Advancing age has smoothed the edges of Bellshill’s finest lads, once — back in the early 1990s — arguably Britain’s best band. This is like being embalmed for ever in suffocating pleasantness. You doze off during ‘Warm Embrace’ and wake, perhaps hours later, to the same gentle, winsome, minor-key harmonies chugging by at a medium pace, the guitars strummed with deadening accuracy. Is it the same song? Have I died?
The Fannies have been heading this way for a while and the departure of one of their better songwriters, Gerard Love (who jacked it in two years ago), has hastened their hitherto gentle descent towards the earnestly soporific, the slightly cloying. They are still located in the mid to late 1960s and of course the Byrds (and Love, for that matter) spring immediately to mind. But the Byrds if they hadn’t taken any drugs and instead behaved themselves.
Oh, it’s not awful, by any means. ‘I’m More Inclined’ is catchy enough and ‘The Sun Won’t Shine On Me’ has a gently hymnal quality. Tasteful duel guitar solos (yup, that takes you back), poignantly introspective lyrics about chicks who have left them or they are about to leave, or encomiums on life’s climacteric. Sensibly wistful, or wistfully sensible, you choose. Where is the raunch and the crunch? Where even is the jangle, once an indispensable component of Teenage Fanclub? More to the point, where is a song as euphoric as ‘Sparky’s Dream’ or ‘Norman 3’? Listening to Teenage Fanclub was always a bit of an exercise in nostalgia. But now it’s the old Teenage Fanclub I yearn for.