Music review: Teenage Fanclub - The Creation Years, Barrowland, Glasgow

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This week Teenage Fanclub played three shows in Glasgow, each one focussing on different albums released during the band’s decade with Creation Records. Fiona Shepherd and David Pollock were there...

Teenage Fanclub: The Creation Years 1991-93, Barrowland, Glasgow ****

FOR nearly 30 years, Bellshill’s Teenage Fanclub have been a comforting presence in Scottish music, a band whose lack of sonic ostentation is balanced by the gorgeous, pinpoint pop accuracy of their most beautiful songs. They don’t shout loudly, but their heart and soul come through with perfect clarity, and the two major events which have brought them firmly back into the public consciousness this autumn have been seismic by their standards.

The first was the announcement of the departure of founder bassist Gerard Love (although not just yet) on the grounds of his unease about the prospect of travelling by jet for upcoming tour dates in the southern hemisphere; the other was the band’s novel and well-received decision to not just revisit one classic album in a live touring context, as many acts now do, but to play each of their albums from the 1990s consecutively over three nights.

This first show showcased 1991’s Bandwagonesque, the band’s first album proper for the Creation label, and 1993’s often critically snubbed follow-up, Thirteen. The current five-piece line-up was joined by original drummer Brendan O’Hare, a grey-bearded mine of well-received stage banter, his successor Paul Quinn on percussion and sometime multi-instrumentalist Joe McAlinden.

The recreation of each record was note-perfect, their dimly-remembered corners received like old friends, from Bandwagonesque’s joyful What You Do To Me and its bittersweet Alcoholiday to the spiky interludes Satan and Is This Music? The joys of Thirteen were also brought to the fore, with the pure pop of Radio in particular receiving one of the night’s biggest ovations, the enduring reputation of this most loveable band feeling somehow recemented. - DAVID POLLOCK

Teenage Fanclub: The Creation Years 1994-97, Barrowland, Glasgow ****

AS WELL as celebrating their fertile decade signed to Creation Records, this trio of Teenage Fanclub shows were significant as bassist Gerry Love’s last hometown appearances with the band, and the question of where the group go next without one of their three songwriters lurked in the background of this genial show, featuring former band members – including, for this edition, Paul Quinn back on the drummer’s stool – and multiple manly declarations of love for Love from the capacity crowd.

The first half of the set was given over to their 1995 album Grand Prix - or “the album we started using capos on,” according to frontman Norman Blake. Esteemed in the Fanclub canon, it features one of Love’s best songs, Sparky’s Dream, followed by one of Blake’s best, Mellow Doubt, as well as Raymond McGinley’s freewheeling, philosophical Verisimilitude.

Former drummer Brendan O’Hare was a Bez-like presence on the fringes of the action, and Blake made a virtue of his halting piano playing on Tears but nothing could detract from the celestial joys of Don’t Look Back or the indelible melody of Neil Jung.

The classic tuneage persisted in the second half with a chronological zip through Songs From Northern Britain featuring the harmonising frontmen at their most Byrdsian on Ain’t That Enough plus appreciation for McGinley’s guitar wrangling on Can’t Feel My Soul, the cheap synthesizers used on Planets and Blake’s xylophone embellishment to the romantic favourite Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From. - FIONA SHEPHERD

Teenage Fanclub: The Creation Years 1998-2000, Barrowland, Glasgow ***

SLOWER ticket sales for the final night of Teenage Fanclub’s mini-residency at Barrowland suggested that their 2000 album Howdy! was the red-headed step-child of the brood. Yet it opens with one of the finest Fanclub songs, I Need Direction, delivered confidently as a rich roots rocker with Hammond organ and Raymond McGinley’s warm, twanging guitar.

The country rock vibe continued with Accidental Life, helmed by Norman Blake in yearning Roger McGuinn mode and, despite a handful of longueurs, the harmonic interplay between the frontmen and the embellishing flourishes from Francis MacDonald and Dave McGowan on keyboards, won the day on the likes of The Town and the City and the bittersweet My Uptight Life.

Former drummer Brendan O’Hare returned to play bongos (to the beat of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) on Cul De Sac though the band were arguably safer with the metronome which pulsed through the winsome acoustic folk of If I Never See You Again.

Customary self-deprecation to the fore, Blake hailed the second half of Creation-era B-sides as “a pot pourri of our even more rubbish tracks” but, in a mixed bag, the early grunge energy of Long Hair and gentle indie bossa nova of Some People Try to F*** With You provided welcome dynamic variety before this cheerful celebration concluded with a soft singalong to Broken and a rollicking cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Older Guys. - FIONA SHEPHERD