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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Teenage Fanclub, Thirteen January 8, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

It’s funny, when this album came out in 1993 and despite listening to it incessantly – it was one of the first CDs I bought – I found I couldn’t quite connect. Three or four songs in and my mind would begin to wander.

Following hot on the heels of nearly none more grunge Bandwagonesque and remarkable general acclaim (they were, hard to believe, topping end of year polls in 1991 ahead of both Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine), this was meant to be the album that would propel them to even greater heights. And yet, somehow it didn’t.

Instead they hit a sort of plateau and transformed into a hugely respected, much loved band, almost an institution. Anyone who has followed them subsequently will know about the highs, and almost overwhelmingly they have been highs – perhaps with the exception of the somewhat mundane Man-Made in the mid 2000s (even dragging in John McEntire from Tortoise didn’t quite lift that set).

Anyhow I filed it away and despite fairly religiously listening to the albums that came after I didn’t go back until recently.

And what’s interesting is just how refreshing it sounds at this remove – Bandwagonesque almost sounds forced in comparison. Yes it slots straight into the period but its metal flourishes seem perhaps a bit mannered, it’s overall approach a tiny bit heartless. By contrast this is a series of songs that mix the louder and softer side to their sound perfectly and charts their path out of commercialism. I’d still quibble with the first line of the lyrics of Norman 3… ‘Come on over, break some bread’ Really, Norman? But overall, no complaints.

The grunge goes soft genius of the intro to Escher is great as is Commercial Alternative (check out the laconic comments to them both on the live version below).

There’s a brilliant insouciance to the band in the video for the still striking Radio, where their disdain, or is it disinterest, in success is palpable.

I saw them on this or the previous tour – it was definitely 92/93 – when they played the Tivoli and they were almost precisely as they were on album, a curiously rigourous and yet sort of shambolic presence on stage, and that insoucience was carried into the live area by them but not directed towards the audience. Indeed it was a fairly friendly gig.

Of course there’s a lot more to them than Thirteen. Songs from Northern Britain… well, look, I’d be here all day if we were considering that… or… ah, if you don’t know and you like the sound of these then…



Norman 3

Song to the Cynic

Commercial Alternative/Escher (live in New York).


1. Damian O'Broin - January 8, 2011

Bandwagonesque remains one of my very favourite albums. I lost track of them slightly in the mid-nineties, around the time of Thirteen and Songs or Northern Britain, but fell back in love with them with a vengence with Howdy.

I saw them last year in The Academy – fantastic gig. You really get the sense of a bunch of mates who just enjoy playing pop music together. And they seem to have the knack of knocking out killer guitar pop almost in their sleep. Twenty odd years on from their beginnings, last year’s Shadows was definitely a contender for album of the year for me.

There’s a couple of great clips from the Dublin gig last year on You Tube –

Sparky’s Dream: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8805d1f6rDs

Everything Flows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMXikHPNV10

Must go and check out Thirteen now


WorldbyStorm - January 8, 2011

It’s good, but different. Try Northern Britain first if you prefer later albums.

Shadows is great, completely agree.

Thanks a million for posting up the clips. It’s what you say, they’re completely relaxed.


2. Tweets that mention This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Teenage Fanclub, Thirteen « The Cedar Lounge Revolution -- Topsy.com - January 8, 2011

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Damian O'Broin, Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland said: Cedar Lounge Rev: This weekend I’ll be listening to… Teenage Fanclub, Thirteen: It’s funny, when this album came… http://bit.ly/hm84E7 […]


3. deadmanonleave - January 8, 2011

For me, Grand Prix was the one….awesome!

I think I first encountered them when a guy from BMX Bandits (I think they were good mates with Teenage Fanclub, but the kind of fatter, or less attractive mate we all have or desire!) used to do a tour diary on Mark Radcliffe’s 10pm show on BBC Radio 2, and I would hear it as I biked home from work as a twenty year old. Loved the whole vibe of the Bandits, and when I discovered Teenage Fanclub….awesome, and nothing of theirs sounds dated even now.


4. Damian O'Broin - January 9, 2011

Yep, I’m a big fan of Grand Prix too. Fantastic album, still sounds incredibly fresh.

Finally got round to picking up Songs from Northern Britain today, will enjoy sampling it tomorrow


5. anarchaeologist - January 10, 2011

Thanks for this WBS, it’s the one Fanclub album I’ve never listened to. I suppose I never got the Bandwagonesque vibe but loved Grand Prix and Songs… There was something on the wireless over the Christmas, an obit thing about Alex Chilton where the talking heads made the point about the Big Star comparisons which followed the band for the early years which seems sort of spurious now (I mean there were lots of bands around then who sounded like other bands from years before, but TF got the stick). Anyway, I’ve seen them live a few times and they always failed to impress; it seemed there was always a ‘going through the motions’ thing going on which may be a function of their obviously being good mates. It’s strange really, they’re a band I really like who I probably won’t bother going to see again… I picked up an acoustic ep years ago called TF have lost it… which remains (for me anyway) the best thing they’ve done. Maybe I’m just past it?


6. WorldbyStorm - January 10, 2011

Thanks to all of you for commenting. I avoided the now almost obligatory Big Star comparisons. To be honest I always think TF and 13 in particular are more hippy/metal in crossover – though they might not thank me for saying so, at least at that phase of their career.

Grand Prix is good too.

I recognise the ‘going through the motions’ but I always ascribed that to them being laid back 🙂


7. Seán Báite - January 11, 2011

I avoided the now almost obligatory Big Star comparisons
WBS – the album (Thirteen) takes its name from a (great) Big Star song FFS… ye wouldn’t be in deep deep denial by any chance ??


WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2011

That should have read references, I was unconsciously echoing an archaeologists comment above.. But its weird i’m just not much of a fan of Big Star. And I know how many bands I like have been influenced by Chilton, the Replacements, TF, REM to some degree even etc. So yes, perhaps a form of denial. 🙂


8. Damian O'Broin - January 11, 2011

… and December on Bandwagonesque is a conscious homage to September Gurls


anarchaeologist - January 11, 2011

Sorry… was only saying! Actually WBS Third is really worth hearing and here they sound nothing at all like TF…


9. Jody Whipp - January 15, 2011

Been a fan for many moons. You need to revisit Man-Made. Seriously.


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