It’s already half a decade since the release of Here, the record behind Teenage Fanclub’s welcome return to the UK top ten for the first time in almost twenty years. Belated follow-up Endless Arcade, appears with the Scottish darlings seemingly having successfully regrouped following the untimely departure of original member and significant song contributor, Gerard Love. Losing the brains behind classics like ‘Sparky’s Dream’, ‘Going Places’ and ‘Ain’t That Enough’ to name but few may have led some to fear the Lanarkshire group’s demise. Fortunately, they needn’t have worried as in classic “show must go on” mode, the two remaining original members Ray McGinley and Norman Blake have simply knuckled down—effortlessly filling the void by each contributing six songs.
Musically, the band has done a bit of rejigging too, as well as freshening things up somewhat with the full-time addition of Euros Childs on keys (better known as the frontman of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci—someone who’s most certainly used to getting his hands dirty at the business end of the creative process). Saying that, it’s reassuring to know the key elements of Teenage Fanclub’s signature sound are still in abundance on Endless Arcade.
Recorded in large part at Clouds Hill studio located in Hamburg—a city they’ve grown to love—on first listen, it appears to be business as usual. The Blake-penned 7-minute sun-drenched opener ‘Home’ oozes West Coast sensibility, particularly on its lengthy outro. You can practically smell the Pacific Ocean while cruising in your gas-guzzling convertible of choice, although I was left wondering if this number would have been better served as the album’s closer. Next up is the title track, perhaps a paean to an endlessly sprawling consumer metropolis—most of us keen as mustard to eschew those impersonal retail clicks for old-school retail bricks following their COVID-19 enforced e-commerce odyssey.
Childs’ keyboards add welcome bells and whistles around the edges as the band continues to move away from the hedonistic fuzz of their earlier material, replacing it with a more wisened reflective bent. Ever-present are those trademark harmonies, providing a welcome warm breeze following the hardest winter many have endured. Things really get under the skin on the record’s highlight, the wistfully ‘Golden Brown’-tinged Viennese waltz ‘The Sun Won’t Shine On Me’, reinforcing the overall impression of a band taking stock, following significant upheaval, yet carrying on regardless like it’s the only thing they know.
As long as the quality control setting stays where it currently resides, we’re more than happy to accompany Teenage Fanclub as they grow old disgracefully.
Endless Arcade is out today (30 April).
Words by Michael Price
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