Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Six Seconds – a Short Cut to Teenage Fanclub
In 1989, Raymond McGinley’s neighbour died. In her will, she bequeathed the young Scottish guitarist a washing machine and a refrigerator. Raymond sold these and used the proceeds to finance demos with his newly formed band, Teenage Fanclub, who were yet to play a live show. McGinley, singer/guitarist Normal Blake, and singer/bassist Gerard Love, who make up the nucleus of the group, recorded demos for A Catholic Eduction, the first album in a vaguely wayward but largely satisfactory career. Because they’re almost determinedly retro, it’s difficult to label Teenage Fanclub as significant as nineties contemporaries like Radiohead, but in terms of the basic components of melody and harmony the band have few rivals from their era; even Oasis declared them the second best band in the world. While the influence from the Big Star/Beatles axis is well documented, the less conventional Sonic Youth also informs the group’s sound, and the heavy guitar layers are more complex than traditional power pop. This collection takes in highlights of their career between 1990 and 2002; I haven’t heard any of the group’s studio albums, but this flows extremely well as a compilation and at precisely 4,766 seconds long it’s good value for money as well.
Classics include ‘The Concept’ (the first track on 1991’s Bandwagonesque, which Spin infamously named as album of the year ahead of Nevermind) with its opening line “She wears denim wherever she goes/Says she’s gonna get some records by the Status Quo”, Love’s anthemic ‘Sparky’s Dream’ and Blake’s stuttering ‘Neil Jung’. Of the three new songs, Blake’s ‘Did I Say’ is a terrific hard driving yet lilting ballad. It’s hard to point out too may low points; although McGinley’s writing is generally less accomplished that his bandmates’, he still contributes the excellent ‘My Uptight Life’. I’m not always in the mood for idiosyncratic groundbreakers like Pere Ubu or Captain Beefheart, but I’m always happy to hear Teenage Fanclub.