Back to All Events

Teenage Fanclub, The Love Language

  • Majestic 115 King Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Scottish heroes who got their start in the C86 scene are back and ready for a retrospective. Info/tix

Photo by Donald Milne.

Photo by Donald Milne.

Teenage Fanclub was not always the jangle-pop rock act with tight, anthemic melodies that Liam Gallagher once called "the second-best band in the world." The Scottish band's origins were a little more noisy and disorderly. Catholic Education, Teenage Fanclub's 1990 debut, had a heavy grunge feel to it (think somewhere between Sonic Youth and Spacemen 3), and the band followed it up the following year with The King, which, according to singer and guitarist Norman Blake, was recorded in one night as a drunken improvisational experiment. In 1991, Bandwagonesque thrust the band into the limelight and mainstream success. Aside from maybe Thirteen—the darker, heavier fourth release in '93 that, while sonically excellent, seemed to abandon Teenage Fanclub's newfound pop sensibilities, which most critics couldn't forgive—Bandwagonesque signalled a maturation from angsty, chaotic imitations to a structured, melodic eagerness that the band has managed to keep for nearly 30 years.

Teenage Fanclub's 10th and most recent full-length, 2016's Here, is more hushed and understated than much of what came before. It has its share of shimmery, blissful crescendos and guitar shredding, and, gratefully, we're still treated to those gorgeous, soaring Big Star-esque three-part harmonies. However, the instrumentation takes a more introspective, ruminative approach, which the band has arguably been edging towards since 2005's Man-Made. We enjoy more than a few moments of meandering psychedelia sprinkled throughout, and "Connected To Life," the last track on the record, begins with the quiet strumming of an acoustic guitar. The lyrics express a humble wisdom that comes with age, less concerned with conviction and more so acceptance of circumstances, good and bad, and something else: finding real joy. "I'm In Love" is at first listen a typical love song, but a closer look reveals a reckoning with the finite, sometimes cruel nature of life, and love experienced not only in spite of that fact but because of it: "Well, it feels good / When you're close to me / That's enough, that's enough / We will fade into history / I'm in love with your love." The dream-like "Steady State" invites us to, by example, practice non-attachment: "Erase what I've become /And let myself become / To feelings of love / Oh my love."

Some of the borderline hippie/new-age sentiments could sound prescriptive, but it comes across as sincere. And when TF speaks, folks have a tendency to listen. The music has a rare blend of consistency and unity, seen in bands like Guided By Voices or Yo La Tengo, that remind us of being, well, teenagers, when most of us fell in love with rock and roll. They remind us why we should still love rock and roll now.

Some fans are deeply saddened that TF has parted ways with co-founding member, songwriter, and bassist Gerard Love, save for a few dates in the UK, reportedly due to a disagreement about tour scheduling. But on the Facebook event page for this show at the Majestic, Teenage Fanclub released this statement to let fans know what they can look forward to: "You can expect us to do what we want, but what we want to do at the moment is dig a bit deeper into the back catalogue and play songs we haven't played for years, so expect to hear things in the setlist beyond what you might have heard in recent years." So, even though the band just released a single ("Everything Is Falling Apart") and it's likely the show will feature its share of new tracks, fans can expect to hear plenty of older, well-loved material. —Katie Hutchinson