This review originally featured on The Quietus.
If you fall for Teenage Fanclub, you fall hard. The Caledonian quartet has spread its influence wide for more than a quarter of a century, traversing genres and musical eras with ease whilst consistently producing the most perfectly crafted, harmony-laden guitar-pop imaginable. Here is The Fannies’ tenth album, and it’s quite possibly their finest.
It’s been six years since Shadows and its worries of war, creeping ‘Dark Clouds’ and folk-tinged romance. On this record, Teenage Fanclub have accepted their anxieties and embraced the sounds of the soaring, sun-soaked songs in their hearts. The songwriting triptych de force of Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley grows more powerful as the years progress, and the democratic writing formula continues with four songs apiece on Here.
Cocksure power-pop opener ‘I’m In Love’ is an unabashed fuzz of warmth and affection from perhaps the band’s soppiest member, Blake. It’s the sound of the realisation of pure connection, the unashamed proclamation of the gut-rush of love. Then to ‘Thin Air’, the aural imagining of Gerry Love’s soul. It paints the colours of his headspace with glorious positivity as the singer looks to the unknown, surrendering to a newfound heart-flutter before the feeling fades and opportunity is missed. The driving backbeat bounces through shimmering pastel clouds, with the Fanclub’s dual guitars at their sublime best.
Raymond McGinley saunters effortlessly through first offering ‘Hold On’ and it is unmistakably his from the first chord. The harmonies are perfection as he proclaims the wonders of “sinful leisures” and giving in to the moment whilst holding on to hope for the future. Next up is ‘The Darkest Part of the Night’, genuinely one of the most beautiful and moving love songs Norman Blake has ever penned, all strings and strums and harmonies straight from the heart. It is the embodiment of the ache of missing someone deep in your bones, so tenderly and bittersweetly expressed.
It’s clear the songwriting trio have used their time apart wisely, each upping the ante on the other with their efforts for Here. Gerry Love’s work is notably outstanding – from the glistening, psychedelic behind-the-beat groove of ‘I Have Nothing More To Say’ to standout ‘The First Sight’, which twinkles and skips, buoyant with horns and harmonies. Love sings of returning to simpler ways in his distinct laid-back haze, of shunning the smoke and mirrors projections of modern life and trusting that the universe will provide. It’s part self-doubt, questioning whether love is deserved and written in the stars, part divine horn-driven defiance. His heart sings with blissful optimism in the wondrous ‘It’s A Sign’, radiant in the style of his Lightships side project of 2012. “Every day is a stained glass ceiling, there’s life in her veins and the joy of being,” he bursts, drowning in the lush ecstasies of new beginnings.
It’s McGinley that provides the more contemplative tracks, from the blurry reverie of ‘Steady State’ to the more downbeat dedication ‘With You’ and its laid-bare lyrics: “Who knows what we will see, who knows what we might find/Step over the fallen tree and beware the fallen mind.” Gentle guitars and Hammond organ lift the track through its light and shade and space.
Blake is again at his boldest and best with ‘Live In The Moment’, a carpe diem call to arms, before album closer ‘Connected To Life’ ponders aging and mortality, nostalgia and the lost light of youth. His voice reserved, almost tremulous as he struggles to push out the lines at times, before it is extinguished like a heart that no longer beats.
This is an utterly spellbinding record that shows with maturity that the band only grows and improves. If this is their last, it is an exit at their peak, proving their relevance and importance more than ever. Nearly three decades on, Here further secures Teenage Fanclub’s place at the top table of greatest ever Scottish bands, and it is a sparkling, love-laden, beautiful place to be.