Teenage Fanclub are an alternative rock institution. If you didn’t have at least two songs off Bandwagonesque on that mixtape you made to impress that brunette in Geometry class back in the early 90s your tastemaker creds were shot(plus, they’d a ditched you for the kid in the My Bloody Valentine t-shirt.) The Scottish power pop band made fuzzy, noisy songs of love and longing that appealed to pretty much anyone that wore their heart on their sleeve.
And since their beginning the band were led by the same three founding members that all shared songwriting and singing duties. This kept a consistency in the band’s output, allowing Teenage Fanclub’s sound to mature and age with its earliest fans while still building on their tried and true Beach Boys-meets-Big Star-meets-Jesus and Mary Chain formula.
This leads us to 2018 and the departure of founding member Gerard Love, which leads us to the first Teenage Fanclub album written without him, Endless Arcade. While the band retains their knack for subtle pop hooks and ear-catching melodies, the loss of Love is very much heard here.
If Endless Arcade was indeed an arcade game, imagine an RPG with nothing really at stake. No beasts to slay or maidens to save, just a pleasant walk down a country lane with an occasional rain cloud to obscure the sunlight. Album opener “Home” has a nice head-bopping groove to it and pleasant vocals. The band’s vocal harmonies are on point, but without Gerard Love’s highs the song sort stays in 3rd gear. There’s a nice guitar outro that brings to mind a classic like “The Concept”. Title track “Endless Arcade” is darker in tone with odd chord changes and a real Byrds vibe.
There’s still plenty of sadsack, doomed romanticism that Teenage Fanclub did so well, like in “Everything is Falling Apart” and “The Sun Won’t Shine On Me”. But without the crisp, buzzing guitars there doesn’t seem to be quite the urgency that used to live in their songs. The band seems to have settled firmly in pure 60s Laurel Canyon pop. Still, there’s plenty to dig in the jangly “In Our Dreams” and the nostalgia-laden “Back In The Day”.
Despite the low key vibes, Endless Arcade still shows Teenage Fanclub as a classic band nearly intact as the day they first broke our hearts when Bush Sr was in office. And we were still pining for that brunette in Geometry class.
7.5 out of 10