Never has a band name so neatly summed up the sound of their music.
Scottish quartet Teenage Fanclub's brand of chiming power pop recalls so much of the unique joys of growing up. Especially that cocktail of confusion and excitement that comes with first experiences, experiences which often included the discovery of and subsequent obsession with a new band or song.
That feeling is captured beautifully with a quiet chuckle in Bandwagonesque’s opening track 'The Concept'.
‘She wears denim wherever she goes, says she’s gonna get some records by the Status Quo…’
In 1991, grunge was the dominating force in the US and Britpop was on the rise in the UK. Groundbreaking albums like Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica and U2’s Achtung Baby as well as standout releases by REM and My Bloody Valentine were on our stereos.
It was a tough (and noisy) field to have as your peers when your music emphasized four part harmonies and jangling guitar pop. But that’s what Teenage Fanclub did with Bandwagonesque. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
NME tagged them as "...leaders of the guitar renaissance", Kurt Cobain called them "the best band in the world" and Spin magazine would controversially award them Album of The Year in 1991 ahead of Nirvana’s Nevermind.
The influence of fellow Scot, Orange Juice drummer and Spin music editor at the time Steven Daly on the award cannot be underestimated. Regardless of this, the quality of the songs on Bandwagonesque is unquestionable.
Teenage Fanclub were conscious of staying true to their musical influences and themselves rather than being swayed by what was in fashion. They were inspired by '60s and '70s American guitar bands like The Byrds, Big Star and Cheap Trick.
"You can’t really follow fashion trends, because as soon as [the songs] actually hit the streets, it’ll date," songwriter Gerard Love told triple j's Richard Kingsmill at the time.
Producer Don Fleming who had worked on Sonic Youth’s Goo and Hole’s Pretty on the Inside was an important guiding hand. He persuaded the band to bring greater focus to their strengths, their delightful harmonizing and the sparkling interplay of those jangling guitars.
There are sunny straight from the heart singalongs such as ‘What You Do To Me’, ‘December’ and ‘Sidewinder’. There’s wry humour in the searing cacophony of guitars and inaudible devilish intonations that collide on ‘Satan’. The spirited bagpipe resembling tones on glorious album closer ‘Is This Music’ recalls The Cure.
Don’t forget the bright bag of cash on the album cover and its title, Bandwagonesque. It refers – tongue very firmly in cheek – to the dangers of ‘selling out’, a huge going concern at the time.
Listening to it today, you can feel the impact of those cult bands that were of crucial influence to Teenage Fanclub. But Bandwagonesque still exudes an undeniable freshness and vibrancy. I guess that’s what it means to make songs that are timeless.