If ever there was a band who reflected their audience, it is Teenage Fanclub. From indie-kid beginnings, the Bellshill veterans of chiming West Coast (of Scotland) power pop have grown into avuncular middle-aged hipsters, whose back catalogue is as cosily familiar as an old cardigan. Such is the case for their Edinburgh International Festival appearance, which even here makes them hardy perennials, having played both the pioneering Planet Pop and Flux festivals back in the 1990s.
With founding member Gerry Love having departed last year with about a third of the band’s repertoire, fellow song-writing stalwarts Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, plus drummer Francis MacDonald, have fleshed out the ranks with Belle and Sebastian bassist Dave McGowan and keyboardist Euros Childs of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. McGowan, alas, is “off waiting for another human being to be born”, as Blake puts it. If his last-minute replacement, Euros Childs collaborator Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo, suggests a more fluid Teenage Fanclub, it’s still pretty much business as usual.
This is apparent from an opening salvo of Start Again, About You and Metal Baby, before recent single, Everything is Falling Apart, fuses dolefulness with a kosmische-beat for a song that “John Peel’s been playing the s*** out of, apparently,” Blake jokes in knowing recognition of its roots.
Blake finds himself looking at his watch introducing Catholic Education, followed by the young man’s fancy of Alcoholiday. He steals McGinley’s thunder with his xylophone accompaniment on Your Love is the Place Where I Come From, before McGinley steals it back on the chimingly lovely Verisimilitude.
It’s all very pretty, and there’s a purity in the band’s casual lack of flash that gives them the air of a supreme bar-band, Gene Pitney anecdotes included. Finally, The Concept is as sweetly anthemic as ever before an encore of Broken finally gives the audience a hushed sing-along moment. A cover of Neil Young’s Zuma-era Don’t Cry No Tears fits seamlessly alongside the Teenage Fanclub songbook, closed as ever by Everything Flows in a set that sees the remodelled elder statesmen of guitar pop reeling in the years in eternal harmony.
The Herald, August 19th 2019