Archive for the ‘Teenage Fanclub’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 15, 2019] Teenage Fanclub

I’ve been a fan of Teenage Fanclub since I heard “The Concept” back in 1991.  The band has changed (and mellowed) a lot since then (they had long hair, they had hair, and they could have been teenagers, maybe), but they still write gorgeous harmony-filled, pop-rock songs.  I had never seen them live (I’d heard that in their early days their live shows were tempestuous and insane).

Last year when bassist Gerald Love retired (amicably) from the band, I assumed they were done.  Love wrote a little more than 1/3 of the songs (Norman Blake wrote a lot and Raymond McGinley wrote a bit less) and he wrote some of their catchiest songs.

So I was surprised and delighted that they announced an American tour and they were coming into Philly to Union Transfer.  I knew they wouldn’t play any of Love’s songs, but I also knew that they had a whole bunch of songs that the other two guys wrote that I really loved. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 15, 2019] The Love Language

I had not heard of North Carolina’s The Love Language before this show, despite the fact that they’ve been playing together for nine years.

Their drum head had the band’s name written in a big, puffy, hippie, sixties style, so I expected some serious psychedelia.  Which I did not get.  In fact they rocked pretty hard

They are a four piece centered around guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Stuart McLamb (they’ve been a band for about ten years and the Wikipedia page lists 20 former members).  The current lineup (according to their Facebook page) consists of Thomas Simpson, Andy Holmes, Eddie Sanchez, Jordan McLamb and Stuart McLamb.  Clearly one of those guys wasn’t in Philly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: XFM-It’s a Cool Cool Christmas (2000).

This is a long Christmas collection (about 72 minutes).  So it’s a bit hit and miss.  But the hits are pretty great.  The problem really is that the disc gets a little bogged down and slow in the back half.  The first half is bright and fun.  Either re-sequnce or add in some peppier songs!  There are a couple that just don’t belong on a Christmas collection.  Remove them, and you’ve got a good one.

GRANDADDY-“Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland”
I’ve loved this version of this song ever since I heard it here.  By making the simple substitution of Alan Parsons for Parson Brown (which doesn’t make any sense, really), they are able to make all kinds of weirdo jokes and musical changes to an otherwise completely faithful version of the song.  It’s terrific.

THE DANDY WARHOLS-“Little Drummer Boy”
Generally I don’t like this song.  It’s a little too ponderous and repetitive, but The Dandy Warhols totally rock it out.  It’s not crazy or anything, it’s just super catchy with a cool synth riff and great backing vocals on the “bum bum bum bums.”

THE WEBB BROTHERS-“Every Day is Christmas”
I feel like this compilation is the first I’d heard of this song, but since then I see that others have done it as well.  This version anyway is slow although it’s catchy–particularly the chorus.  I’m not sure I get exactly what the chorus is saying though: “every day is Christmas, if only tonight,”  What does that mean>

EELS-“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”
This is a poppy punky track that’s upbeat and fun.  Just before the solo E (the singer) even mutters, “Baby Jesus, born to rock.”

El VEZ-“Feliz Navi-nada”
One of my favorite Christmas songs–rocking and silly but with the spirit still in tact.

MORGAN-“Christmas In Waikiki” [NSFC]
This track opens with a Merry Christmas to the soldiers, in what sounds like Marilyn Monroe’s voice.  It then turns into a keyboard-heavy, almost reggae march through a wah wah instrumental.  Then there’s a quote from, I assume Richard Pryor, who jokes about a 300 pound honky.  This f-bomb dropping joke makes this not safe for Christmas.

DRUGSTORE-“Maybe At Christmas Time”
This a slow song filled with hope for Christmas.

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
I have always been puzzled at the way they change the melody of the song–they sing the “and random captive” part without a pause, so the first line runs right through.  It feels rushed, but is anything but.  Once you get past that though the music sounds lovely with those gentle guitars and voices.”

GIANT SAND-“Thank You Dreaded Black Ice, Thank You” [NSFC]
This is kind of a dark song, spooky and whispered vocals.  Even if there is a happy message, it’s not really a very festive song.

THE FLAMING LIPS-“White Christmas” [NSFC]
Despite my love for The Lips, I never cared for this version.

SAINT ETIENNE-“My Christmas Prayer” [NSFC]
A pretty, moody piece of longing.  Not really anything I want to hear on Christmas.

