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Teenage Fanclub have announced news of their tenth studio album, Endless Arcade, released 5th March. Even if we weren’t living through extraordinarily troubling times, there is nothing quite like a Teenage Fanclub album to assuage the mind, body and soul, and to reaffirm that all is not lost in this world.
Endless Arcade follows the band’s ninth album “Here”, released in 2016 to universal acclaim and notably their first Top 10 album since 1997; a mark of how much they’re treasured. The new record is quintessential TFC: melodies are equal parts heart-warming and heart-aching; guitars chime and distort; keyboard lines mesh and spiral; harmony-coated choruses burst out like sun on a stormy day.
In the 1990s, the band crafted a magnetically heavy yet harmony-rich sound on classic albums such as “Bandwagonesque” and “Grand Prix”. This century, albums such as “Shadows” and “Here” have documented a more relaxed, less ‘teenage’ Fanclub, reflecting the band’s stage in life and state of mind, which Endless Arcade slots perfectly alongside. The album walks a beautifully poised line between melancholic and uplifting, infused with simple truths. The importance of home, community and hope is entwined with more bittersweet, sometimes darker thoughts - insecurity, anxiety, loss.
Such is life. But the title track suggests, “Don’t be afraid of this endless arcade that is life.”
A preview from the album came in February 2019 with Raymond’s ‘Everything Is Falling Apart’, an online single released at the outset of a six-month tour and a highlight of Endless Arcade.
Everything is falling apart? Well, yes, but the song was written long before COVID-19 arrived. Neither was Raymond’s inspiration political or social, but more, “the entropy in the universe, the knowledge that everything eventually decays,” he explains. But Raymond says relax. Or rather, “Relax, find love, hold on to the hand of a friend”.
Fortunately, Endless Arcade was virtually finished by the time lockdown was announced, bar the odd tinker under the engine hood. It seems timely, given how everyone had to initially stay home under lockdown, that the album starts with Norman’s ‘Home’, though it was chosen in part because of its opening line: “Every morning, I open my eyes...” The album’s longest track (at seven minutes) typifies TFC’s relaxed groove, culminating in Raymond’s peach of a guitar solo.
Norman’s search for ‘home’ could be literal: after all, he’s been living in Canada for the last 10 years. But it’s also figurative. Like Norman’s other Endless Arcade songs – The Sun Won’t Shine On Me’, ‘Warm Embrace’, ‘I’m More Inclined’, ‘Back In The Day’ and ‘Living With You’ – his words on ‘Home’ are etched by loss and yearning. “Without going into too much detail, the last eighteen months have been challenging for me on an emotional level,” he admits. “But it’s been cathartic channelling some of these feelings and emotions into song.”
In contrast, Raymond’s songs – he’s also responsible for ‘Come With Me’, ‘In Our Dreams’, ‘The Future’ and ‘Silent Song’ – are philosophical and questing. As he sings in ‘The Future’: “It’s hard to walk into the future when your shoes are made of lead”, but he’s still going to try, “and see sights we’ve never seen.”
In the band’s own near future, they’re already planning another new album given they can’t yet tour the one they’re releasing now. Welcome back, Teenage Fanclub, unafraid of this endless arcade that is life.
Barry says: With one of the most legendary discographies behind them, it's no surprise that the new album from these Glasgow stalwarts is every bit the triumph. Clanging guitar lines and nigh-whispered silken vox coalesce together into an oddly triumphant (the irony of the beautifully melodic 'Everything Is Falling Apart' being one of the highlights is not lost on me) and brilliantly wistful treat.
2. Endless Arcade
3. Warm Embrace
4. Everything Is Falling Apart
5. The Sun Won’t Shine On Me
6. Come With Me
7. In Our Dreams
8. I’m More Inclined
9. Back In The Day
10. The Future
11. Living With You
12. Silent Song
A2. Endless Arcade
A3. Warm Embrace
A4. Everything Is Falling Apart
A5. The Sun Won’t Shine On Me
A6. Come With Me
B1. In Our Dreams
B2. I’m More Inclined
B3. Back In The Day
B4. The Future
B5. Living With You
B6. Silent Song