Songs from Northern Britain

CD Cover Teenage Fanclub

Review by Darren Gawle

45-second excerpt from "Winter" (various formats)

Could this possibly be the first album of the year with not a bad track on it?

Time was that a Teenage Fanclub album would have one or two memorable tracks plus a load of filler. On Songs from Northern Britain, though, the Fannies have finally made an album where the best songs are the perfect little soundtracks for falling in love, while the worst songs are...well, only slightly not as good as the best songs. Yes, it really is that good.

Like Teenage Fanclub's previous albums, Songs... wears the contents of the band's records collections on its sleeve. Big Star, the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers are the most obvious influences, evident in "Take the Long Way Around," "Ain't That Enough" and "Planets." How about Neil Young circa After the Gold Rush? I was wondering where "Everest" came from.

Make no mistake, though, this time around Norman Blake and Gerry Love's songwriting skills have improved exponentially, and they've also achieved that rare ability to convey the same excitement that they probably feel when listening to the albums that influenced them.

For those of you who've ever found yourself living in some shitty, damp basement suite in January and wondering what the hell's gone wrong with your life, then "Winter" should bring a tear to your eye to know that there's someone else out there who knows what you've been through. (If it weren't for the brilliant tune and harmonies, the weight of the song would probably crush you...) And, yes, the Fannies still have the same old cheeky sense of humour that led them to cover "Like a Virgin": who else would slip the riff from "It Never Rains in Southern California" into the solo during "Speed of Light"?

All told, this is the best album I've heard all year. Pity it had to take until September for me to hear it...

First published in Drop-D Magazine on October 3, 1997

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