DEPARTURE LOUNGE-“Christmas Downer” [NSFC]
This is surprisingly catchy for such a downer.  But it is indeed a downer.

SIX BY SEVEN-“I Believe In Father Christmas”
Things pick up with this version of the dark, but wonderful Greg Lake song.

SNOW PATROL-“When I Get Home For Christmas”
This seems like its kind of dark and mopey, bu the sentiment is actually quite nice.  Sounds a bit like Sebadoh.

TITÁN-“Spiritual Guidance” [NSFC]
Titán are a Mexican electronic band.  This instrumental samples a movie which has a guy telling a young woman to remove her panties.  It’s a shame it gets dark like that because the disco Jingle Bells in the middle is good fun.

BIG BOSS MAN-“Christmas Boogaloo”
This is a groovy, funky instrumental with random chants about Christmas.  Its good fun indeed.

This is a beautiful guitar based mostly instrumental.  It’s a lovely piece and far too short at only 2 minutes.

CALEXICO-“Gift X-change”
Despite Calexico’s usually bright sound, this song is pretty sad, musically and lyrically.

This is a very pretty song which, if Google Translate is to be believed actually means Mary’s Halloween in Welsh.  But whatever.  Gorky’s always has a great way with a melody.

LOW-“Just Like Christmas”
I actually thought this was Aimee Mann singing. Despite Low’s penchant for slow, broody songs, this one is upbeat, even if it wasn’t just like Christmas at all.  But the big thumping drums keep it moving along nicely.

LAUREN LAVERNE-“In The Bleak Midwinter”
This sounds like a children’s choir very far away.  I’d never heard of her before and I have learned: Lauren Cecilia Fisher, known professionally as Lauren Laverne, is an English radio DJ, model, television presenter, author, singer and comedian.  Wow.  This is pretty neat but could use a bit more oomph.

[READ: December 15, 2017] “The Copy Chief”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I had to play catch up with these earlier stories because this collection arrived late (my fault, not theirs).  I put this one off because it was so long, and yet it turned out to be one of my favorite stories in the collection so far.

Not because of anything flashy or exciting, just because of good writing and compelling characters. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_09_09_13McCall.inddSOUNDTRACK: BABY ISLAND-“King’s Crossing” (2013).

Ibabyisland have no idea where I downloaded this song from.  I assumed NPR but I can’t find it there.  So, I’ll just have to direct the reader to their bandcamp site where you can stream and order the whole album.

The song opens simply enough with two chords played in 4/4.  Then the vocals come in and they are gentle and slightly echoed (making them very soft).  The chorus has multilayered vocals and a beautiful melody line and a whole lot of oooohs. It has a feel like the jangly pop of the sixties (I mean, look at the cover), but the song is not terribly jangly and that angular guitar really distinguishes it from the bands that they sound like.

There’s also a keyboard that throws delicate melodies and riffs over the top of the confection as well.   It is a perfect folk rock pop song—reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub (and the sixties bands that they sound like of course).  It’s a very pretty, mellow song and I like it quite a lot.

[READ: September 12, 2013] “Walking Normally: The Facts”

I don’t always like Ian Frazier’s works, but man, this one was so funny (if you are a parent of a young child), that I not only laughed out loud, I had to immediately share it with Sarah (who also laughed out loud).

The set up is simple.  A Claim is made and the Claim is followed up by a Fact which disputes the Claim.

The first claim: “When we are at the mall you say that you have walked so much that you need to be carried, because your legs are ‘all stretched out.’”

The Fact: While hyper extension of muscles, tendons, and joints is a real and serious problem among certain demographics…it is rarely seen in anyone four and a half years old.

So you see, this is a dad talking to his son.  And each claim is very representative of a four year old’s (or even an eight year old’s) concerns.  And some hit uncannily close to home. (more…)

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songbookSOUNDTRACK: songs from Songbook (2002).

songbook2Songbook came with an 11 song CD.  I’m curious, given the way he speaks so lovingly of the songs in the book how come more bands/labels didn’t want to be included on it.  The proceeds went to charity and it would just be more exposure for the artists.  There were a lot of songs I didn’t know and would love to have heard (or would love to hear while I was reading).  And frankly I see no downside to throwing a track on a compilation which is a collection of someone’s favorite songs.  Of course, things were very different in the music world in 2002.  Now, someone will just make a playlist on their iPod of theses songs, and post them to Spotify.

