Teenage Fanclub mark 20 years since first release with new album Shadows
It’s been twenty years since Teenage Fanclub released their first album. Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite looks back on the Scottish indie pop group that Kurt Cobain called ‘the best band in the world’
‘I was only about 14 when A Catholic Education came out, and I was a big fan. It’s just a really great guitar record. At that age, I didn’t really buy records. I just used to wait on my sister to buy albums then listen to hers. I remember listening to it on the way to see Nirvana play at the Calton Studios in Edinburgh. I sneaked in, I was underage. I think my pal drove me, and he had the tape in the car.
The first time I saw Teenage Fanclub play was supporting Sonic Youth at the Barrowlands, but I really remember seeing them play at Reading in 1991. That was pretty awesome. It was the same year as The Year Punk Broke, the Sonic Youth live film, filmed at Reading that same weekend.
Around the time Teenage Fanclub first came out, there was a really sort of ‘unified’ sound. Lots of bands were into Big Star, Neil Young and The Beach Boys. There was a real tunefulness going through a lot of the Scottish bands. They were maybe the best known of those bands.
Teenage Fanclub were a really important band for me as a teenager. I remember ‘Everything Flows’ from A Catholic Education standing out. I still really like it. It’s probably my favourite Teenage Fanclub song – that or ‘Dumb Dumb Dumb’ from Howdy [released in 2000], I love that. I think it’s a really beautiful song. Sometimes in rehearsals with Mogwai, we used to play ‘Everything Flows’, with Barry on drums. Well, I wouldn’t actually say play. More like murder. Murder, dismember, and flush down the toilet. But we used to have a bash at it.
I’m still really fond of their music now, but I was especially into it then because they bridged the gap between all these American bands that I was listening to – like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr. But they were from Lanarkshire, where I’m from. It gives you a lot of belief – when you see bands making music and going all over the world. And I liked the fact that they didn’t take anything too seriously.
The fact Sonic Youth took Teenage Fanclub under their wing, and Nirvana covered Vaselines songs, I dunno – it strengthened the idea that the musical world isn’t as big as the real world. Especially when you’re young, that’s really important. You don’t want to feel stuck in a wee corner. It’s that feeling that anyone can do it.
If Teenage Fanclub have done well, it’s because the music was really, really good, but also because they look like a band that’s having a good time. That’s infectious. You go along and see them and it looks like they’re enjoying it. That makes a big difference. They’re also really great singers. It’s quite uncommon to have a band where so many people can sing so well.
I went to see them last year with my friend David Jack. They played in Motherwell, which is pretty close to where they’re from and I’m from. They played a lot of the new songs, it was really great, a good atmosphere.
I wouldn’t describe this as a comeback, because I don’t know if they ever really stopped. A comeback makes me think of Elvis or something. They’re probably just taking a bit more time over things as the years go on. I suppose once you’ve proven that people aren’t going to forget about you if you take more than a year to make a record; then you can take as long as you want. People are always gonna be interested in what they’ve got to do.’ (Interview by Claire Sawers)
Teenage Fanclub play 02 ABC, Glasgow, 2 Jun and HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, 3 Jun. Their new album, Shadows is out Mon 31 May on PeMa