Last year was a big one for Bellshill’s finest, as Teenage Fanclub announced that they would be re-issuing all of their Creation Records albums on vinyl and would set out for a world tour. The end of the year also confirmed that founding member and bass player Gerard Love would be leaving the band due a distaste for the amount of flying that was required to be a full time touring member. This Perth gig would be the first time that the band would perform in Australia without Love.
It was fitting that support for the evening would come from a band of the calibre of Turnstyle. Having returned to a four-piece over the past few years and with a couple of two relatively new records to show for it, Turnstyle are as strong as they have ever been. The local indie-rock heroes have lost none of their melodic bite with new tunes like the impeccable Breezy sitting comfortably amongst Flank Attack and Novak’s Plan.
Drummer Dean Davies doesn’t have a drum kit at home these days (preferring to spend time riding his bike), but still manages to fly in for gigs, be as reliable as a metronome and still has some of the most interesting drums fills doing the rounds. The return of Todd Griffiths means the band no longer rely on triggers and loops and have that intangible ‘feel’ of a tight knit outfit. The vocals of Adem K and PJ are ageless, and by the time Spray Water On The Stereo was unleashed, it was clear that Turnstyle were playing a set that would be worthy of a headline spot.
Teenage Fanclub remain one of the most polite bands in existence as summed up by Norman Blake’s cheery hello and his mid-song wave to those on the upper level. Gone is the long hair and baby faces of their youth, as they now look like a band made up of school teachers and accountants, yet the songs have aged far more gracefully. Blake said that they had all caught a flu when in Japan, but their songs were still full of sunshine and glitter, with Start Again setting the tone for a night of high quality pop songs.
Delving into their unfairly maligned album Thirteen, the distorted The Cabbage is a slice of the grittier side of the band and was one of the highlights of the night. In any other band, Raymond McGinley would be the front man, but has always been given a lesser billing in Teenage Fanclub. With the current line-up, there is more space for him to shine. About You has been a staple of the setlist for some time, but Everything Is Falling Apart which was recently recorded in Hamburg for an imminent release is an earworm of the highest order.
The banter was cordial if somewhat sparse, as the five friends let their songs speak for themselves. Dave McGowan, who is on loan from Belle & Sebastian, was comfortable on his chosen instrument of bass guitar, leaving long time collaborator Euros Childs (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) to join the outfit on keyboards and backing vocals. They worked through old favourites like Alcoholiday and the Dinosaur Jr inspired Catholic Education, whilst putting their own stamp on new material. One such tune, kicked off like a faster version of Galveston before giving way to a trademark harmony-heavy chorus.
Blake revelled in some enthusiastic playing of the glockenspiel for the bittersweet Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From. The addition of I’m In Love is as solid a tune as the band have released in some time, before the saccharine pop made way for a robust and rollicking meander through Everything Flows. An encore that ended with Broken, was proof that not only are they masters of the upbeat, but they can do slow and sad as well as anyone.
The elephant in the room was whether Teenage Fanclub would be able to recreate their magic without Love being in band. Whilst Blake and McGinley have more than enough songs to cover for the loss of some of Love’s adored numbers, it was surprising that it was his harmonies that were missed the most. Even so, Teenage Fanclub couldn’t play a bad show if they tried. They left a room full of smiling faces and were, as always, well worth the price of admission.
Photos by Alfred Gorman