PAUL WESTERBERG-“Born for Me.” I’m much more of a fan of Westerberg with the Replacements, as he got a little too polished as a solo guy.  But this song has a fun, shambolic quality to it (it doesn’t even sound like Westerberg singing).  It wouldn’t be a favorite song of mine, but it is a nice one.

TEENAGE FANCLUB “Your Love is the Place Where I Come From” and “Ain’t That Enough.”  I really like Teenage Fanclub a lot.  They are one of my favorite jangly pop bands.  So these two songs rank pretty high for me.  Although I admit to liking their slightly more rocking songs a bit more, “Your Love” is a very pretty ballad and “Ain’t That Enough” is just gorgeous.

THE BIBLE- “Glorybound” Hornby says he knew these guys.  It’s an okay song, a little too slick for me and very of its time.

AIMEE MANN-“I’ve Had It”  I like Aimee Mann very much.  I can’t say that I paid a ton of attention to the lyrics of this song (I didn’t know it was about touring) but I’ve always liked it—the understated yet beautiful melody and chorus are very nice.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-“One Man Guy” I like Rufus a lot.  I don’t own any of his music, but I really like everything I hear from him.  His delivery is so louche, it makes me smile every time.  This song is actually one his father wrote and sang many years ago (very differently).

ROD STEWART-“Mama You Been on My Mind” Hornby’s essay on Rod Stewart is hilarious.  And his defense of early Stewart is wholly believable.  I, of course, know Rod from his later, laughable stuff, so I never considered his early work  But this track is pretty good.

BADLY DRAWN BOY-“A Minor Incident” Sarah and I love Badly Drawn Boy, and this soundtrack in particular.  Hornby’s discussion of how he Damon got to do the soundtrack is very interesting.

BEN FOLDS FIVE-“Smoke” I’ve liked Ben for years now (going to see him in two weeks).  This song has always been a favorite both for the lyrics, which are great and because that weird harp-type sound is him playing the strings of his grand piano with a pick.

MARK MULCAHY-“Hey Self Defeater” I don’t know Mulcahy at all.  This song has a beautiful wavery guitar and gentle vocals (it’s funny to read about Hornby rocking out when most of this disc is quite mellow).

ANI DIFRANCO-“You Had Time” I was a huge Ani DiFranco fan back in the day, but this song is unknown to me, or should I say unfamiliar to me.  It’s on one of her very early albums.  Perhaps it’s more that I must have ignored the piano opening, which Hornby pays close attention to and really explains it in a useful way, showing how it is more about a beautiful melody being born from chaos.  And now I respect the song a lot more.

[READ: 2002 and July 1, 2013] Songbook

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written this very book in my head….  A list of favorite songs and why they are so important to me?  How cool is that.  I have no idea how come Hornby got to write it (I know, High Fidelity), but still, what a nice cozy assignment.  And to have this book illustrated by Marcel Dzama is even cooler.

This book came out in 2002 after About a Boy (and in the year that About a Boy was being turned into a film).  Hornby had recently hooked up with the McSweeney’s gang and began writing for The Believer in 2003.

I had no idea that the book was released in the UK under a different name (31 Songs) or that they also released an accompanying CD (A Selection of Music from 31 Songs) with 18 songs on it (see my comment above about CDs).  Although we got fewer songs on the disc in the US, at least ours came with the book. (more…)

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If you’re like me, you love alt-rock from the 90s, however that may be described.  Typically, we’re talking loud guitars, but we’re also talking shoegazer music and alt folk and basically anything that might have appeared at Lollapalooza.

Yuck is like comfort food for anyone starved for new music from that ear.  There’s hardly anything new or original in it, but it sounds great.  It’s fun to play spot the influences (Dinosaur Jr. Nirvana, melodic Sonic Youth), but it’s more fun to just sit back and listen.

When the first song, “Get Away” opens up with that phased, distorted guitar I’m instantly transported back to the 90s.  And then when the solo begins (before the verse) it’s like adding screaming punk to shoegaze.  Blissful.

“The Wall” sounds like yet another style of 90s alt rock, with some more screaming guitars.  Then comes “Shook Down” in which the band slows down with acoustic guitars (think Teenage Fanclub).  It’s a little slow, but there’s a surprise third part which adds some wonderful distorted guitars to the song.

