Teenage Fan Club
New York River Rocks, Pier 84
It’s a moment- Teenage Fan Club have just started playing The Concept and my heart melts.
It’s a perfect song- a classic piece of songwriting with everything perfect about guitar music from the casual rush of chords, the loping beat, the exquisite harmonies and the tongue in cheek yet love lorn lyrics- it should have been a hit forever- a crossover song that put them at the top of the charts but along with their other songs at the time it was enough to earn Teenage Fan Club a big cult status- big enough to pack out a park on the Hudson river on a sultry July night in New York City 20 years after their breakthrough.
We’ve not heard from the Fannies for some time. Infact consulting my calendar I suddenly realise I have not seen them play for 15 years which is shameful as the band are now up to 9 albums of that guitar and harmony perfection. Tonight is a reminder of just how perfect perfect pop can be. This is not the pop of the ogre-like Simon Cowell but pop creative with a real love that drips through the songs and an effervescent sense of humour and emotional spirit that pours from the set.
We go back a long way- Norman used to put Membranes gigs on in Scotland and we used to have a riot playing there and hanging out with him. He was the funniest man we knew- a ball of energy and laugh out loud wisecracks. When the band started they recordfed their first record in Rochdale and stayed at my house and even nearly made the mistake of getting em to play guitarr on it. I even saw their debut gig in new York in the early nineties when i was writing a feature on them for Sounds. It was at CBGBs and they were a young band thrilled at the possibilities and with their perfect guitar scuzz suddenly being picked up by the the about to break Nirvana generation with Kurt nodding his head in their direction undertdanding that they and the Pastles and the Vaselines were his real fellow travllers and not the mosh pit madness of Alice In Chains etc- perhaps a case of the right jocks?
Teenage Fan Club have not withered with age and, like a fine wine, they have just got better- those three part harmonies have never sounded more perfect and their template of all those guitar classics that harks back to another Glasgow of battered vinyl collections and a deep love for the like of Byrds/CSNY/Big Star/Love and the rest of them is reignited by the band who were the perfect distillation of this beloved cult vinyl.
They enter the stage in perfect unassuming style and glide into the set. The chiming guitars are there with a touch of distortion for cutting loose, Norman still songs like a cheeky angel and Gerry has his honey larynx and Raymond McGinley is the third part in the perfect vocal frontline and when they join together it sounds like heaven. There’s some new songs in the set that see them stretching the fabric of their sound with the addition of Finlay MacDonald on keyboards whilst keeping within their perfect pop parmenters.
The night is a triumph of crafted perfection without all the boring earnest bits, the music oozes hypnotic and diverse melody with a warm glow but resolutely retains a punk rock edge.
When people talk of classic guitar pop they can only be tlaking of Teenage Fan Club and byt he time theur set ends with a stunning version of Everything Flows I’d forgotten how much I loved their deceptively simple genius.