Gig review: Teenage Fanclub/Bevis Frond

Gig review: Teenage Fanclub/Bevis Frond

Glasgow Barrowlands, September 29, 2006

Once bands have a fair back catalogue behind them, say about five albums, in most cases, there are one or two albums that stand out about the rest. They may not always the band’s favourite, but the fans seem to converge on them. In 2003, when Suede decided to call it a day, they played each five of their studio albums on consecutive nights at the ICA in London. Somewhat inevitably, the dates sold out and were going for silly money on ebay. However, whilst tickets for Dog Man Star were going for £1000, tickets for A New Morning were going for a mere £100. This, then, can be the dilemma of playing shows that relate to specific albums that are not concept albums, a la Floyd or the Who; is it going to run the risk of pinpointing that the band’s peak is long behind them? And do you play the album in sequence, providing a perfect facsimile that people could have got simply by listening to the album at home, or re-work it? And what about the rest of your back catalogue?

Not necessarily my problem to worry about. After all, having had a tip-off that the tickets were going to go on sale, there was no way I was going to miss this. And it really was one of my gigs of the year: Teenage Fanclub playing their seminal 1991 album Bandwagonesque in its’ entirety.

The support band was Bevis Frond, or at least, two fifths of them (their official website seems to have disappeared but there are a lot of articles on them on the web). They were an excellent choice to support Fanclub, especially given that Fanclub once covered their song ‘He’d Be A Diamond.’ This, they wryly point out, made them ten times more money than anything else they had ever done. Support acts that are just a couple of people with guitars can be a risky choice for support acts, but Frond win the crowd over, the realisation that whilst we may not know many of these songs, we damn well oughta. I spent a happy hour googling them the next day.

And then fanclub come on. Armed with the drummer who drummed on Bandwagonesque, Brendan O’Hare. Since leaving the fanclub, O’Hare has played with Telstar Ponies, BMX Bandits and was also -and I quote ” Mogwai’s musician without portfolio.” He should also consider a career in stand-up comedy, and I mean that as a complement. Fanclub tear straight into The Concept -usually a song they might encore with – and it’s pretty much a total high from then on. People genuinely love this album, and I should know, I’m one of them. They play The Concept right the way through, including that coda, before roaring stright into an even shorter version of Satan than on the album (which itself is only 80 seconds long). “Best band in the world” roars someone in the audience in front of me, and fanclub reply with December. They blaze through the album, in order, and it works. It’s faithful, but it’s still played with passion and the crowd love every minute of it. Brendan jokes inbetween songs, introducing them. the rest of the band seem happy to let him get on with it (perhaps as I might gently indulge a slightly hyperactive but loveable rogue in my classroom. Within reason.) Before the album’s closer ‘Is This Music?’ Brendan thanks everyone, before planting a kiss on the security gaurd’s head. Aww. The band then fluff the intro, causing Brendan to smirk ‘Who was that? It was not me! I don’t play on this!’ which indeed he doesn’t. But they carry on, and it does sound like an album finisher. The guitars still sound like bagpipes on this one (am I the only person who thinks it’s reminiscent of Big Country’s soundtrack to Restless Natives? Probably. Oh well.) So where to from here?

Well, this may be billed as Bandwagonesque, but of course fanclub have hardly rested on their laurels ever since. We get a greatest hits set from the subsequent albums, and you start to hope that maybe they might even do the same, er, concept for Grand Prix or Songs From Northern Britain. I wasn’t blown away by Manmade when it first came out last year, but it’s grown on me, and songs like It’s All In My Mind really is a classic that rates up there with I Don’t Want Control Of You and Verisimilitude. The band sound so tight as well. I saw them twice in Edinburgh last year, and at moments they were shambolic (part of the scottish indie rule-book at times, I think!) but tonight they are absolutely on fire. They finish the set with Mellow Doubt and Sparky’s Dream (OK this is now a plea: please do a Grand Prix show).

That, of course, would be a pretty cool way to finish a show, but they come on with the aforementioned two-fifths of Bevis Frond to do an electric version (in both senses of He’d Be A Diamond) and with Brendan back on drums the final song of the night is Everything Flows. Sixteen years since it was released, it was of course Fanclub’s first classic single, though as tonight shows, there have been many more since. Long may they continue. And may they never forget their superlative back catalogue.

Many thanks also due to my friend Jared, the biggest fanclub fan I know who accompanied me there and who also supplied the following setlist:

“Bandwagonesque”

1. The Concept
2. Satan
3. December
4. What You Do To Me
5. I Don’t Know
6. Star Sign
7. Metal Baby
8. Pet Rock
9. Sidewinder
10. Alcoholiday
11. Guiding Star
12. Is This Music?

Rest of the show…
Near You
It’s All In My Mind
Don’t Look Back
I Don’t Want Control Of You
About You
I Need Direction
Start Again
Verisimilitude
Ain’t That Enough
Your Love Is The Place That I Come From
Mellow Doubt
Sparky’s Dream

Encores:
He’d Be A Diamond
Everything Flows

Go and buy as much Teenage Fanclub as you possibly can

Read all about it! Read all about it!

Yup, or another The Sound of Young Scotland post! Flicking through a few other posts, it seems that the US bloggers are getting very excited about a the imminent release of Wolves by My Latest Novel. Rightly so, though the album has been out in the UK for some time. Whilst trying to provide reference points can seem pointless at times for so many bands, I would recommend that fans of Arab Strap, Aberfeldy, The Delgados, Sons and Daughters, Idlewild (particularly The Remote part-era Idlewild), and I think I hear a bit of Gorky’s and Ooberman too. Whereever you live on the planet, this is an album you want to check out.

Don’t miss the chance to see ‘em live either; I first happened upon them supporting The much-missed Delgados in February 2005, and within the next six months also saw them supporting Aberfeldy and The Pixies, as well as their own headline show at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire. They have also supported Low. May all this come together to help them to sell the hugs amounts of records they so clearly deserve too. This debut is rich and varied, and you can hear parts of the album both at *Sixeyes and The Merry Muses of Caledonia. Then, obviously, go and buy yourself a copy.

They are also on myspace too.

Not to be confused with Razorlight

Every so often, you hear about about a band that seem to be getting so much coverage, with so many blogs salivating over them that you wonder if there’s someone hyping things or what (maybe we bloggers are guilty of this at times…)

However, when the band in question sound as good as Canada’sJunior Boys, then who is complaining? I hadn’t heard this track until about half an hour ago – term is kicking in, and I’m having to do those things that I’m paid to do, like prepare lessons, mark, and y’know, teach. However, sometimes you need to do something else.

I know very little about them, but if there is any justice, next year they, CSS and 120 Days are going to be giving us what the electroclash movement should have.

Junior Boys -’In the Morning.’ mp3

Junior Boys -’Birthday.’ mp3

Buy Junior Boys on Amazon.

Do keep watching this space!


Sorry for the lack of posts – have been trying to link a couple of videos from You tube to here and for some reason, twenty four hours later they have not appeared. Hmm. Not Pleased.

I have, however, updated quite a few more blogs into the right hand column, as well as adding links to several more bands. I would suggest to anyone who has yet to hear The Fratellis album Costello Music that they do themselves a favour and hear it, preferably by buying it. personally I think it’s better than the Arctic Monkeys album, though I realise this may be a capital punishment-worthy offence.

Oh, and Long Blondes fans should check this link out : )

Gig review: Aberfeldy/Dateless

Aberfeldy/Catherine Feeney/Dateless

Edinburgh Liquid Rooms September 18, 2006

With venues disappearing to be turned into Executive flats, it’s good to see that Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms remains very much open for business. It’s especially good to see Aberfeldy headlining a packed Liquid Rooms, having seen them supporting the Fire Engines and Sons and Daughters here in December 2004.

