song eventually gets personal.
But then again, you could claim that, despite the cliched trappings of rock'n' roll - or, at least its anaemic indie variant surrounding Teenage Fanclub, no one should read any heritage or legacy or philosophical bullshit into them.
Why? Because all they do is write great love songs and couch them in a two-pronged guitar attack that still remembers what melody is, and, of course, because they're the most unpretentious band in the world.
You'd only be partially right. For the fact remains that when TFC are in their element - as often as not, on this occasion - they are romantic poets of the highest order.

Dele Fadele