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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Scottish Power Pop Act Teenage Fanclub Returns to Form with Its Terrific New Album

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 1:38 PM

click to enlarge DONALD MILNE
  • Donald Milne
Fresh off the release of Here, the band’s first effort since 2010’s Shadows, lauded dream-pop rocker outfit Teenage Fanclub comes to the Beachland Ballroom on Oct. 20 on a tour that’s considerably lengthier than the jaunts the outfit has taken in recent years.

Singer-guitarist Norman Blake, one of the Scottish band’s co-founders, says the break since the group’s last release stemmed simply from a sort of “inertia.”

“If you were to compress the total time that we spent recording the new album, it probably took us three, four months,” he says in a phone interview. “We just had to spread that over the course of three years. We always like to take stock of what we’re doing when we record an album — it just took us a little bit longer this time for some reason.”

Recorded in Provence and Glasgow, mixed in Hamburg (a city for which Blake emphasizes the band has a fondness) and mastered in London, the record was finally released on Merge Records on Sept. 9. A song such as "Thin Air" finds the band in fine form as it features a perfect balance of noisy guitars and cooing vocal harmonies that suggest the group's '60s and '70s-inspired sound (think the Byrds, the Beach Boys and Big Star). 

“The record has actually been finished for about a year; it’s just that Merge is such a prolific label that we kind of missed our departure slot – so to speak – last year,” Blake says. “We were focused on wanting to be eloquent with the album artwork and stuff; so here we are a year later, having released it and touring again — it’s great to get back to doing what we know best.”

Earlier this year, the band released the video for “I’m In Love,” one of the singles, as well as the band’s debut music video. Blake said that the playful video was shot on a windy shore near the Scottish studio of Edwyn Collins, famously of the power pop act Orange Juice.

“Edwyn has built an amazing, amazing studio — he used to have a great one in London, but I think that the pace of London was a bit too much for him, so he sort of decamped to the north of Scotland,” says Blake.

As far themes explored on the latest release, Blake says the band doesn’t depart from the norm. While the group isn’t necessarily a household name here in the States, it did get a boost when Kurt Cobain famously referred to it as “the best band in the world.”

“None of us are really narrative songwriters,” Blake says, “and we don’t do the William Burroughs thing where you cut up a bunch of lines and draw them from a hat and write songs that way; we tend to write about what we know and what we experience in our lives, and our lives are pretty normal. We often write about relationships, our fears, our anxieties and the general chaos of the planet — all the usual stuff. Mortality is something that comes up more often. I’m 50 and edging ever closer to what my mother used to call ‘the great beyond.’”

Blake laughs about the increasing frequency with which the topic of spiraling off this mortal coil seems to come up in the band’s songwriting.

“As you get older, you start to think about death more often – and not morbidly, it’s just something that crops up more often,” he said. “It’s just like everything else that we write about, the things we know. Our personal lives; our trials and tribulations and joys and whatever.”

Teenage Fanclub’s current tour will take it all over the place: throughout the Northern part of the U.S. and back into the U.K. for a few additional dates in November. When asked about playing for a U.S. versus a U.K. audience, Blake says he doesn't notice any major differences. In fact, he jokes that the only major distinguishing factor has to do with the climate.

“The only difference is that depending on where we’re playing, more people will be wearing jackets,” he says. “People are pretty much the same wherever you go, especially with the Internet. There are people from all over the world who post about our band on our online forum — and that’s just amazing to me.”

Blake says he’s certainly excited to be headed to Cleveland.

“One thing I promise we will not do in Cleveland is that we will not say ‘Hello Cleveland’ — I promise we won’t,” he laughs. “Not on my watch.”

Teenage Fanclub, Sam Evian, 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $20 ADV, $22 DOS, beachlandballroom.com.

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