Like a single-word mantra, Teenage Fanclub's tenth studio album, 2016's Here, is a ruminative, inward-looking album of folk-inflected beauty. Once the '90s poster children for grungy sweet, '70s-style rock melodicism, the Scottish outfit centered on singer/songwriters Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley has aged into a bittersweet, poetically nuanced entity as connected to its roots as a gorgeously gnarled oak on a stark hillside. Produced by the band in France and at McGinley's home in Glasgow, Here has a soft, organic quality that feels unfussed with. Of course, that easygoing vibe belies some obvious craftsmanship, as tracks like the brightly engaging "Live in the Moment" and the sweeping "The Darkest Part of the Night" feature horn and string flourishes. Primarily, the focus on Here, as with most of TFC's albums, is the band's warm vocals and guitar-based hooks that somehow manage to get pleasantly stuck in your head for days. Closing in on 30 years together, "the Fannies" are the Ents of the power pop world. Like Tolkien's talking trees, TFC are slow-moving musical giants who come together roughly every five years to craft a set of well-honed songs rife with lyricism, sunlight, and, as in the case of Here, a transcendental sadness. It's a melancholy accent the band carries throughout much of the album. On the starry-eyed "I Have Nothing More to Say," Love sings, "Clear me a space, I'm in need of isolation, a warm dark bed to ease my strain." However, rather than coming off as negative or starkly depressive, the band strike a tone of humble gratitude. On "Hold On," McGinley sings,"Wake up, I'm alive, one more day, yeah, I'm alive." Later, he punctuates the affirmation with the deceptively unassuming observation, "I don't hear much fanfare for the common man these days." Teenage Fanclub have built a career writing fanfares for the common man and Here is rife with them. These are heartfelt anthems about the transformative nature of everyday love and how a sunny day or sparkling melody can restore your faith in humanity. As Blake sings on the opening "I'm in Love," "There is pain in this world, I can see it in your eyes, and it's so hard to stay alive at the edge of the night/ But it feels good when you're next to me, that's enough, that's enough." Ultimately, for Teenage Fanclub fans longing to live in that transformative pop moment, Here should be more than enough.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar