TEENAGE FANCLUB-ENDLESS ARCADE.

Teenage Fanclub-Endless Arcade.

Label: PeMa.

Format: CD.

Much has happened to Teenage Fanclub since they released their tenth album Here on the ‘9th’ of September 2009. It was their first album since the release of Shadows on the ‘21st’ of May 2010, and marked a return to form for the band that was formed in Bellshill in 1989. Since then, much has happened, especially in the last three years.

In 2018, the five albums that Teenage Fanclub had released on Creation Records between 1991 and 1997 were reissued. Fans had long awaited the reissue of 1991s The King and especially Bandwagonesque which was released later that year and was the band’s breakthrough album of jangle pop. It was followed by 1993s Thirteen before the highlights of the highlights of the Creation Records years 1995s Grand Prix and 1997s Tales From Northern Britain. By then, Teenage Fanclub hd come of age as a band.

After the reissue of the Creation Records five, Teenage Fanclub embarked upon a promotional tour in late 2018. During the tour, the group played each of the albums in full.  It turned out to be a triumphant tour albeit one tinged with sadness.

After the tour, cofounder Gerald Love announced that he had left Teenage Fanclub after twenty-nine years with the band. This came as a huge blow. It was going to be well neigh impossible to replace one of the band’s creative forces.

Teenage Fanclub decided to shuffle the deck and longtime member Dave McGowan switched from playing keyboards and guitar to bass which Gerald Love had been playing. 

There was however, a new addition to the band. Euros Childs of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci had been collaborating with Norman Blake on his side-project Jonny for two decades. He became Teenage Fanclub’s new keyboardist. This was the end of what was akin to a game of musical chairs that resulted in two musicians replacing Gerald Love.

The new and extended lineup of the band began working on material for the album. Cofounder Norman Blake had already written I’m More Inclined which he played to the band. They liked the song and having given it the green light, Teenage Fanclub would soon begin working on their eleventh album. 

In January 2019, the six members of the band flew out to Hamburg, in Germany, a city that Teenage Fanclub had visited often and grown to love. They had even mixed their previous album Here at the city’s Clouds Hill Studio. This was their destination and where they began work on the album that became Endless Arcade.

Twelve songs were recorded by the band during two separate recording sessions. The loss of Gerald Love meant that the group was left with just two principal songwriters. Norman Blake contributed Home, Warm Embrace, The Sun Won’t Shine On Me, I’m More Inclined, Back In The Day and Living with You. The other six tracks were written by Raymond McGinley and included Endless Arcade, Everything Is Falling Apart, Come With Me, In Our Dreams, The Future and Silent Song. They become the first album by the new and extended lineup of Teenage Fanclub.

During January 2019, the group started recording their first album in nearly three years. Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and drummer Francis MacDonald were joined by David McGowan and new Euros Childs. Teenage Fanclub had  

decided to produce the album which they had done before. Work went well on the album but a month later, in February 2019,Teenage Fanclub left Hamburg and embarked upon a tour of Asia, Australia, North America and Europe that lasted until April 2019. 

During the tour, Everything Is Falling Apart was released as a single on the ‘20th’ February 2019. It featured a vocal from Raymond McGinley and was Teenage Fanclub’s comeback single and a tantalising taste of Endless Arcade, which at the time, was work in progress.

Seven months later, in November 2019, Teenage Fanclub returned to Clouds Hill Studio to finish recording the album. By then, the band was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. However, the only remaining original members of the band were Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley. This meant that the tracks that the group were recording for Endless Arcade had a slightly different sound.

At the time, Raymond McGinley said: “With Gerry not being there…it’s different. But then Dave is on bass and Euros is there. It’s an inspiring thing!”

Norman Blake also said: “I think some of the playing is a bit freer and looser than on recent albums. Dave and Euros’ playing is amazing, and Francis (Macdonald) on drums is really swinging.” 

The new look Teenage Fanclub completed Endless Arcade as 2019 drew to a close. 2020 was going to be a busy and exciting year for the band.

In March 2020, Teenage Fanclub announced the release of Endless Arcade in October of that year. The group were also going to tour Britain and Europe in support of their eleventh album during November and December 2020. However, it was a case of: “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.”

Later in March 2020, the country went into lockdown after the global pandemic arrived in Britain. For bands and artists about to release albums or head out on tour this was a disaster.

Three months later, with no sign of normality returning Teenage Fanclub cancelled their British and European tour in June 2020. The dates were rescheduled for April and May 2021. It was also decided that the release of Endless Arcade be postposed to coincide with the new tour dates. 

