Teenage Fanclub stood apart right from the beginning.
Arguably too heavy across those early albums to fit into the dominant indie pop sphere, the band's love of classic melody stood apart from the nascent grunge scene.
'Bandwagonesque' may have been cited by Kurt Cobain – who reckoned the Fannies were the best band on the planet, at one point – but truly, theirs is a singular musical universe.
Released on May 29th 1995, 'Grand Prix' may well be the Bellshill Beach Boys' finest moment. A stunning album which continues to inspire, it's packed with lovelorn hymns, with rich humour, with crazed jams and finely honed songwriting.
Alvvays have, well, always worn their influences on their plaid sleeves. Guitarist Alec O'Hanley offers a love letter to 'Grand Prix' and to the majesty of Teenage Fanclub...
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Whose songs got under your skin so deep and so early that you've been chasing those shivers ever since? For us, twas Teenage Fanclub. They were totally singular – what melodies! Who else did what they do?
They were the band we'd been looking for that confirmed what we believed to be true: that verse-chorus form is a legitimate structure for relevant music; that the romantic guitar pop palette still produces works of pure magic; and if you find a button that works, push it repeatedly.
I had shown Molly (Rankin, Alvvays' singer) 'Bandwagonesque' but that was all we knew of the Fannies and we were still thirsty. Molly bought 'Grand Prix' one low afternoon on Barrington St. in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She had burst ocular blood vessels at the time, which made the whites of her eyes blood-red. The clerk told her she looked like a freak, she ran back to her south end apartment and put the record on.
It was a power-pop clinic. Lovelorn thoughtful clichéplay, huge hard-panned guitars, machine gun snare fills, syrup-soaked melody and harmony - it was all there.
'Grand Prix' is full of that semi-requited chocolate that glues great bittersweet pop together. The sighing romanticism in 'that summer feeling is gonna fly, always try to keep the feeling inside' is a sentimental lift of Jonathan Richman's seasonal ache. Residents of northern climes tend to cling to their summers because they're too damn short.
'Don't Look Back' tucks a refinement of that advice behind a Chilton-ian offer from the devoted badass: "I'd steal a car to drive you home, don't look back on empty feeling." These guys wrote lyrics you could live inside and didn't hesitate to impart advice, but they did it with a light touch.
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We romanticized the Glaswegian aesthetes, often wishing we were Scots...
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We loved the frontload of Raymond McGinley's 'About You' and Gerard Love's 'Sparky's Dream', partly because we've never liked the implicit attitude of starting a record with a throwaway. Kicking things off with a strong one-two like that is such a charming move. We ripped that off. You've gotta respect the listener, if you don't you're just playing jazz.
So much of Teenage Fanclub's broad power lies inside that guileless and intelligible presentation. The slack ii-V-I strum is another thing we've borrowed from the Fannies once or twice but that's fine, they scoffed at other bands' posturing and the pretense and didn't give a shit about influence-obscurity-as-cred.
Glasgow was a guitar town and they knew their lineage, citing The Stones, Creedence, and Neil Young as forbearers. Hence 'Neil Jung', a great Norman Blake jam complete with requisite Crazy Horse coda and the best pun ever committed to liners. They loved Neil. That Canadian plaid made for a pretty great tartan.
We romanticized the Glaswegian aesthetes, often wishing we were Scots like our great-great-grandparents. Kerri (MacLellan, Alvvays) and Molly (Rankin, Alvvays) grew up fiddling Gaelic reels like High Road To Linton and Loch Lomond but until a few weeks ago we'd never played Scotland.
That afternoon in Glasgow we got rain-soaked in our peacoats running across town to King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. Discomfort turned to bliss when were greeted with steaming soup and 'Grand Prix' blaring from the pub kitchen. Cobain loved them, Kim Deal wanted to write songs about boys the way they did about girls, and yet they continue to be criminally underappreciated outside of the pop cult they created.
The hardcore Scottish kids in the kitchen knew. Songs above all else.
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Related: Next Wave - Alvvays