Sometimes Teenage Fanclub’s vocal harmonies remind me of the Moody Blues. And I don’t know how I feel about that. I owned a Moody Blues hits comp via the Columbia House CD club in college, but I must’ve traded it in to a used record store some time shortly thereafter. “Nights in White Satin” clearly huffs dongs but some of their other songs are alright. Weirdly, their best song is from 1986: “Your Wildest Dreams.” That video with its goofy flashbacks was on MTV at the same time as the Grateful Dead’ “Touch of Grey” and those two songs got jumbled into each other in my teenage brain.
But what does that have to do with Teenage Fanclub? Not much. Except they are 30+ years into their career now and they’re way older than Justin Hayward and Jerry Garcia were at that time. Time is a motherfucker.
Raymond McGinley says, “Towards the end of our session in Rockfield Studios making the album I woke up in the middle of the night. There was a guitar next to the bed. I picked it up and this song came out. The words for the chorus were there already. I recorded a rough version on my phone and then went back to sleep. We recorded the song later that day. As a band we like to trust our instincts and let things happen. As with Norman’s song ‘Foreign Land’ this song only exists because we decided to go to the studio and make a record. If we’d waited for the stars to align first before recording we’d still be waiting now.”
Norman Blake says, “These songs are definitely personal. You’re getting older, you’re going into the cupboard getting the black suit out more often. Thoughts of mortality and the idea of the light must have been playing on our minds a lot. The songs on the last record were influenced by the breakup of my marriage. It was cathartic to write those songs. These new songs are reflective of how I’m feeling now, coming out of that period. They’re fairly optimistic, there’s an acceptance of a situation and all of the experience that comes with that acceptance. When we write, it’s a reflection of our lives, which are pretty ordinary. We’re not extraordinary people, and normal people get older.”
You can never go home again. Yeah, it’s a cliche and painfully overused but it’s overused because it’s also painfully true. You can wander the streets of your neighborhood but they’re slightly different, like in a dream. Old haunts are under different names, old friends are…older. So, no. You can’t go home again, but one of the magics of music is you can return to familiar feelings. Neurons deep within the folds and creases of your brain can fire again. You can’t go back, but you can imagine what it would be like if you could. That’s how I feel when I hear the jangle and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub.
My introduction to the Fannies was like so many bands and artists in my youth: via mixtape. Jake had slipped in an alternate take of “Everything Flows” onto a yellow Maxell cassette. The loud guitars layered with pristine harmonies seeped perfectly into a brain already prepped by an obsession with The Stone Roses.
We get older every year
But you don’t change
Or I don’t notice you’re changing
Nearly thirty years on, Teenage Fanclub is still chugging. Their long Scottish locks are shorn and their skin isn’t as smooth, but whose is? The raucous youths who stormed Reading in 1992 are now more mature, more refined, more…still. And maybe that allows more space for the songs themselves. Maybe I’m just getting older too.
The new single, “Home” is classic latter-day TFC. It’s pretty and touching and nostalgic without being morose. Give a listen and feel at home again, if only for four minutes.