Inspired by Tim Byron (www.livejournal.com/users/o_song), I will wank on about my top ten favourite albums of the year in backwards order.
10. Teenage Fanclub – Man-Made
It’s not been a great year, personally, for new music. Let’s get that right off my chest, right off the bat. And though I love Teenage Fanclub, and this album is full of great songs, great moments, this review will be maybe a bit too critical for someone writing about their favourite albums of the year. Don’t even get me started on Nada Surf.
This is, by and large, a fine, fine record. The problem with it is, it’s only fine. It’s restrained, in a mature way, but as we’ll see later, maturity can still lead to drama. Where as other albums on this list are like big screen blockbusters, Man-Made, as the title somewhat implies, is the audio equivalent of a home movie. Pretty, touching, steady, no real highs, no real lows.
Most damningly, the mood of the album is mainly uplifting, they don’t make the album shine like Songs From Northern Britain (aside – god I love that album. Just thinking about it makes me excited).
Then again, this record is on this list for a reason. In fact, many of them. It’s All In My Mind, the Velvet Underground like opening track, works beautifully. A mantra, a hymn, to keeping one’s feet on the ground and taking things as they are. See how mature they are? Musically the album is more daring, more guitar driven, than Howdy. There’s a warm organ and fuzz guitar sound throughout the album – reminiscent of Jack Nitzsche or Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds instrumentals.. And of course, there are harmonies everywhere.
It’s best showcased on Born Under A Good Sign, a great garage rock song, should be covered by bands all over the world(‘s garages), a blissful recollection of a good and happy upbringing. What a strange idea. Along with Slow Fade, they haven’t written rockers this great since Grand Prix.
Of course there are love songs with Only With You topping the lot, followed by Flowing. Oh why are the song names so boring? Remember Norman 3? What did that mean?
Maybe this album is a bit uneven. It’s not easily called a ‘rock’ album, a ‘pop’ album, or a ‘ballads’ album. It’s the album’s downfall. We wanted a letter, we got a postcard. Then again it’s better than them breaking up. This being the first of hopefully many albums on their own label, and perhaps they will take full advantage of that creative control next time. It’s still a pleasant album, and well worth hearing.