Tuesday, July 26th, 2005
Born Under A Good Sign
Teenage Fanclub are musical comfort food. More than 15 years into their career, they will never surprise you but you don’t want them to surprise you. As long as they continue to turn out beautiful pop music and glorious three-part harmonies, you will know that there is something still right with the world. Coming five years after Howdy!, this year’s Man-Made continued the Fannies’ streak of excellent albums of classically-styled power pop. Someone looking for a new angle might latch onto the somewhat fuzzier production courtesy of Tortoise’s John McIntire, but that’s trainspotting. All that matters is that it’s another fine record from the godfathers of Scottish pop.
But as much of a joy as a new record is, the fact that they chose to stage their first North American tour since 2001 was real cause for celebration. I’d seen them twice live before – once opening for Radiohead in the horribly unfriendly confines of Arrow Hall for a thoroughly unmemorable show (blame the venue, not the band) and four years ago to the week at the Opera House for a sublime show that made up for all past disappointments. It was hard to imagine they could top that performance but by God, they gave it their best. The vocal mix was the biggest and really, only flaw in the night – Gerry, Raymond and Norman tended to be mixed a little low and their harmonies weren’t reproduced as cleanly as one would have hoped. But this shortcoming aside, they put on a stellar show.
Drawing from almost their entire discography, they proved that they’ve been unbelievably consistent in the quality of their songcraft from almost day one. A naturally higher percentage of songs from Man-Made sat quite comfortably alongside tracks from Grand Prix and Thirteen – the older numbers were maybe a little less fuzzed up and the newer ones a little moreso, but they blended perfectly. Surprisingly, there was only “Star Sign” from Bandwagonesque (in the main set, anyway) – it garnered the most cheers but I certainly hope no one was there just to hear “Hang On” (not that I’d have judged – I love that song). This is another dividend of the aforementioned career consistency – it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that every song in the set was someone’s favourite, one of the perks of never really having a big hit to skew the audience.
“Sparky’s Dream” concluded the main set and the encore closed with “The Concept”, a bit of a surprise considering that the usual finale on set lists I’ve seen from this tour was “Everything Flows”. I think they actually intended to come back out for a second encore and no doubt wrap up with the Catholic Education centrepiece, but the venue nixed that, making Mr Roadie stop tuning guitars. Fascists. It’s a shame, too, because the band looked to be having a marvelous time performing and soaking up the love and would have surely kept playing into the wee-er hours of the night (I think they did three encores at the Opera House show?). Curfew notwithstanding, it was great to see them in a small club this time around, and I only hope it’s not another four years before they return.
North Carolina’s Rosebuds opened things up and were a fine fit. Also trading in confectionary-grade pop music, they were touring behind their Unwind EP, released in April of this year, as well as previewing material from their second full-length album due out this Fall. Their set consisted of uptempo numbers and a couple of moodier ballads blending power pop, garage and surf for some all-around retro stylings. Hand claps, egg shakers and buoyant melodies all helped set the stage for a great night.
Pics tomorrow – it’s been a while since I’d been to the Mod Club. Oh the lights, the lights. The Fannies started a little late and played a solid hour and a half plus, so it was a late bedtime for me. And man, check out that concert calendar – next show? SEPTEMBER. Geez. Looks like I’ve got a little time off. Update: Pics are up.
Continuing with the pop-pop, Matador has posted a second track from The New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema for those six or seven of us who haven’t downloaded a leaked copy in advance of the August 23 release date. I’m not sure what the official first single from the album will be, but the video will star one Mr David Cross…
Look who’s coming back to town – Interpol are back at the Kool Haus on September 28. Tickets $30, on sale this Saturday.
PopMatters has a great long interview with Bob Mould about his new album, Body Of Song which is in stores today. He’s also at the Mod Club on October 2 – tickets are a not-cheap $25, but I have to believe it will be worth it.
np – Okkervil River / Black Sheep Boy