Teenage Fanclub: Free As The Byrds

Big mistake -- talking about what you're gonna do before

you do it. Especially if you're in a rock 'n' roll band. Like you start

tellin' journalists that you've been listening to, oh, say Big Star a

lot and the next thing you know reviewers are trashing your new

album as being derivative of... well, Big Star.

The rap from some quarters on this album is that Scotland's

Teenage Fanclub used to do Big Star, and now they're trying to

clone the Byrds' mid-to-late-1960s sound.

And what if they are?

One of the cool things about rock bands from across the ocean,

from the Beatles and the Stones on out, has been the way they've

taken American music and made it their own. While electronica

bands have looked to hip-hop and house for inspiration, Teenage

Fanclub have found inspiration in American country-rockers, as

well as '60s and '70s power-pop bands.

A song such as "Winter," for instance, is a Beatlesque number

(don't forget that the Byrds formed after the Beatles were

dominating the American charts, and that the Beatles were then

influenced in turn by the Byrds -- so none of this is simple), with its

chiming guitars and airy vocal harmonies.

All of which is, perhaps, a roundabout way of saying that Songs

From Northern Britain is a groovy '90s Byrds album. Teenage

Fanclub, like all bands, have their influences, but in the end, the

songs here are unique and strong, and the recordings in some

cases, totally brilliant. Just try to resist "Your Love Is The Place

Where I Come From," a love song which opens with a plaintive,

almost naked vocal. And the album closer, "Speed Of Light," is like

a sugar rush.

At a time when Sublime on the radio are singing about teenage

hookers, it's, well, refreshing to listen to an album that contains 12

songs that are mostly about romantic love, written and sung in a

way that only young men from Scotland can.

Oh yeah. As for those critics with their old Byrds records who have

been dissing Songs From Northern Britain, tell 'em to crawl

back into their cave and sing along to "Hickory Wind."