Greetings from the land of the Hold Steady, The Replacements, Prince, The Jayhawks, Mason Jennings, and Semisonic. I hope to see the latter two in Minneapolis on Friday night at a special First Avenue benefit show, and I’m betting Craig Finn is in town for the Twins games. But the first show I am going to try to catch in between work meetings tomorrow (and televised Giants games) is from far, far away – Scotland, to be exact.
Teenage Fanclub plays here tomorrow night, in the middle of a string of U.S. dates. Although the band has been around for twenty years, I only heard them a few years ago, when in the span of a month a friend first played me the chiming, luminescent “Start Again,” and then I read Nick Hornby’s Songbook, whose first chapter is dedicated to their song “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From.” I immediately loved their power-pop harmonies with a grown-up guitar grit and crunch.
Here’s a sparkler off their latest album Shadows(Merge Records), a tune that is hummable from the first listen:
It’s an early show tomorrow night with labelmates The Radar Brothers (7pm), so meet me there!
TEENAGE FANCLUB ON TOUR
10/07 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue w/ Radar Brothers
10/11 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theater w/ Radar Brothers
10/12 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore w/ Radar Brothers
10/14 Seattle, WA Showbox w/ Superchunk & Telekinesis
10/15 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom w/ Superchunk & Telekinesis
10/16 Vancouver, BC Biltmore Cabaret
Man it’s hard to feel that anything is possibly amiss in the world when we have a new song from Teenage Fanclub that feels like a warm, sparkly cloud of pure goodness. Tempering the sadness of losing another great pioneer in power pop, this feels like a blessing. It’s eminently hummable and sticks in my head right away, showing how no one can write ‘em like Teenage Fanclub.
Teenage Fanclub is touring in support of their first new album in five years: Shadows will be out on Merge Records in the US on June 8th, and May 31 in the UK.
TEENAGE FANCLUB TOUR
May 1st – London Koko – Camden Crawl Headline
May 27th – Manchester Academy 2
May 28th – Sheffield Leadmill
May 30th – Dublin The Academy
June 1st – Aberdeen
June 2nd – Glasgow ABC
June 3rd – Edinburgh The Picture House
June 4th – Leeds The Cockpit
June 6th – Bristol Academy
June 7th – Birmingham Academy 2
Speaking of Alex Chilton/Big Star and Teenage Fanclub:
It’s been raining covers and rarities on the Counting Crows‘ MySpace page lately, and right now they’ve got up 4 great studio tracks from their so-called “Under The Covers” sessions. Their distinctive touch on each of these songs is thoroughly enjoyable, even on the Rod Stewart/Faces ditty (a man who, in general, I cannot abide, due to flagrant violations such as these).
Adam Duritz fills us in:
To celebrate what a great week we had in the studio, I decided this was going to be Covers Week on our Myspace page, so all the songs will be from the unreleased “Under The Covers” we recorded by ourselves one weekend during the “Hard Candy” sessions when Lilywhite was out of town.
We got “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, a Bob Dylan song from the Basement Tapes sessions. It was also recorded by the Byrds on the album “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” album. I have no idea what the hell this song is about. It’s one of those Dylan songs where the lyric is so good that it doesn’t even matter that none of the words seem to make any sense at all. Fucking nonsense as far as I can tell but somehow it still makes total sense to me. We got the fucker in one tape, as you will hear me clearly state at the end of the song. You try and pull that shit off.
Next up is “Ooh La La” by The Faces from the album of the same name. The Faces of course featured Rod Stewart on lead vocals, Ron Wood (later of The Rolling Stones on guitar), Kenny Jones (later the drummer for The Who) on the kit, Ronnie Lane on bass, and Ian McLagan on piano (also a member of the Stones, albeit an unofficial one). “Ooh La La” was one of the rare songs written and sung by Ronnie Lane. If It seems familiar, it may be because it is the song that closes the film “Rushmore”.
On our version, Rod Stewart was unavailable so I sang the vocals but the rest of the instrument are still played by the The Faces……or are they? We were having a lot of fun recording this track. You can tell because I just don’t seem to want to end the damn song. The body of the song is only 2:40 but the last chorus goes on for almost another two full minutes because I simply refuse to stop and keep calling for everyone to go around another time.
We had the same problem ending “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”. I may have been a little hammered by this time. It’s only fitting, after all. When The Faces released their big box set a couple years ago, they (rather fittingly) called it “Five Guys Walk Into A Bar… “.
Then we have “Start Again”, maybe my favorite song by one of my favorite bands, the wonderful Scottish band Teenage Fanclub. It’s cut from their album, my favorite of theirs, “Songs From Northern Britain”. We decided to cut it with lots of harmonies and acoustic guitars as if it was a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song. It’s probably my favorite track on “Under The Covers”. Me and Dan just sing the shit out of it and when Immy adds the high harmony, the song just soars. Plus this song features my one and only piano solo on record.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is our version of the great Jackson C Frank tune “Blues Run The Game”. This one is just me and Immy. Jackson Frank was a friend and peer of Paul Simon, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny (of Fairport Convention), and Richard Thompson. Legend has it they all shared a flat together in London in the very early 60′s. When Simon left to return to America and formed Simon and Garfunkel, they recorded “Blues Run The Game” for one of their 1st albums. It turned out great but for some reason didn’t make the cut and was left off the album. It turned up years later on a Simon and Garfunkel box set called “Bookends”, which is where I first heard it. Immy and I have played it many times in concert but I don’t think we’ve ever again captured the pure emotional magic of the first perfect performance.
