Being Scottish caries with it certain responsibilities, and Scot lads Teenage Fanclub have never shirked. Teenage Fanclub's modus operandi has remained fairly consistent — a near-ideal amalgam of The Byrds' timeless guitar jangle and gauzy harmonies; the crunch 'n' twang of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the sweet-sardonic, mid-1960s-oriented hooks 'n' quirks of Alex Chilton's Big Star, and assorted 1960s folk-rock. It's like the Teens went from the Sixties into the Nineties, bypassing the ultra-slick Eighties completely (a good thing).
Their debut on Merge Records, Shadows, finds the fellows in a somewhat more reflective, autumnal mode. Tempos are on the subdued side, with, alas, precious little rocking-out. Most of the usual elements remain – their vocal harmonies are (still) as comforting as a gentle night breeze on a porch. But there are a few new wrinkles, such as the yearning old-school country twang (think Ray Price, Willie Nelson) that finds its way into "Sweet Days Waiting" and "Today Never Ends." "Shock and Awe" goes for a dense, sumptuously orchestrated ambience with distant echoes of The Band. Overall, melodic hooks are subtler but thoroughly engaging, with a couple of spins.
Their sense of economy is as keen as ever — every song is exactly as long as it needs to be, with no excess in earshot. While Teenage Fanclub traded very-uptempo for contemplative this time out, their songs are so darn fine that it's hard to complain. At all. (Merge)