Saturday, 22 June 2013

Cassette experiment day 99 - Teenage Fanclub 'Songs From Northern Britain'

Our school had a rather bizarre (but probably typical) approach to physical education. We were never allowed to play football (presumably because we might enjoy it) and instead we’d be forced to do all the sports that we didn’t really want to, from cross-country running to rugby, from athletics to gymnastics. I’m convinced that our P.E. teachers (why do they have to have their hands down their shorts all the time?) thought that they were teaching sporting excellence at an elite public school and not some mundane comprehensive in a North East coastal town.
Instead of a fun kick-about, we’d be forced to set up the hurdles on the inaccurately named ‘all-weather’ track, instead of running up a wing we’d be climbing up a rope.
I was, until the age of about 13, a fairly useful sprinter though. Since then I’ve become pretty certain that I’m built for comfort rather than speed, and as the years have rolled by I’ve become more and more comfortable.
The 100m sprint (why is it known as the 100m sprint? Presumably to distinguish it from the 100m dawdle) is the epitome of athletic ability. In a world championship or Olympic final the runners are often so evenly matched that they have to be separated with the assistance of a ‘photo finish’, and there’s somewhat of a photo finish involved in the cassette experiment today.
In 1995, Teenage Fanclub released what is undoubtedly one of the finest albums ever released, ‘Grand Prix’. Then, two years later, they released another one, the subject of the cassette experiment today, the glorious ‘Songs from Northern Britain’. The subject of heated debates amongst ‘Fannies’ (as Teenage Fanclub aficionados are affectionately known) these are two albums that can only be separated by the music geek’s equivalent of a ‘photo finish’.
For me the former just narrowly edges it, but I’ve become increasingly aware as the years go by that this opinion may be due to the fact that I feel more loyal to ‘Grand Prix’ because I met it first. As decisions go, it’s right up there with ‘Sophie’s Choice’ as far as I’m concerned.
The album opens a little more tentatively than ‘Grand Prix’, and I always feel that the first three tunes don’t quite hit their stride - and this is probably where the race is lost because from track 4 onwards, ‘I don’t want control of you’ , the tremendous hymn to a constantly developing relationship, it’s an album that never stumbles.
Side 1 track 5, ‘Planets’ is my personal favourite here – I can never hear this track without thinking of handing in my notice at work, instructing an estate agent to get what he can for the house and loading the whole family into a station wagon (or Renault Clio) and heading north to start a brand new life. It gets me absolutely every time. Without fail.
It’s not easy to single out tracks for individual praise here, but if you were to twist my arm I’d grimace and blurt out, ‘Mount Everest’ and ‘Speed of light’. The latter is the album’s closer and it builds wonderfully until the point where it leaves the building with an unceremonious final chord.
Teenage Fanclub albums are like Weetabixes. One just isn’t ever enough, so if you’ll excuse me I’m off to listen to ‘Thirteen’
It’s been fun.
Label – Creation
Year – 1997
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