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Grand Prix

Teenage Fanclub

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Album Review

For all of the brilliance of records like Bandwagonesque and the underrated Thirteen, at times Teenage Fanclub seemed little more than a showcase for the laconic melodic genius of Norman Blake — fairly or not, the songwriting contributions of bandmates Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley suffered mightily by comparison, mere filler when stacked alongside Blake-penned marvels like "The Concept" and "Norman 3." That said, the superb Grand Prix is perhaps the truest group effort in the Fannies' catalog — more than ever before, their democratic approach truly bears fruit, and it's indicative of the disc's uniform excellence that the first Blake composition, the lovely "Mellow Doubt," doesn't even surface until track three, by which time McGinley's "About You" and Love's harmony-rich "Sparky's Dream" have already firmly established the set's ragged-but-right tenor. While new drummer Paul Quinn fails to recreate the buoyantly reckless abandon of the sacked Brendan O'Hare, Grand Prix otherwise captures complete creative synergy — in particular, "Don't Look Back" is Love's watershed moment, a gorgeously wistful love song highlighted by wittily lovelorn lyrics like "I'd steal a car to drive you home," as good a pick-up line as anything in the annals of rock & roll. Not everything works (McGinley's "Verisimilitude" goes nowhere fast) and Blake's contributions are still the highlights ("Neil Jung" and "I'll Make It Clear" are simply perfect pop songs), but Grand Prix is ultimately the product of a band at the peak of its collective powers, not as much a landmark as Bandwagonesque but every bit as good on its own terms.

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Glasgow, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

After first gaining acclaim for a dense, melodic sound that anticipated the coming emergence of grunge, Scotland's Teenage Fanclub spent the remainder of their career as torch-bearers for the power pop revival, unparalleled among their generation for both their unwavering adherence to and brilliant reinvention of the classic guitar pop of vintage acts like Big Star and Badfinger. Blessed with the talents of three formidable singers and songwriters (Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley,...
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