But first, the evening starts off with Dateless. One fella and his keyboards, and two girls wearing matching blonde wigs and pink skirts, they take to the stage without much fanfare, but by the end of their opening number (something along the lines of ‘I don’t see as much of you as I’d like to’) they are winning the crowd over. There are eight young girls dancing in front of the stage, and I can believe that they could fill places with girls inspired to copy not just their dancing, as they do tonight, but their clothes too. They sound similar to Client with the keyboards and the long-lost act that was Dubstar. You can dance, you can clap and you want to take their records home, if there were any to buy. Their six song set is a delight. I wanna know more (and please post some tracks on your myspace site!
After this, Catherine Feeney is kind of an odd choice to follow on. She’s got a suitably ever-so-slightly husky voice, nice songs and enough stage presence to fill the place, which is no mean feat for anyone who has to play to a packed room with just an acoustic guitar in a full venue. And she plays that guitar well…but the songs don’t linger. Yet.

As I say, I saw Aberfeldy supporting here less than two years ago. Now they are headlining a homecoming gig that’s full, including many people who have rooted for them for years. As they open with ‘A Friend Like You’ it’s clear from here on until the rest of the evening that they have grown so much. The songs just flow, and sound bigger than ever, without bombast. In all the times I’ve seen them, Riley Briggs has never lacked for confidence -and I wish I could pull off a safari suit like he does – but they just so have it now. Thye songs have always been there, but they are so tight you wonder if Pete Doherty’s a former label-mate cos he knows he’s gonna struggle to keep up.
Riley’s stage patter suggests a sense of humour that must see them through the gigs when there aren’t many there (12 at Brighton a few days earlier. So much it being the hippest city in Britain). He jokes about his guitar-shaped swimming pool in Leith (if you’ve never been to Edinburgh…well, just come here, go to Leith and you’ll understand why it’s funny). Hell, if the man would like one, we shouldn’t deny him it (though being Scotland it’s going to take some serious heating. We’re hardy folk but not inuits). When so many folk come here and kinda forget where they are, it’s reassuring to here someone who grew up here greeting a crowd.
The whole band are just on fire, frankly. Ruth darts about from keyboard to keyboard, and Sarah plays a mean violin that just puts most fiddlers to shame. I envy her former pupils. Ken beams behind his bass and drummer Murray seems like a perfect foil for brother Riley.
A couple of weeks ago I saw the video for latest single Hypnotised in the back of a taxi. Astute marketing from someone. The wolfboy video should be taking them to new heights. It’s a real highlight live, as is ‘Do Whatever Turns You on’ which Riley dedicates to his family allowing him and his brother to feel free growing up. This apparently included using lego to create bands that would die in car crashes, according to Scotland on Sunday. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a great story.
They finish their encore with Heliopolis by Night (my runner-up single of 2004, behind Take Me Out). As the crowd do the ‘radio ga-ga’ handclaps, it’s clear this is a classic.
Two years down, two albums out, and Aberfeldy are hitting their stride. If you never saw them before, get out there!

The Continuing Sound Of Young Scotland

Another Scottish Saturday. My favourite day of the week in my favourite country/adopted homeland. Why not share some more thoughts with the general public about scottish indie?!

Is there something peculiarly scottish about indie music? There seems to be a sort of idea that pinpoints to things perhaps having a certain sort of aesthetic ‘Heartfelt/shambolic/twee/quiet-loud-quiet-VERYBLOODYLOUDLYYARADGE-(nowquitesoftlyeractually)’…and there are so many bands who might come into this category. There have been as many debates about what actually constitutes ‘indie’ as to where and when, exactly punk rock started (I think we really might just have to accept that it was about 1965 in the US and 1975 in the UK. It’s like discussing Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers album; there is never going to be a definitive answer).

I’ve mentioned many bands before on these pages – Sons and Daughters, Arab Strap, Franz Ferdinand have had mentions on this page, and I should get round to covering so many, many more (I don’t know whether I’m teaching people to suck eggs when I write this stuff, but if there’s someone else who hasn’t heard it, and 99 who have, I guess I may have added something to someone’s life. I like to think so, anyway).

