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Teenage Fanclub 

Howdy! (Sony Columbia UK)

Wednesday, Jul 18 2001
Glasgow's Teenage Fanclub is a textbook case of a band that fell victim to its own early brilliance, as well as the mercilessness of circumstance and fashion. In the early '90s TFC established itself as an indie rock icon, one of a handful of bands on the maverick Creation label to break through to international success. The group's 1991 album Bandwagonesque was hailed as a landmark -- a record that championed melodic rock in the face of hip hop's juggernaut and the coarse primitivism of grunge. A shameless tribute to Alex Chilton's '70s band Big Star, Bandwagonesque was the chocolate mousse of guitar pop, a lavish concoction of shimmering power chords and whimsical, sex-drenched vocals.

As one of the transcendent indie albums of the decade, Bandwagonesque proved a hard act to follow. Despite similar richness and beauty, the band's subsequent records were met with relative indifference. Teenage Fanclub's stateside affiliation with Geffen Records should have granted the group a global audience, but instead it brought about disaffection and disenchantment among the fickle, cred-obsessed college rock crowd. Some fair-weather fans also found the band's increasingly polished sound and its newfound country-folk influence off-putting.

Not that this defection stopped the Scottish popsters from following their silvery muse -- Teenage Fanclub continued to sculpt some of the loveliest, most silken music on the face of the planet. Thankfully, for their sixth album, the Fannies haven't written any rock operas or gone trip hop in an attempt to court new audiences; they still retain their faith in goofy, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and simple, infectious melodies. Howdy! is a fine example of the band's easygoing, euphoric style, drawing on chiming, Byrds-like riffs and the glossy pop perfection of the Beach Boys. It's a delicious summertime album with a slightly mystical edge, ideal for driving through the woods, going off to the beach, or straying down a long country road -- that is, if you're lucky enough to find a copy, since Sony sternly limited distribution to the U.K. Still, I suppose we should be thankful for the Grinch-like frugality of the corporate bean-counters. The album's stateside scarcity recalls the glory days of the indie import, when tracking down rarities marked you as a true believer and a new favorite album sounded that much sweeter.

About The Author

Lawrence Kay


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