ST. KILDA, Australia -- Gerald Love is hooked on
In any live show these days, the Teenage Fanclub bassist/singer can be found
coaxing his voice to blend perfectly with those of his bandmates onstage. Above
the jangling guitars, steady drums and melodic bassline, the sweetly
satisfying voices of Love and company are hard at work.
It is the fulfillment of a vision that the Fanclub have been focusing on since
the release of their fifth album last year.
With this latest LP, Songs From Northern Britain, Teenage Fanclub --
singer/guitarists Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, drummer Paul Quinn and
singer/bassist Love -- have created a much richer pop-tapestry than ever
before, yet one that harkens back to their musical roots. "It softens the
whole sound of a record, the more harmonies and the more overdubs you put on
it, the edges become kind of rounded," said Love, one of the group's three
Because this record was written while the band worked in the studio, it
features a large number of overdubs and the welcome return of
three-part harmonies, a direct reaction to the Fanclub's previous LP, Grand
Prix. "This one is less rehearsed and so therefore there is more
overdubs. You try and put more icing on the cake," he said.
To help reproduce these more textured sounds live, six months ago the
Scottish-based, melody-driven alternative band recruited a fifth member,
fellow Glaswegian Finlay Macdonald, to play keyboards and occasional guitar.
The addition of another musician has at last given the Fanclub the proper
vehicle with which to re-create these studio-crafted gems onstage. And after
several months of touring, the Fanclub seems in particularly good form,
pleasing crowds around Europe and now Australia with their retro-style, '60s
pop-sound. "Sometimes when you're in the studio, you're just trying to
remember an arrangement to the song and hit the right notes and it's not a
natural, flowing thing," Love said. "After you've been playing the song for
two or three months and it is kind of second nature to play it, you can
really perform it rather than remember it."
The fuller live sound also benefits the band's older material onstage,
including its first single
(RealAudio excerpt), and especially hard-driving power-poppers "Starsign," "The Concept" and
"Alcholiday" from their highly acclaimed 1991 album Bandwagonesque.
As a live band, Teenage Fanclub have always been firm believers in letting
their music do the talking. They use no stage props or backdrops, provide only
brief song introductions and, despite a minimalist light show, they still
manage to brighten the room with their note-perfect harmonies and
Opening a gig at the Palace here last month with the new album's first track,
(RealAudio excerpt), the band seemed inspired to show off its
latest material to the crowds Down Under. In fact, Songs From Northern
Britain formed the backbone of the band's stageshow, although the
Fanclub did allow for occasional nods to their past. Yet the set seemed to
gain momentum with the first single from Songs, "Ain't That Enough,"
as the band seemed determined to familiarize the crowd with its latest
Aside from being a set-highlight, the Love composition "Ain't That Enough" is
also single-handedly responsible for the much-heralded return of the group's
trademark harmonies, Love said. "It was the first one we put vocals on, and
I kind of decided early on that because it's such a simple song, I wanted it
to sound like the Everly Brothers or something and have, like, this dual
vocal ... play to our strengths you know," he explained. "We can do harmonies
and we should, once we finished that ... it just sounded right, so I think it
kind-of made everyone think 'Ah, maybe we could have more harmony on it.' "
Judging from the enthusiastic response they received here, the return to
harmony sits well with a majority of their fans. The Fanclub further
satisfied the crowd with a couple of encores, including a fantastic rendition
of "He'd Be A Diamond" by the obscure British group the Bevis Frond, a
vehicle for singer-songwriter and friend of the band, Nick Saloman. They also
did an almost note-perfect rendition of the Byrds' "Feel A Whole Lot Better"
that saw guitarist/vocalist Blake and Love trading verses in true '60s pop-style.
The impressive, hour-plus show finished with a drawn-out cover of U.S.
alternative band Yo La Tengo's instrumental "I Heard You Looking." Although
some may think that the Fanclub were looking to cash in on that group's
current success, it should be noted that the song has been in the Fanclub's
repertoire since 1993, when Yo La Tengo supported them on an early, U.S. tour.
Love remembered it well.
"Their record Painful was out, the one with 'I Heard You Looking,' and
after two nights you just couldn't help but make sure you watched them every
night," Love said. "They were just totally hypnotizing onstage."
Not unlike Teenage Fanclub. [Wed., Jan. 7, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]