While this was a huge blow Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley they decided to put the extra time to good use. They entered the studio in Glasgow and continued to mix the album. Finally, they had Endless Arcade sounding the way they wanted.

On ‘11th’ November 2002, Teenage Fanclub announced that Endless Arcade would be released on the ‘5th’ of March 2020. They also released a single edit and video for Home which was written and sung by Norman Blake. It would eventually open the album.

Just over two months later, the Norman Black composition I’m More Inclined was released as a single on the ‘25th’ of January 2021. That day, Teenage Fanclub announced that they had to push the release of Endless Arcade back until the ‘30th’ of April 2021. To make matters worse, the British and European tour dates were rearranged again and wouldn’t take place until tour dates in support of the album were also postponed to September 2021 and then during April and May 2022. This was disappointing for the band and their fans. 

Six weeks before the release of Endless Arcade the fourth single from the album was released. This was the Norman Blake composition The Sun Won’t Shine One Me which was released on the ‘15th’ of March 2021. It was another taste of what was to come on Teenage Fanclub’s long-awaited and much-anticipated eleventh album.

Two years and three months after they started recording Endless Arcade the album was belatedly released on the ‘30th’ of April 2021. This was thirty-two years after Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley cofounded the band with Gerald Love who let the band in 2018. Endless Arcade was the first album without him in the band. 

Critics wondered what a Teenage Fanclub album without Gerald Love would sound like? They also wondered about the meaning of the title? 

Raymond McGinley’s song lent its name to the album and he explains that he imagined an Endless Arcade as: “a city that you can wander through, with a sense of mystery, an imaginary one that goes on forever. When it came to choosing an album title, it seemed to have something for this collection of songs.”

Critics were won over by Endless Arcade which was released to plaudits and praise. It compared favourably to Here and was a better album than Shadows. Teenage Fanclub’s new and extended lineup showcase their inimitable brand of jangle pop that was originally inspired by Big Star and The Byrds. They also switch between and combine alt rock, indie pop and rock during a twelve track album where the music is melodic and long on hooks which includes several anthems-in-waiting. 

Endless Arcade opens with Home a driving track that is unmistakably Teenage Fanclub. They’ve set the bar high with the album opener. 

The tempo drops on the Byrds-influenced title-track while there’s a looser sound on Everything Is Falling Apart. It’s a poignant sounding track  with a despondent sounding vocal and lyrics that seems to reflect the last year.

The Sun Won’t Shine On Me is a beautiful ballad which features a soul-baring vocal. It’s very different to other tracks and was another side to Teenage Fanclub.Come With Me is a slow song with a spartan arrangement that allows the vocal to take centrestage on this anthem-in-waiting.

In Our Dreams sees the tempo rising on a track where  elements of alt-rock, psychedelia and pop are combined during this melodic track. However, I’m More Inclined is much more like Teenage Fanclub of old and is a return to form. It’s melodic and the hooks haven’t been spared. 

Then on Back In The Day the group is in a reflective mood on what’s sure to be a favourite when the group eventually play live. This is a reminder of Grand Prix or Tales From Northern Britain which was classic Teenage Fanclub. 

The Future is a thoughtful sounding song with a slow, spartan  and understated arrangement. It’s shows another side to the group. Living With You is more like their old sound. It’s a melodic and memorable paean where jangle pop and indie rock combine. 

Silent Song closes Endless Arcade and is another slow song where the group are in a reflective mood. It’s a lovely way to close Teenage Fanclub’s eleventh album.

Endless Arcade is quite different in parts to previous Teenage Fanclub albums. Partly, that’s down to the departure of Gerald Love who played such a key part in the sound and success of group. 

It used to be that Teenage Fanclub had an unmistakable sound that was instantly recognisable. Although their old sound is still present on Endless Arcade their’s new sides to the band’s music. Some of the tracks have much more understated and spartan arrangements where room has been left for the vocal. The lyrics on these songs are much more cerebral and thought-provoking. They often feature vocals that are full of emotion that are part of beautiful songs. During these tracks its Teenage Fanclub but not as we know them. However, Endless Arcade is a good album their fans will enjoy and embrace and many of the songs will become eventually become favourites.

For newcomers to the band, the best place to start is with the triumvirate of Bandwagonesque, Grand Prix and Tales From Northern Britain which is vintage Teenage Fanclub and  features the band at their very best. Endless Arcade features a grownup version of jangle pop pioneers Teenage Fanclub. They’ve matured and are older and wiser and so has their music as Endless Arcade proves.

Teenage Fanclub-Endless Arcade.

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