Posts from 12th December 1999

12
Dec 99

7. TEENAGE FANCLUB – “The Concept”

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Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

It’s just a beautiful song. “The Concept” for me is being young and in love, and I think it probably always will be: I’ve had eight years to grow bored of the feeling and the track, and I haven’t even got bored of the opening lines yet. There may, granted, come a time when I won’t feel able to use the word “young”, but I hope not and so do the band: why do you think they called themselves Teenage Fanclub? Like Sonic Youth, it’s more a promise to themselves than a clutch at straws, a pledge to never making music that can’t live up to their name.The day I grow out of this record is the day I grow out of pop.

“The Concept” is a love song in the very widest sense, though, a grinning big-hearted hug of a tune about your feelings for your friends, for music and being alive. The girl Norman Blake is singing about might be the love of his life, but she might just be his best friend, or just a friend, or not even that: if you write a song this soaked in emotion you’re probably half in love with everyone you meet anyway. Play it when you’re drunk and it sounds like the truest song in the world (even more so than all the other truest songs in the world you hear in that happy state), play it when you’re hungover…well, no, don’t actually, go back to bed and get some sleep. Play it in the warm afternoon afterglow instead. If all that sounds sappy and sloppy, so be it – Teenage Fanclub are that kind of a band sometimes. With Norman Blake’s blocky, friendly chords underpinning the song, how could they not be? But – maybe because it’s rather oblique, maybe because it runs out of words well before you get tired of them – “The Concept” has never seemed sentimental or corny to me.

“The Concept” doesn’t come out of nowhere. It doesn’t come out of Big Star, either: Alex Chilton’s ramshackle big-chord radio pop always had a lairy, menacing edge to it, whereas Teenage Fanclub’s clumsiness is much chummier, as if they’re bashing out the chords so straightforward-like because they’re wearing teddy bear costumes. No, where “The Concept” comes from is the whole heritage of good-time Scottish pop – the Pastels’ American influences and DIY ethic, Edwyn Collins’ knack for finding warmth in the everyday, even a bit of Rod Stewart’s drinking-man’s-romanticism. In the last couple of minutes you get everything, as the Fanclub just solo away like they’re playing a drunken indie-pop “Freebird”, wringing their guitars to squeeze out every last drop of joy. “Blissed out” is a term which got hijacked by the abstracted: as “The Concept” rolls on home, Teenage Fanclub take it back.