Nothing on “Under The Covers” overdubbed or comped together. All these songs were recorded live and this is exactly how they sounded. We recorded live and we recorded fast. I think we did 14 songs in 2 days.
Dig it cats, these are the songs we love. Hope you love ‘em too.
These guys are legend in my book, true godfathers of the alternative rock scene, and the show last night was only half-full at best. Given it was a Tuesday night, and given that this is Colorado Springs which is not exactly known for its swingin nightlife (that’s why we have Denver, and Boulder) — but they sounded fantastic, and gave it their all.
Criminally underappreciated, they easily were better than over half the bands I’ve seen at the Black Sheep, still sounding tight and unabashedly rocking, and the venue should have been full (if the kids knew what was good for them). Cracker is and always has been unique in the pantheon of alt-rock bands from the ’90s. They combine absolutely solid rock (as Lowery said between songs, “Hello. We’re Cracker. We make rock music.”) with an attitude of punk, and tones of country, Americana, and even folk. Plus they’ve definitely got some of the most delightfully tongue-in-cheek, intelligent lyrics of many of their contemporaries.
I walked up (late) to the club to hear the bitingly sarcastic lyrics of “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)” pounding through the glass-block windows (we are classssssy here) and that kicked the set off in fine style. Highlights of the show included the Camper Van Beethoven polka-punk classic “Take The Skinheads Bowling,” which is so much fun to sing along to. Camper Van Beethoven were a sort of legend in the area I grew up in (they are from Santa Cruz), and trivia fact: I just found out that David Immergluck from Counting Crows was a founding member.
As drummer Frank Funaro started cracking his sticks together in a slower, deliberate rhythm, within two beats I recognized “Low” – a truly fantastic song from the ’90s. Maybe because I am older and jaded now, but I never realized how suggestively nuanced some of the lyrics are:
Sometimes I wanna take you down Sometime I wanna get you low Brush the hair back from your eyes Take you down let the river flow . . . A million poppies gonna make me sleep But just one rosie knows your name The fruit is rusting on the vine The fruit is calling from the trees
I particularly love those last two lines. The imagery is so vivid (fruit rusting? genius), and in my mind it reminds me of another video from the ’90s with fruit withering in fast-motion or falling off trees – was it a Nirvana video? Does anyone else know what I am thinking of? Maybe…NIN? Too many agricultural themes for me to keep straight (which really aren’t about agriculture at all).
Even though Lowery’s been singin that tune for the better part of 15 years, he puts his heart and soul into it, even though his eyes stay closed for most of the set. He occasionally would take a glance down at the crowd, coolly, inquisitively. He still looks the rocker part, with his skinny jeans (before they were cool again), his Sauconys, and his three-day bronze stubble — as he goes to town on the guitar with all he’s got. Still the same wonderfully gravelly voice, a distinct great in rock music.
Cracker co-founder/guitarist Johnny Hickman has recently relocated to Colorado, so I saw him in August 2005 with Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers up at the Gothic. He still reminds me of a Mellencamp/Springsteen hybrid, and still shreds the guitar with finesse and joy.
I stood there feeling remarkably and deeply happy during the whole set, dancing to the relentless rhythms (drummer is great, even though he looks like he just escaped San Quentin) and singing along where I could.
I couldn’t resist dashing off a text message during “Euro-Trash Girl” to my friend Shannon in California, who attended that first show ever with me 13 years ago next month at the San Jose State Event Center (Cracker & Counting Crows) asking “wanna crowd-surf?” All 8 minutes of that hidden track, going from folksy travelogue to downright rocker, still make for a great anthem for living the wild life in Europe. Maybe I should have used that in promotional efforts for study abroad back when I was working at Santa Clara U. Selling plasma in Amsterdam, sleeping in fountains in Athens, getting tattoos in Berlin on the palm of your hand. Right on.
Euro-Trash Girl – Cracker (fixed) (My video here. Worth watching just for the drunk mime emoting of the lady on screen-right every time the lyric, “Yeah, I’ll search the world over” came up)
Mr. Wrong (live) – Cracker (just listen to these lyrics, brash and wonderful)
The materials from their new album Greenland (2006, Cooking Vinyl) seamlessly melded alongside the old, sounding great. Some of it is a bit more wistful than previous tunes (although they did play “Take Me Down To The Infirmary” from Kerosene Hat and I forgot about the slow goodness in that).
They didn’t do this one last night, but it’s the leadoff track from the new album and I heartily enjoy it:
Name: Heather Browne Location: Colorado, originally by way of California Giving context to the torrent since 2005.
"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel." —Hunter S. Thompson
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