Friday, September 24th, 2010
Today Never Ends
Teenage Fanclub and Rick Of The Skins at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangAs a genre/style/pigeonhole, power-pop is not one that traditionally gets a lot of respect. Though its primary qualities of melody and harmony are essential facets of pretty much every style of music that can be hyphenated with “pop”, in its undiluted, guitar-driven form it can be far too easy to do middlingly and incredibly difficult to do well. And so even when you’re a band that does it masterfully, as Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub have for over twenty years, you still might not have more to show for it than confirmed cult status, an unwaveringly loyal fanbase and gigs booked into incredibly intimate venues. Come to think of it, that’s not so bad at all.
The Toronto chapter of that fanbase was out in force on Wednesday night for the first of two shows at the Horseshoe kicking off the band’s first North American tour in five years, in support of their ninth album Shadows. Like its predecessors in their discography, it doesn’t mess with the Fanclub formula, instead further refining it such that while they sound dramatically different from the quartet that burst into the scene with Bandwagonesque, they’re still very much the same band; just older, wiser and more inclined to use a single, clean guitar line whereas once they’d have let rip with a solo. Some might complain that their songs have gotten slower and quieter with each subsequent release – and this is true – but when a band’s strengths were always a tunefulness and almost supernatural ability to craft a pop song rather than rock out and those strengths are still very much intact, well there’s really no grounds to complain at all.
Support for the first evening was Rick Of The Skins, an act I’d never heard of, and I expected my research to reveal them as some group of young upstarts who scored a plum opening slot. And indeed, I did find some positive reviews of their debut album Here Comes The Weekend – they just happened to be a decade old. The band’s story is unclear to me, but I gathered that they started out on the east coast, a fact borne out by their direct and occasionally primitive psychedelic pop sounds, and don’t really play regularly, evidenced by one of them commenting that this was “their fourth reunion”. Over a short set where all of them changed instruments almost every song and any rustiness – and there was their share – was made up for with enthusiasm.
Though they’d been touring throughout the Summer over in the UK, this was still the Fannies’ first gig of the tour and their first show in over a month and as such, a few hiccups were inevitable. These were limited to the occasional missed note or instrumental flub and corresponding grimace on either Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley or Gerard Love’s faces but rather than detract from the show, they gave it that extra bit of warmth. Not that the performance needed it – with a remarkably efficient 20 songs over 90 minutes, the Fanclub and their immaculate harmonies – up to five parts at times – were like a wonderful blanket of tunefulness that made any angst over having to wait a half-decade since their last visit evaporate. And while McGinley and Love were characteristically stoic through most of the set – though both cracked smiles at various points in the night – Blake did fine handling frontman duties on his own, cracking the requisite corny jokes and fielding requests and repartee from the audience.
The set leaned heavier than one might have expected on Shadows – bands at this point in their careers tend to make more concessions to the “greatest hits” type of show – but the new material made up over a third of the set and sound about as good as any of the more classic material. It’s been said but bears repeating – though they’re not as prolific as they once were, when Teenage Fanclub releases a record, it’s going to be a good one. As for the rest of the set, it was packed with glorious, sing-along pop gems from throughout their career, focusing on the late ’90s glory days of Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain with a few later works added in for good measure. “The Concept” may have been the only representative from Bandwagonesque but was done perfectly with McGinley showing he could stomp the fuzz pedal and rip a solo when the occasion called for it and both he and Blake would get the chance to show off their chops on “Everything Flows”, which closed out the show pretty much perfectly. Certainly there were several sets worth of material that didn’t get aired – not a single tune from Thirteen made the cut – but I’m sure they were saving some favourites for the second night (which would surely have a lot of repeat patrons) and the selections they did choose to play were pretty much beyond reproach. They may not release records or tour as often as their fans would like, but when they do, they do it right.
Photos: Teenage Fanclub, Rick Of The Skins @ The Horseshoe – September 22, 2010
MP3: Teenage Fanclub – “Baby Lee”
MP3: Teenage Fanclub – “It’s All In My Mind”
MP3: Teenage Fanclub – “Dumb Dumb Dumb”
MP3: Teenage Fanclub – “What You Do To Me”
Video: Teenage Fanclub – “I Don’t Want Control Of You”
Video: Teenage Fanclub – “Ain’t That Enough”
Video: Teenage Fanclub – “Hang On”
Video: Teenage Fanclub – “What You Do To Me”
Video: Teenage Fanclub – “The Concept”
Video: Teenage Fanclub – “Star Sign”
MySpace: Teenage Fanclub
Drowned In Sound, The Liverpool Echo and State have feature pieces on Manic Street Preachers while NME finds out why Tim Roth graces the cover of their new record Postcards From A Young Man. It’s out next week.
British Sea Power’s Scott Wilkinson talks to Spinner about their new album, as yet untitled but due out in January 2011, and the Zeus EP which will precede it on October 4. The title track from said EP is available to download now.
Video: Foals – “2 Trees”
Video: Tricky – “Murder Weapon”
Video: M.I.A. – “Story To Be Told”
And the cause of Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes’ on-stage collapse last week and subsequent cancellation of the band’s North American tour has been revealed as a brain tumour. Pete Salisbury, ex of The Verve, will sub in for their Fall tour commitments while Brookes heals. Best wishes for a full recovery and return to good health.