Youth Club

Teenage Fanclub played at Kelvingrove Bandstand last week. It was notable for being their first ‘homecoming’ show since the departure of founding member Gerry Love. Not only was Gerry a fluid bass player and an essential cog in a three-part harmony, he was also the writer of one third of the band’s material. From early highlights such as December and Star Sign, to Radio, Sparky’s Dream and Going Places, Ain’t That Enough and Take The Long Way Round, I Need Direction, Near You and Born Under A Good Sign, as well as Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything right through to Thin Air on most-recent album Here, Gerry’s songs are kingpins in any Teenage Fanclub set.

Arguably, of the band’s three writers, he’s the best. The band’s set on Tuesday was notable for a very large Gerry-sized hole in it and although they’ve chosen to staunchly move forward with the welcome addition of Euros Childs on keys and backing vocals and long-time collaborator Dave McGowan on bass duties, it remains to be seen how things pan out.

Normally I’m flying for a week after a Teenage Fanclub show. I’ve seen them enough times to know a good show when I’ve seen it – the Grand Ole Opry show in 93/94, any number of those early King Tuts shows, the Motherwell show when they started with a new one then threw away the evergreen Everything Flows by playing it second song in, the three Barrowlands gigs late last year – and at will I can replay the best of the set in my mind’s eye. Right now I’m replaying Norman doing the Barry Norman ‘Film…’ theme on the piano at the side of the Ole Opry’s stage while Raymond fiddles in vain with an effect pedal. Since last Tuesday’s Bandstand show though, I’ve felt….nothing. Indeed, I woke up on Wednesday and my first thought wasn’t about the gig the previous night. Until now, that’s never happened and I’m afraid it might be a sign of what’s to come.

If they release a killer album, all will be forgotten. If they rely too much on Raymond’s material, it may well signal the decline of one of our best and most-loved bands.

It’ll also be interesting to see how things go with Gerry. Quietly writing and recording at his own tectonic pace, we may well yet get to hear some of those great old Love songs at one of his shows, where they’d sit perfectly between the choicest of cuts from his Lightships project from a few years back. Imagine the scenario of the Loveless Fanclub going on tour at the same time as a solo Gerry, like splintered factions of an indie Drifters. ‘Norman Blake’s Teenage Fanclub‘ versus ‘Gerry Love Plays Your Favourite Fanclub Tracks‘. It doesn’t bare thinking about.

Pre-Kelvingrove, we were showered with full-force, biblical rain. Real 40 days and 40 nights stuff, it threatened to ruin the gig before we’d even left our shelter under one of the big old oak trees that line the walkway up to the Bandstand. When it lessened to a torrent, we made for the venue where we caught almost all of Nile Marr’s set (very good) and pointed out the superstars of Glasgow’s music scene that littered the audience like a hip double page in a Where’s Wally book while we grooved moistly to the DJ’s tunes that blasted from the PA. I hadn’t heard Sonic Youth‘s Teenage Riot in ages – perhaps last at a TFC show from a few years back, now that I think about it, and in the moment it sounded terrific.

Sonic YouthTeenage Riot

Teenage Riot has that thing where the beginning is all detuned metallic ambience, liquid mercury that’s longer than Thurston’s ubiquitous fringe and with more holes in the backbeat than on the knees of Lee’s vintage 501s. Played loud it really kicks, Kim’s whisper vying for attention with the occasional click of Steve’s sticks. When it eventually gives way to the ragged chuggalugga signature riff it really gets going. Thurston drawls on about Marshall stacks and needing a teenage riot to get him out of bed, like, now, and those twin Fenders clatter away with wonky chorded cool, arch, knowing and slightly smug but ultimately rockin’. It was the perfect tune to play before the ‘Fanclub hit the stage – a Teenage Riot indeed.

Way back around 1990 Teenage Fanclub supported Sonic Youth at the Barrowlands. I remember little of Sonic Youth’s show other than I blame it for the onset of tinnitus I now have, but I remember it fondly for TFC playing an octane-hopped version of God Knows It’s True, a maelstrom of wild guitars and wild hair, wild drummers and mild-mannered men in control. The version they played last week though – second song in, funnily enough – I’ve forgotten already.

