Teenage Fanclub has always scared me a little bit. No, they don’t wear masks and wield machetes at my face, no, they don’t even make loud music or exhibit aggressive behavior. I guess it’s just their level of FEELING — things which creep on you listening to an album like the atom-splitting Man-Made, all the tenacious truth that must be wound of in producing an artistic interface like “Cells,” the cosmic truth that we’re really smaller than these microbes we study under eye glass.
Ok, I realize I’m laying on thick here. But I dunno, I’ve never actually made a full album myself, at least not of rock (the type of thing which typically implies some LSD usage), and I realize there’s probably a point of cognitive dissonance, especially when you’re a band like Teenage Fanclub that has been doing this music thing for eons (Man-Made, for Christ’s sake, was their eighth album, and it’s my favorite, but this would make Here somewhere around their 10th) but never seems to get their full credit for influencing, or for just rolling out these picturesque pop tunes, except in rare form by true renegades like Nirvana biographer Everett True.
Now please allow me to zoom out a bit, and examine sociology, of which I will arrogantly, if you’ll allow me, name America as the ostensible El Capitano. For the longest time I refused to accept the existence of post-modernism, thinking it was just a ploy on the part of English departments to keep themselves in existence amidst the bevy of medial developments which had replaced reading. It was a sort of refusal to be multidisciplinary, if you will.
Along the way, however, as I’ve examined this world while being a person getting older, certain elements have definitely snowballed into congealing in my mind a firm conception of what post-modernism is: it’s an artistic representation of the world as altered from what it was before. This is contrasted, then, with surely what abounded as art prior: things like tragedy, classical music, jesters, matters which examined existence as something pure, but funny, still, in that it would one day end, and we don’t know why, nor do we know why it started.
These classic entities know no unreliable narrator, they know no pastiche (mockery, emulation), and they know no “bandwagon,” at least not to our extent, a la Teenage Fanclub’s debut album Bandwagonesque, which was already depicting a bag of money on the cover, suggesting that the band was selling out, by making that music. And guess what: the band, even at this point, knew exactly who they were. They were making celestial melodies they knew would be anthemic, and would unite: perhaps this is a Kurt Cobain-esque phenomenon of bemoaning the lack of actual moral synergy lying in melodies themselves. Or maybe all these guys just took too much acid.
Fast forward about half a century to Here, we’ve got the band being publicized on facebook (I don’t even have them “liked,” and I’m still getting updates about their American tour and new album)… and yet, this is certainly an album by this band which is beyond underwhelming. Belying the fact that it’s these overly strait-laced Scottish gents now latent for so long, Wilco is actually making more exciting rockabilly music. Right there, pronouncing itself prominently in the third track “Hold On,” is the root of the problem, delivered direct from the singer’s (whether it’s Blake’s or McGinley’s or Love’s, I’m not sure) tepid, emotionless voice: “Run away from the misery of those who flatter to mislead.” Well, that’s one problem, flattery, which might see significant diminishment in the life of this band, moving forward. Teenage Fanclub has become a facebook cyber-reduction of itself.
This in no way however means that you should not care about their composite discography. Man-Made, as I’ve alluded to before, is basically my ideal fall music (which at one time was The Lemonheads’ “Hospital”). I’ll put it in in the middle of a work day, and it’s pretty much the perfect indie pop, with just enough drums, just enough rhythm, and a rhapsodic, almost painful spoonful of melody.
So this band just had to put out a new album here, despite the lack of inspiration. What else were they supposed to do? Well, why can’t they write a book? This is also what I wish Michael Moore would have done, instead of making a movie, because movie medium has become almost as meaningful as the films themselves lately, with advents of things like Blu-Ray and Red Box (is it just me or do these all sound like STD’s?), whereas books can deliver a clear message, or else they just don’t get written. Maybe the hey day of indie pop is over. Oh heck: the hey day of indie pop is DEFINITELY over. A lot of us are on facebook now, a lot of us are probably looking for a sort of sedate transcendence devoid of actual activity, which we should all know is impossible. Let this review be a reminder of this, but also a little poking and nudging to check out this band’s album Man-Made, if you haven’t yet.