January 31, 2023

Teenage Fanclub - Endless Arcade (2021)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: MRG742

© 2021 Merge Records
Teenage Fanclub's 11th studio album and first without founding member bassist/singer Gerard Love, 2021's Endless Arcade is a gentle and lyrically textured production. With the departure of Love in 2018, the band's iconic songwriting triumvirate was pared down to a duo, leaving Norman Blake (guitars/vocals) and Raymond McGinley (guitars/vocals) to carry the group's melodic legacy forward. Since their beginnings in the Scottish rock scene in the late '80s, all three singer/songwriters have contributed material to each album, leading to a balance of their complementary, but still distinctive styles. Although Love is missed, his absence has thankfully resulted in only a subtle shift, and Teenage Fanclub still sound like the beloved purveyors of vintage-inspired guitar pop that they've always been. Recorded in Hamburg and at McGinley's home in Glasgow (with some additional recording at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth), Endless Arcade is one of their most relaxed and unassuming albums. Interestingly, it also nicely reflects their sound as a live band, showcasing their touring lineup with former Gorky's Zygotic Mynci member Euros Childs (keyboards/vocals), Francis Macdonald (drums/vocals), and David McGowan (bass/vocals). Early in their career, Teenage Fanclub might have underpinned these songs with fuzztone grunge guitars and moments of dissonant noise-rock bombast. Here, they craft a shimmering, late-'60s-inspired folk-rock sound, marked by supple vocal harmonies, sparkling guitar arpeggios, and ringing organ lines, a signature sound that has grown even more refined since they signed with Merge Records for 2005's Man-Made.

There's a feeling of tender resignation that runs through much of Endless Arcade, a soft-focus energy that's reflected in songs like "Home," "The Sun Won't Shine on Me," and the delicate psychedelic groove of "Come with Me." In these poignant songs, the band seems to be searching for communal solace and understanding in an increasingly fractious and angry world. It's a sentiment they address head-on with "Everything Is Falling Apart," a glistening Velvet Underground-esque anthem in which McGinley takes a zen-like stance on trying to stop worrying and savor the moment. He sings, "Walk, don't run, but run from the miserablites/Who believe in no fun/Unless it's what they think is right/Relax, find love/Hold on to the hand of a friend/But hey, have fun, 'cause everything is going to end." A similarly romantic optimism drives Blake's sparkling "I'm More Inclined," as he admits, "I didn't find religion/I never needed to/I'm more inclined to put my faith in you." It's easy to imagine he's singing about a person, but for longtime Teenage Fanclub fans, he could just as easily be voicing their devotion to the band. There's often an urgency to a rock band's career, and a constant conjecture over how long they'll last. Over 30 years into their career, Teenage Fanclub are well past such hand-wringing. They are pop journeymen who can bid a fond farewell to one member as they look forward to where the music and the Endless Arcade will take them next.

 tags: teenage fanclub, endless arcade, 2021, flac,


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