Anyway, today’s Scottish band of choice are Teenage Fanclub. I could tell their story – but it’s actually done pretty well here at their own website.
I first heard them in 1992, when I bought Bandwagonesque (still my favourite fanclub) album. There was just something so cool about them, I didn’t understand ‘slacker’ in those days (Rutland was in a time warp, it was lucky the album slipped through), and I hadn’t heard many of the references points. But when an album starts off with feedback and by the second verse they’re singing ‘She don;t do drugs but she does the pill…’ Well. Another parent-worrying line that hadn’t been heard since, ooh, my Mum bought me Nevermind The Bollocks a year or so previously. I hadn’t heard Dinosaur Jr or even heard of Big Star, but they helped lead me to them. They were loved by Kurt Cobain, who also loved many of the Scottish inide scene’s finest, and Oasis and Travis must have been taking note too (Check Travis’ ‘All I Wanna Do Is Rock’ single from 1997. Pure fanclub). As the years went by, and the band issued more albums, they were compared more to Neil Young, but they still remain just as west-coast as ever (Scotland as much as US). Everytime I hear Grand Prix (my second favourite fanclub album), I remember the year I left school, 1995, when the singles Mellow Doubt and Sparky’s Dream made it into the Top 40. I remember singing along in my friend Duncan’s car as we headed off to Leicester to buy hair dye for the Leavers’ event (Duncan was still being called pink hair at Gastonbury a month later), and the world felt full of possibilities. It still does, but like most 29 year olds, I’m wiser and mellower than was at 18, but slightly more cynical and realistic. It’s always a risk taking bands for granted, but I’m glad they’re still here. Last year I saw them twice, headlining at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms and then on a bill with Idlewild and the Pixies. They made SO much sense there, and I hope they always will.

May I suggest you try this for starters, if you have never heard the band:

Teenage Fanclub -’What You Do To Me.’ mp3 from 1991′s Bandwagonesque

Teenage Fanclub -’It’s All In My Mind.’mp3 from last year’s Man Made

If you like like what you hear, try Insound or Epitonic for more legal mp3s.

Also on their website, they have also put up some mp3s of work they have done – not necessarily hits -but cool stuff none the less.

Go here to buy Teenage Fanclub

What have I become, my sweetest friend?

Hello again people. The end of another week, with it’s usual mixture of up and down, but mostly up, in music, education and life.

I was extremely flattered earlier this week to discover that Tony at Highway Five had written a very complimentary review of 17 seconds on his blog.
To quote:
” Have been trawling through the blog sphere and found this wonderful music blog.
Written with passion, style and elan its a great place to go a read someone writting well about music that moves them.

A Scotmans living in Edinburgh, Ed has a fine way with words and great taste in music. There are reviews of new releases, video links and other gems awaiting you.”

Apart from the fact that I am only an honourary Scotsman, I am very flattered and touched by this. (You reading this, Mum?!) please check out his blog.

Another blog I must direct you to is The Merry Muses of Caledonia, where the blogger lists his all-time favourite Scottish singles. As with many of these sort of lists, I agree with the inclusion of many, even if mine might rank slightly differently. Do go check it out.

Added to which, given that I do not spend my entire time at my computer listening to music (whatever my girlfriend may think), I have also been getting on with teaching. I showed my head of department at school the You Tube site, which as he’s a bit technophobic (his own description), he hadn’t come across. Anyway, we had been brainstorming ideas for teaching Impermanence in Buddhism, amongst other things. He had heard the song for hurt by Johnny Cash but not seen the video. It remains one of the most powerful videos ever seen. At the end of it, there was silence in the classroom before he eventually managed to open his mouth. I’m still trying to build up the courage to show this, showing as it does, Cash and his wife June Carter, close to death. She died a few months before he did; someone once said that ‘She’d gone to get the house ready for him.’ That’s possibly one of the saddest but most loving things I can think of.

Hurt

Buy Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around on Amazon (this version includes the video)

The sound of a heart breaking

‘Listen ah know it must sound absurd
But I can hear the most melancholy sound ah ever heard!’
sang Nick Cave on the title track of his debut solo alhum From Her To Eternity in 1984. I’ve no idea whether or not he’s a fan, but the most melancholy sound I have ever heard is played out below in these two videos by Abba.