10 thoughts on “Youth Club”

  1. When I went to see TFC here in LA in February of this year (sans Gerry) the venue would be the same as when I’d seen them 2 years prior (with Gerry). In both instances one of my parents was dying (and would pass away within 3 months of each gig). With Gerry the music, the show, and the feeling was remarkable. Like you have posted, I like Gerry’s songs best (I said it from day one on the old message board) but live, he’s often muffled or not vocal enough, as Norm is the front man. The show lifted my spirits. When this years show came (and so soon after the last show, while I was excited, the lack of Gerry, made me feel unsure how the show would go. The gig was great. Sure there was a big whole in the set, but they played songs I hadn’t heard for a while. Norm was on the mark. I missed Gerry, but all was good.

  2. Refreshingly a bluntly honest appraisal of a sad situation, and a top read as ever. may I ask why exactly has Gerry Love bailed Craig? As intrigued and enthused as I am to hear of the addition of the wonderful Gorky’s Euros Childs to the TF ranks, I am never surprised to hear of any band losing more than they’ll ever have, to quote the Scream team, whenever they shed a founding member and/or crucial cog in the songwriting wheel.

    It reminds me of Suede losing Bernard Butler and having to draft in two musicians (Richard Oakes and Neil Codling) to replace him, and good as they were/are, particularly Richard, who is a dazzling player, and for all the terrific music they went on to make post-Bernard, the crucial chemistry that propelled Suede to their artistic apex of 1993-1994 would never be repeated. Ditto countless other bands such as the Alan Wilder-less Depeche having to draft in two programmers to replace him, and even then that wasn’t quite enough to scale the same vertiginous artistic peaks of yore. Or who could overlook The Smiths’ hapless attempts to replace Johnny (!) by approaching Roddy Frame and auditioning Ivor Perry before conceding defeat before they’d even left the rehearsal room…

    Bands just don’t seem to want to learn from the countless examples littered throughout rock history do they? I know there are a handful of examples where a band rode out the death or departure of a crucial founder and went on to have far greater success in their absence (the Floyd, Joy Division/New Order, Fleetwood Mac and the Manics, most notably) but every one of those bands only managed that herculean feat by radically and/or gradually altering their musical map and effectively building a new band out of the remaining line-up.

  3. Great read Craig…and refreshingly honest.

    I wasn’t at the gig, but based on what I caught on Facebook last week and then digesting this, my take on it over my own place wasn’t too wide of the mark.

  4. Sorry to read about your parents passing. It’s funny how music soundtracks sad times in life, isn’t it? New Order trigger all sorts of emotions in me. As for TFC I really hope they prove me wrong. It’d be a shame to see them plod on with ever-decreasing returns.

  5. New management and a new ‘up and at ‘em’ approach to recording and touring signalled the end, I think, for Gerry.

    No band ever stays the same. Those long haired slackers that produced A Catholic Education are a different beast to the ‘Geography department go rock’ of Here.

    You can’t deny Norman, Raymond and co the right to continue but it does feel a wee bit like a different band. The fact that the Bandstand show took a while to sell out tells it’s own story.

  6. Just read your piece, JC, and, yes, it seems like the general feeling on it all.

    They’re only a band, FFS. Hardly life and death stuff.

    …but it’s Teenage Fanclub. That makes it different.

  7. Loveless TFC has made me so sad since the news broke that I’ve really not brought myself to listen to them since. Not much of a big deal, barring the fact that Fanclub is the single most important band in my life. They changed everything for me almost 30-years ago; they are MY band in that they are the band that most affected MY life. Of course I realize there are ‘better’ bands, but TFC is my generation’s finest. Without Gerry…it just isn’t the same.

    Thanks for depressing the shit out of me all over again, Craig! Were it 95, GP would’ve just turned a month old. What a time that was. It was magic, and TFC were there to soundtrack it all. I recognize I should be thankful full stop, but I’m just not there yet.

  8. Och, Cody. I’m feeling your pain.

    Pour a large glass of whatever you fancy, stick one of the albums on and play it loud and often. Repeat every day for 7 days. If the symptoms still persist increase the dose with a bit of Lightships on the side. Good luck and good health.

  9. You know what’s telling, Craig? The one album I’ve found no aversion to is A Catholic Education. Hmmmm. Why could that be?!? Let me think… 🙂

    Hope your Liverpool’ing is refreshing and deeply pacific. Puns: the last refuge.

    To you and yours,
    with all sorts of California love,

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