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CD Reviews: Review of Man-Made by Teenage Fanclub
Harris Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Teenage Fanclub: Man-Made (Merge 2005)

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Teenage Fanclub have a very odd profile in the U.S.

Their debut, 1990’s A Catholic Education, didn’t really do anything in the States except score them critical kudos (it was released on Matador, who’d only just gotten started as a label at the time), but when DGC – Geffen’s uber-cool subsidiary label – released Bandwagonesque in 1991, the Fannies must’ve thought they were going to be set for life. Mainstream America was introduced to the band via an appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” but the factoid about that era that probably still hangs around the band’s neck even now is that, amongst competition like R.E.M.’s Out of Time, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and even Nirvana’s Nevermind, Spin declared Bandwagonesque their album of the year.

That, however, was pretty much the end of Teenage Fanclub’s commercial success on these shores. (Critics of Spin will be unsurprised to learn that, in their typical backpedaling fashion, their July 2005 issue lists the 100 Greatest Albums released from 1985 to present...and Bandwagonesque is MIA.) They might be some of Scotland’s favorite sons (they may have to fight with Del Amitri for sole ownership of the title), but, here, they can’t get arrested. Actually, they probably can get arrested...but, unless the cops were really hip in college, they probably can’t get the charges dismissed. (“Hey, officer, don’t you know me? I’m Norman Blake! I wrote ‘The Concept,’ you know?” “Wow, I thought I recognized those dulcet tones! Alright, you guys get out of here...but watch it next time, huh?”)

Fear not, though: a decade and a half on from their debut, the Fannies still have a devoted legion of fans, many of whom are fellow musicians. (Not Lame Records put out a tribute to the band in 2004 called What A Concept.) And, besides, anyone who’s followed the group’s career can’t be terribly surprised that they haven’t consistently shifted mass units...because, if nothing else, Man-Made, the band’s 2005 release, re-confirms one absolute certainty:

No matter who’s twiddling the knobs for the group – and this time, it’s John McEntire, frontman for Tortoise – Teenage Fanclub are always gonna sound pretty much the same.

This is somewhat surprising, given that the band has three very solid songwriters in Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley. All three, however, draw influence from the same pool of artists, most of which start with a “B” (the Byrds, Big Star...you get the picture), so songs are oftentimes interchangeable from writer to writer.

Rickenbackers flourish throughout most every song as per usual, though a particular highlight of the album comes via the ‘70s-tinged “Save,” with violin and viola courtesy of John McCusker. (McCusker’s fame came as a member of the Battlefield Band, but he’s contributed to Teenage Fanclub albums as far back as 1993’s Thirteen.) “Slow Fade” is a jet-propelled pop song that could easily be a single even in this jaded old country of ours, but if you’re in search of the song that will, as it begins to play on your stereo, cause you to point accusingly at anyone sitting nearby and say, “Now this, my friend, is why I love Teenage Fanclub,” seek out “Fallen Leaves” post-haste.

Artistic growth? Nah. Solid pop songs to keep the summer alive? Well, duh.

~Will Harris 


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