Now almost 30 years old as a band, Teenage Fanclub's consistency and longevity can sometimes work against them. With a vast, high-quality body of work spanning multiple decades, some have a tendency to overlook the Scottish band's more recent work; early records are lauded and canonized while equally strong later records don't always get a fair shake. But for any serious power-pop fans out there, a piece of advice: ignore new Teenage Fanclub material at your peril. In keeping with other latter-day Fanclub offerings like 2005's sublime Man-Made and 2010's Shadows, Here is a mature, melancholy gem that holds up nicely against anything in the band's catalogue.
Here features four songs each from Fanclub's three stellar songwriters (Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love). The first single and leadoff track is Blake's "I'm in Love," which encapsulates all that is (still) great about Teenage Fanclub. It jangles and chimes beautifully, in only a slightly more subdued fashion than their Bandwagonesque-era singles.
While the group may have dialled back the volume in recent years, they've imbued their new material with a subtle emotional resonance. Album standouts like "Thin Air," "It's a Sign" and "The Darkest Part of the Night" don't need to work too hard or reinvent the Fanclub sound to capture your attention; this is a band working at the height of their powers, and these are songs that could act as syllabus for a master class in guitar pop.
Arguably the best moment on the record is mid-album track "I Was Beautiful When I Was Alive," a meditation on aging that features a stunning harmonized coda with a repeated refrain of "What are you going to do about it?" that sounds less like a youthful challenge and more like resigned acceptance of getting older and all that entails.
If Here is what it sounds like to get old with Teenage Fanclub, then time is definitely on our side. (Merge)