Yes, Abba. 1974 Eurovision winners, camp pop (yes, that’s POP, as opposed to indie, alternative, punk, whatevah) makers, famed for such upbeat perkiness have actually recorded some of the saddest, but most wonderful heartbreaking music ever heard.

In his utterly fanastic This is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco, Garry Mulholland outlines an interesting theory: that Abba and Joy Division seem to have a fair bit in common, lyrically at least. Alright, so Ian Curtis didn’t live long enough, alas, to make ‘divorce pop’ (though having read Deborah Curtis’ Touching From a Distance we can but speculate what the third Joy Division album would have been like). He points out that the first line of ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ is:
‘No more carefree laughter/silence ever after.’ Put this after Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, he says, and you wouldn’t miss a beat.

For me, even as a Cure and Joy Divison fan, The Winner Takes It All is simply the saddest song ever recorded. The point at which Agnetha Faltskog sings ‘But tell me, does she kiss, like I used to kiss you? Does it feel the same, when she calls your name?’ …If this does not make your heart melt, sorry, I don’t want to know you. I mean it. You lack the basic emotional makeup that should allow you to exist in this world.

ABBA- Winner Takes It All

This next track was Abba’s final song before they pretty much disintegrated (they never formally split, just stopped working together). It only reached no.32 in the charts at the time, but it’s my favourite Abba song after The Winner Takes It All (yes, even better than Dancing Queen). The video is almost entirely Agnetha (ironically, given that it’s Frida who’s singing, according to several sources I have checked). The opening ‘I must have left my house at eight because I always do’ could conceivably be delivered by Ian Curtis, just as he could have done an amazing version of The Winner Takes It All. Funnily enough, although it’s the girls who sing these tracks, it was the blokes who wrote the words, as not even slightly subtle digs at their former wives (even the mere idea of two former couples having to work together must be uncomfortable. Just ask Fleetwood Mac). Watch this video, and then the two Joy Division videos down the blog for Love Will Tear Us Apart and Atmosphere and then decide if you really think Mr. Mulholland’s theory is so strange.
There really was something unique about Abba. After all, you don’t think Kurt Cobain and John Peel bestowed their affections on just anyone, do you?

The day before you came

Buy Abba on Amazon

Who’s afraid of Yo La Tengo?

Record Review: Yo La Tengo ‘I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass.’

Released September 11, 2006 (Matador (UK))

Just as you shouldn’t necessarily judge books from their covers, so it’s possibly advisable not to judge records from their titles, regardless of how familiar you might, or might not be with their work. Yo La Tengo’s follow up to 2003′s Summer Sun is probably not the aggressive record that you might expect.

It certainly fits in with their back catalogue, and on first hearing is similar to Summer Sun in the sense that so many of the tracks are pleasantly gentle and comforting. That is, in the same sense that a record like Jim O’Rourke’s Eureka, or Sigur Ros’s Agaetis Byrjun are comforting, they are records that you can lose yourself in, but you know that they come from a proudly leftfield tradition in a way that ‘Easy Listening’ or MOR doesn’t.

There are some definitely rockier moments on the album, the album’s two epic bookends ‘Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind’ and ‘The Story Of Yo la Tengo’ and ‘Watch Out For Me Ronnie’ are excellent examples of this side of Yo La Tengo. But there are horns throughout much of the record, adding a hint of soul rather than saturating it. ‘Sometimes I Don’t Get You’ is a waltz, and ‘Daphnia’ one of the best tracks, is like Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th remixed by Mogwai.

It’s not Yo La Tengo’s best album – my money’s still on I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One – but there’s a seam through this album, even allowing for the shere diversity of influeneces running through it, that makes it consistent, enjoyable, and I suspect, rewarding listen.

7.5/10

Either get yourself over to Amazon or visit your friendly local independent retailer this Monday.

To hear tracks from this album and other Yo La Tengo albums go here