Teenage Fanclub

The Fannies, Darwin, Huxley and QUIMS

One April night in 2007 I was driving from Cardiff to Stoke on Trent for a conference. At just over two hours the journeys not too bad, and Radcliffe and Maconie had just taken up residence in their 8pm-10pm slot on radio 2. As a result I didnt choose the CDs for the journey too carefully. I was delighted when not long into their programme that evening they played Sparkys dream by Teenage Fanclub. To me that is THE perfect pop song. Just over 3 minutes of pure pop perfection. I can think of no criticism of it, and each time I listen to it I end up with a smile on my face, and feel a bit more content with life. I was made up when the song ended not because it had ended, but because Radclife and Maconie then began lauding the song for its genius. Amazing maybe they do have taste…

A minute later I was rooting around in the glove compartment looking for a Teenage Fanclub cd. I had Grand Prix, the album Sparkys dream came from, in the car, so put it on, and spent the rest of the journey thinking about just how perfect that band are, and that album is. After the conference dinner I found myself propping up the bar with Bob the Chiropodist, co-founder of QUIMS, recounting the story. It rapidly became clear that we had a lot of musical experiences and tastes in common. He must have got the impression I liked Teenage Fanclub – to the extent that I could write about them – because thats what he asked me to do as a contribution to the QUIMS website. Only trouble was, I had no idea what to write…

From Stoke I had to drive down to Silverstone, and in a Saturday night in Towcester over a good curry I found myself reading (I know how this must sound) Darwin for Beginners. It seems that Darwin was the first to write about a concept that many others at that time had a hunch about. In fact, Darwins brother in law, Huxley, read Darwins essay and it all suddenly made sense. He kicked himself for not seeing something so beautiful and perfect and logical himself. It made perfect sense. Even though it made perfect sense, however, it was still remarkable, and the sort of thing that rarely comes along.

Suddenly it made perfect sense. The Fannies are THE ABSOLUTE MASTERS of pop perfection. When I listen to them their music is unpretentious its not trying too hard, in fact, it seems as if its not trying at all. From The Concept and Star Sign to Sparky and Mellow Doubt, to the absolutely sublime speed of sound. Ive met Norman in my student days when we blagged it into gigs under the cover of student press – and this adds to my understanding and appreciation of their music. He (and the rest of the band) are totally unpretentious. They seem to exist in a place where the trends that characterise the popular music industry do not apply. They are doing their thing because it makes perfect sense to them, its what they want to do, and because its the only way to do it.

Teenage Fanclub stand out to me as a quite exceptional group of musicians. The product of their efforts are consistently effortless. It makes perfect sense in every way. Its almost as if you could explain their formula because it is essentially formulaic. But no one else can do that pop thing so consistently well as they can. Theyre brilliant, and Sparkys dream is the very epitome of everything they are. Its definitely one of my desert island discs, and every time I listened to it in that situation I would somehow feel that my predicament was not so bad, really…


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