A comfortable masterclass from a songwriter in complete command of his aesthetic.
Alex Denney 2012-04-10
For many, Teenage Fanclub will forever be one of rock’s most serially under-sung talents. Hailed by Kurt Cobain as the best band in the world and Liam Gallagher as the second best (hint: Beady Eye didn’t come first), the Glasgow band’s power-pop revivalism was the missing link between the C86 scene that spawned them and the grunge kids that followed. Though enjoying modest commercial success at home, that lineage never translated into sales Stateside — appropriately, perhaps, for a troupe affectionately known as The Fannies.
Along with Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, Gerard Love is one third of the band’s songwriting ménage-a-trois, but more recently he’s been heard in his guise as on-off guitarist with fellow Glasgow scene legends The Pastels. That group operate a label, Geographic, under the stewardship of UK indie Domino, and it was this latter crew who apparently cajoled Love into recording an album of his own songs, which now arrives in the shape of Lightships’ debut, Electric Cables.
For the album, Love has assembled a cast of musicians that would pass muster as house band for a certain kind of evergreen, gauchely melodic indie — The Pastels’ Tom Crossley, Belle and Sebastian’s Bob Kildea, plus members of Teenage Fanclub both past and present in Dave McGowan and Brendan O’Hare. It’s the Scottish equivalent of a steely band of Nashville session vets, in other words; a fact that shows in the record’s laidback air of breezy competence. While that might leave fans of Teenage Fanclub’s crunchier Big Star/Neil Young obsessions feeling a bit short changed, there’s plenty to enjoy in the breathily melodic likes of Two Lines, Silver and Gold and The Warmth of the Sun’s picturesque meandering. The fluid melody lines of Sweetness in Her Spark bring to mind Camera Obscura’s 60s soul-tinged pop (itself influenced by The Pastels), while Every Blossom has the naively spiralling feel — if not the grandiosity — of Jason Pierce’s work with Spiritualized.
Then there’s the playing: Crossley’s gossamer flute work, which inevitably recalls twee-pop icon Nick Drake’s Bryter Later, and McCowan’s discreetly imaginative guitar, only occasionally spilling over to disturb the air of thoughtful repose, as on the poignant solo which closes final track Sunlight to the Dawn. It’s a comfortable masterclass, in short, from a songwriter in complete command of his aesthetic.