Shadows, 180G Black Vinyl LP Record, MRG392LP
In 2005, Teenage Fanclub sounded weary. And with good reason. The Glaswegian quartet had been shoved aside by two major labels-- first Geffen, then Sony-- and its longtime UK home, Creation Records, closed up shop entirely in 1999. By the time the group's ninth album, Man Made, finally arrived in 2005-- via the bands' own PeMa Records label in the UK and Merge in the U.S.-- is was noticeably unsettled. Each glistening Byrds-inspired harmony masked lyrics that pondered death, impermanence, and regret. "There is more to learn than I've aimed for/ So much under the sun I should play for/ Before I'm taken in," sang bassist Gerard Love, one of the group's three songwriters, on "Time Stops". It was a good record, but coming from a band that built its reputation on sugar sweet power-pop, it was a bit of a downer.
Fortunately, Shadows finds the band feeling a bit more hopeful. Album opener "Sometimes I Don't Need to Believe in Anything" begins with Love singing about feeling alive and ends with the band skipping through a cascade of angelic da-da-da's. He's not the only one feeling better, either. "Dark clouds are following you/ But they'll drift away/ I watched the night turning into a day," sings guitarist Norman Blake on "Dark Clouds".
Maybe they've just had more time to relax these days. At Teenage Fanclub's current clip-- two 12-song albums per decade-- the band's three principal songwriters need only crack out 1.7 decent tunes per year. The pressure for forward motion is off, too. Nobody is really looking for the group to undergo a major makeover, just to crank out a few dependable hooks. From that perspective, Shadows is a success. Blake's "Baby Lee", with its chiming open chords, is as sturdy a song as the band has ever delivered. Love's contributions are a little more ambitious. The lightly psychedelic "Into the City" ebbs and flows through tides of phased guitar into an outro of soaring Beach Boys-worthy harmonies. Guitarist Raymond McGinley closes the album out with the somber country-tinged "Today Never Ends". -Pitchfork