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Sunday Sculpt #2

I enjoyed doing the first Sunday Sculpt, so I thought I would bring it back this week. My focus today is Teenage Fanclub. I know they've been featured on my one artist Sunday Shuffles twice, once at the end of June and the other on my 44th birthday in March of 2015, but I'm seeing them in concert this Friday and I'm really excited about it. I think I've mentioned before that I missed them in the 90s, but they have become one of my favorite bands since the early 2000s and I have never seen them in concert. Their new album, Here, is just as fantastic as their classics. The band has 3 songwriters - Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley - and all of them have written a bunch of great songs. I'll represent each one of them on this playlist, but know that this will only scratch the surface of this fantastic band. I hope you take the time to listen and discover the band if you are unfamiliar with them.

1. The Concept (from Bandwagonesque) - I have to start with the opening track from their 1991 breakthrough, an album that was famously chose as Album of the Year by Spin over Nirvana's Nevermind. This is a Norman Blake song that opens with "She wears denim wherever she goes/Says she's going to get some records by the Status Quo/Oh yeah" and features wonderful harmony vocals, a great guitar solo, and a soaring minutes long outro that features another guitar solo. Six minutes plus of power pop heaven.

2. Don't Look Back (from Grand Prix) - Speaking of power pop, this seemingly effortless song from Gerard Love is prime example. There's a great melody, cool harmonies, a hint of organ, and guitars all over the place while Love sings "Don't look back/On an empty feeling." I won't.

3. Planets (from Songs from Northern Britain) - This is my favorite album and I absolutely adore this Blake song. The lyrics are absolutely lovely, telling the story of Norman moving to the country. The music matches that loveliness - the melody is perfect, the strings aren't overpowering, the repeating drum fill accentuates the song in just the right way, and that synth solo is sublime. I don't usually listen to songs on repeat, but I could with this one.

4. The Fall (from Shadows) - The band has only put out three albums since 2000, including the new one, which could be disappointing if you look at it from a quantitative perspective. From a qualitative perspective, though, there is nothing to be sad about. Take this Raymond McGinley song from 2010, for example. It's quieter than some of their 90s output, but it is just as well-written. A bed of strummed acoustic guitar is accented by keys and another cool drum fill, with a beautiful darting guitar solo. The song make a shift with about two minutes to go, and we get this amazing lyric - "When I light a fire underneath what I want/I won't feel sad/Only warmed by the loss." Wow.

5. Born Under a Good Sign (from Man-Made) - Anyone who claims that Teenage Fanclub stopped rocking somewhere in 1997 need only listen to this Love contribution to the band's 2005 album (and their first for Merge). It's a 3 minute guitar workout and it's great.

6. Escher (from Thirteen) - This album tends to be the one I overlook. I shouldn't because it's really good, but it comes after Bandwagonesque and right before the one-two punch of Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain, so... Anyway, I'm partial to this McGinley track, called "Escher" because the chorus is "Don't know if I'm going up or down/With you/Don't know if I'm coming going up or down/With you/And I don't mind," which is perfect, right?

7. I Need Direction (from Howdy!) - This Love song is a rarity in that it channels The Beach Boys rather than Big Star or The Beatles, with its "ba ba ba"s and its organ solo. Actually, this whole album is a rarity, in that it's a bit more eclectic than the typical TFC album, but it works.

8. I'm in Love (from Here) - This was the first song released in advance of their new album and it's a perfect song. Blake's songs tend to speak directly to me and this ode to how all you need in life is the love of a partner speaks loud and clear. It helps that it's a driving power gem with a great little guitar solo. Can't wait to hear it in concert.

9. I Don't Want Control Of You (from Songs from Northern Britain) - This one starts with chirping birds and a banjo before slamming into gorgeous harmonies. Blake sings the lead and remember what I said about his songs speaking to me? This one could be my theme song for my relationship with my wife - "I don't want control of you/That doesn't matter to me" and "Every day I look in a different face/Feelings getting stronger with every embrace" and "Don't want this love to stay the same/Growing with every year" say it all. The music matches perfectly and there's even a key change! Our wedding song was Springsteen's "If I Should Fall Behind" and I still love it dearly, but if we were ever to renew our vows (which, granted, isn't really our style), this would be the song. I hope I hear them play it Friday night.

10. Don't Hide (from Man-Made) - I decided to close out this playlist with the closing song from this album. It's a McGinley song where he does that great trick of a great first half that morphs into a different, yet equally great second half. It's an ode to being yourself ; "Why dim your own star?" he asks in the first half before going onto to state in the second half that "I didn't know that my life was wrong/Until the right person came along." That could sum up my feelings about this band. I didn't know what I had missed out on all those years until the band came into my life. For that, I have to thank B. Clay Moore, who put "Is This Music?" on a mix CD he made for my in the late 90s called Eine Kleine Steinmusic and sent me down the path of discovery. I hope this playlist can do the same for at least one of you.


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