“Holing Out” brings a more punk edged guitar sound to the album (still distorted just edgier).  “Suicide Policeman” is a pretty straightforward folk rock song: acoustic guitars and whatnot and it never really rocks out.  The nice part is when the second, electric guitar plays slow wobbly chords over the top (think The Smiths).

“Georgia” rips right into a My Bloody Valentine song (female harmonies over washes of guitars).  This is the first song that I don’t love.  It’s got something to do with the chrous.  The verses are great, but the chorus is just a little too…blah.  But I love the sound of the song.

“Suck” is probably my least favorite song on the disc.  It’s really really slow and drags a bit.  Although, amusingly this song stays in my head the longest, especially the line “did you see the fire briagde.”  Maybe I secretly like it best

“Stutter” continues this slow mood–I think I like these songs individually, but they drag down this section of the album when played together like this.

Because when “Operation” bursts back, the album picks up (more great use of little guitar solos-think Smashing Pumpkins).  “Sunday” does the My Bloody Valentine thing much better–great chorus on this one.  Amusingly the verses are not very MBV-sounding at all, but it’s a nice blend.

“Rose Gives a Lilly” is an instrumental and, although it’s nothing amazing, it’s still nice.  The disc ends with “Rubber” a 7 minute retro blast.  It’s a slow builder, with big distorted guitars (the vocals are almost inaudible).  Just add more and more layers of guitar over the melody and you’ve got a great album ender.

It’s nice to see a band absorb influences rather than just aping them.

[READ: January 27, 2012] “Underbrush Man”

Once I saw Mohsid’s story in The Guardian, it was just a quick look to see that Margaret Atwood had a story there too!

I really enjoy Atwood’s stories, and this one is no exception.  But this one was rather unexpected for me because it begins with the point of view of a dog.  There are actually four points of view in this story.  I was delighted that the first two were more or less the same, that the third one was unexpectedly unrelated to the action and then the final one cleared everything up.

But we start with a dog. (more…)

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Back in the 90s, Teenage Fanclub released a few noisy, feedbacky records that were quintessential 90s alt rock.

Since then they have mellowed considerably, and this album is one of their most mellow to date. Usually for me this kind of mellowing is a sign that I’m done with a band; however, Teenage Fanclub’s songwriting gets better with every disc.  And these folky tracks are all fantastic.

What’s neat about the arrangement of the album is that each of the three members of the band writes four songs.  They are collated so that you cycle through each singer before repeating. You get maximum diversity–and it’s easy to tell which songwriter is your favorite.

The opening two songs, “Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything” and “Baby Lee” are two wonderful upbeat pop confections.  They sound very different and yet both are infused with wonderful pop chops.

It seems that Blake is my favorite songwriter on this disc. He did “Baby Lee”, “Dark Clouds” (a pretty piano based number) and by far the prettiest song on the disc “When I Still Have Thee.”  It’s an amazingly catchy folk song that sounds timeless (and even has the great couplet: “The Rolling Stones wrote a song for me/It’s a minor song in a major key.”

That’s not to dismiss the other songwriters at all.  In fact, hearing their different takes on pop music is really pretty amazing.  It’s a shame that it takes them so long to put albums out (about 5 years these days).

[READ: June 10, 2011] Five Dials Number 9

Five Dials Number 8, The Paris Issue, was pretty big (45 pages), but it had a lot of pictures.  Five Dials Number 9 is also pretty big (41 pages) and it’s (almost) all text.  For this is the Fiction Issue, and there are a lot of short stories in here.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On ‘Summer Reading’ and Fiction Issues.
Since most of what I talk about in the introduction to these posts is covered in Taylor’s Letter from the Editor, I figured I’d switch formats and start talking about his letter right away.  In this letter, Taylor talks about the serious pitfalls of  ‘Summer Reading’: We pledge to read mammoth books over the summer, but really we never finish War and Peace over the summer, do we? (except those of us who finished Infinite Summer, am I right?).  And so, this Fiction Issue was released in December (finally, a date is given to a Five Dials!).  Taylor briefly talks about all of the authors who contributed (including a pat on the back to Five Dials for securing the rights to a Philip Roth contribution in its first year of publication).  He also talks about the essay from David Shields that is decidedly anti-fiction.   And the final note is that Taylor’s own father has a piece in this issue (nepotism is alive and well!) (more…)

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