Because they’ve always loomed large in my life, I’m constantly surprised at how unpopular Teenage Fanclub are. This surprise is all the more surprising due to the fact that their music is so wonderfully accessible and populist. Their big selling point is tunes and great singing and lovely harmonies.
Maybe their unpopularity is down to the fact that they were once flavour of the month among the alternative rock/grunge crowd in 1991 (when Spin magazine named Bandwagonesque, their second LP, as the best album of the year – quite rightly ahead of Nirvana’s Nevermind). Maybe it was because the follow-up (and their subsequent LPs) wasn’t alternative or indie enough. Maybe all that Beatles, Big Star, Byrds and Badfinger influence just wasn’t cool enough. Or maybe it’s because they write proper, grown up pop songs that deal with real emotions.
Whatever it is, it’s practically criminal that we live in a world where Teenage Fanclub sell no records while joyless, clodhopping berks like Muse sell millions of records.
There are loads of their songs I could have chosen for inclusion here. But I went with Dumb, Dumb, Dumb because it has special meaning to me: it was this song that awakened me to the fact that I was falling for Shannon (who I’d previously regarded as just a friend). It was the lines: “The thought of you is tearing me apart” and, more particularly: “Do you think about me when I go away?” There I was obviously thinking about her. What if she wasn’t thinking about me? I couldn’t have that.
And even without the personal meaning, it’s a cracking song. The ping-pong guitar, going from one channel to the other, is perhaps its most striking feature. Beautifully sung, with a lovely melody, it also does that thing The Beatles always did: be uplifting about something that’s actually quite sad.