Album Review: Teenage Fanclub – Nothing Lasts Forever
Teenage Fanclub has always ruled by feeling instead of soundcraft, and Norman Blake’s lyrical abilities are what has captivated – and continues to intrigue – so many to the Scottish band’s orbit. But on Nothing Lasts Forever, with the Dave McGowan/Francis MacDonald rhythm section taking a more central role, Teenage Fanclub offers something a bit heavier than the easy-going pop tunes that populate their catalogue.
‘Tired of Being Alone’ is a throwback to the 1960s, with harmonies as crystal sharp as anything on a Paul Simon record. An erratic drum beat propels an otherwise stale ‘Falling Into The Sun’ into rockier territories, while the Euros Childs Paul McCartney-like piano on ‘Self Sedation’ plunges listeners back to the whimsy of 1970s pop. It’s easy to write this album off as a throwback to the 1960s, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unlike Andy Partridge – who literally swears by the records that went before him – the band do very little to colour their songs with a newer, more contemporary personality and the record plods along like a tribute band going through the motions.
Routinely competent, the album boasts ‘Middle of My Mind’, a track that’s literally glistening with texture, from the mellotron that cements the drums, to the frenzied bass chipping at the side-lines, plodding to a rhythm that’s entirely it’s own making. For unsurpassed solipsism, the band offers the lyric “Lost in my mind”, which makes the track a more personal and soulful song to listen to. As the band performs the hurried ‘Back To The Light’, the guitars find the courage to pluck through the coda without a hint of originality or direction, barring what has been heard on a thousand different records in a hundred different countries in a myriad different timezones.
The first side is a little better because it finds the band jamming, led by a collection of turbo-powered drums, but the derivative nature still lingers on. ‘Foreign Land’ is a sweet, if a little too reverent, homage to The Byrds and with ‘See The Light’, the band deliver a scintillating portrait of Scotland, resulting in a charming piece of indie pop. Anybody dismayed by the blandness of 2021’s Endless Arcade will be dismayed by Nothing Lasts Forever, which is arguably more banal still. The band who once said “you should write for yourself” have now released one of the more predictable albums of their career, pandering to the whims and needs of their critics.
But the record’s undeniable saving grace is the seven-minute conclusion, ‘I Will Love You’. It’s an utterly ambitious, ethereal folk number that is largely based on the haunted vocal delivery that recaptures the ingenuity of the band’s 1990s output. Underscored by a melancholic timbre, the tune is fuelled by a sense of nostalgia for an era that is steadily being abandoned to the annals of memory. Frankly, ‘I WIll Love You’ is the only reason to buy this album, but hardened fans will make something of the bass work, which is frequently startling and constantly inventive.