In the career of a band a sense of musical development, a progression between styles – maybe even a complete change between each album – are all welcome things. Yet with Teenage Fanclub none of these considerations seem urgent. Here, if the band are still in the groove when it comes to songwriting, then everything else will take care of itself.
New album Shadows, despite its title – and a few track titles that suggest they might be going a bit darker – suggests very little has changed in the world of Norman Blake and friends. The trademark summery harmonies are there, but delivered in a rather softer hue in opener Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything, which charms with its beguiling, carefree way. Even Dark Clouds has a pretty optimistic outlook, suggesting the way to cast such things aside is through the power of good music.
Look a bit deeper though and there are some subtle lyrical prompts. In the thoughtful song The Past, the message is to “give yourself a wake-up call”, the eventuality being that “the past comes back to rescue you”. The graceful Sweet Days Waiting is a beautiful counterpart to this, as a lazy guitar jangle works its way around the breathy vocals.
Elsewhere the tunes are present and correct; the harmonizing from the band seemingly effortless. And while there is no real attempt to change their sound, there is something of an extra confidence in the way they project themselves. The lyrics, however, remain unchanged in their delivery – easy to hear, easy both to follow and to relate to. This continues to be one of their strongest assets, perhaps the main reason they inspire such loyalty among their fans.
So in these deeply uncertain times, it comes as something of a relief to report that some things don’t need to change after all. And where that is normally a just cause for criticism in pop music, the quality of the Fannies’ songwriting means they escape Scot free, as it were. And for 45 minutes of blissful escapism during the summer, this will do just fine.