The Freelance Mentalists.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
 
Some Albums Are the Very Screw-You of Scotland

Teenage Fanclub: Thirteen (DGC), 1993

There is a pretty great little series of screw-you-fame-you-cannae-keep-me-doon records, and most of them have been made by Teenage Fanclub. Never has a group more NOT wanted to be famous, which was a shame at the time but now kinda looks like brilliance. They start with a great Nirvana parody on "Hang On," big fat Vig-chords and Kurdtbellows fading to a real song that goes on way too long, makes sense Bandwagon rated higher in "Spin" than Nevermind we all know shut up new facts please ha ha good joke lads almost as good a parody as the Boo Radley's C'mon Kids was of Oasis, and then settle down into a laundry list of reasons that they don't wanna be famous: "Radio," "Song to the Cynic," "120 Mins," "Commercial Alternative." Best is "Fear of Flying" because they swear. The intercalary chapters here are love songs like "The Cabbage" and "Escher," easily the two greatest love song titles of 1993, which means ever, and almost-love songs like "Tears Are Cool." The second-best is "Norman 3," named for its songwriter Norman Blake and with maybe a nod to Scott Walker 3 or something (I need to admit here that I've never heard any Scott Walker that I know of; he sounds cool, like tears, but he's just never swum across my radar), because it's a pretty song that turns into a parody of a pretty song when they repeat the chorus "Hey / I'm in love with you" 5,000,003 times until you get the joke except it's not really a joke because your heart has been rent by the way they play it, the way Norm sings it, the whole thing. And you must love "Gene Clark" because it's Neil Young really, both people who've gone their own way, except that Gene Clark really did have a Fear of Flying, but it's long and goony and rocky with solos and stuff.

The US version is better than the UK version because it has six extra tracks, pumping the timing up to 69:29. Long albums are better than short albums, more songs better than fewer songs, duh, simple economic sense when will you people wake the hell up to that. The songs are good, great even when they cover Phil Ochs whining about the "Chords of Fame" and the corny Gerard Love song "Genius Envy", but they didn't need to be, they are awesome simply for existing, a 70-minute Teenage Fanclub album is the closest thing to heaven that one can have on earth, especially when it's a big long Scottish screw-you to anyone who might want them to sell more albums than they already do. They didn't WANT to, you see. That's their god damned perogative like Bobby Brown who's back in jail and these guys aren't, they sell out huge shows in London and Glasgow all the time apparently, at least they did the last time I checked but I don't go to nme.com anymore.

Some idiots will hold that Bandwagonesque is a better album but that's why they call them idiots. I find Songs From Northern Britain pretty great, they swear again on the underrated Howdy, Jesse thinks I'm high on drugs for not preferring Grand Prix, but it's clear that Thirteen is the classicest TF record ever and there will be no further arguments.

Oh I forgot about bonus points:
1. They call up the ghost of Chilton with the title and then don't refer to him again.
2. The chorus of "Escher" goes "And I don't know if I'm goin' up or down," and I think the music is even MORE Escher-like than the words.
3. The cover is a volleyball half-submerged in water or tears. Inside, they do jokey interpretations of each song's title in Polaroid pictures, which I don't think have been shaken.
4. What's cooler than being cool? Being Scottish and angry at the music industry for absolutely no reason.
 
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