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Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque (1991)

March 14, 2014

[Album 297/1001]Bandwagonfanclubalbum

Did it hurt?

The question turns into either a pickup line or a zing depending on the follow-up:

a) The fall from Heaven?
(60% of the time, this line works every time)

or

b) When you bumped your leg jumping on the Bandwagon?

Hopping on the bandwagon (listening to a band only after they became successful) was frowned upon when I was a teenage music fan in the 90s.  Even if being a teenage music fan isn’t always easy, this album brings back positive memories of that period of time.

Though not of listening to this album specifically: Bandwagonesque was, as my daughter would say upon receiving an item of second-hand clothing, new to me!

I was chatting recently with fellow blogger/Canadian music enthusiast Sarca about the brilliance of The Odds.  The 90s were the glory days of Canadian Alt-rock.  If you mix CanCon groups of the era like The Killjoys, Doughboys, and Odds, you’d end up with something that sounds an awful lot like Teenage Fanclub.  And that is an awfully good combination.

It’s surprising Teenage Fanclub wasn’t on my radar as Bandwagonesque (great suffix) sounds a lot like my high school playlists, or should I say, mix tapes.  I usually shorten album names in posts (such as The Who Sell Out to TWSO) but at the risk of being annoying, I can’t bring myself to do it here.  The name is just too good.  Bandwagonesque.

Teenage Fanclub managed to do two very impressive things here:

1) There are elements of groups I love that came before them, but the album does not sound remotely derivative.
2) Many groups I’ve enjoyed since were clearly inspired by this record, but none have been ruined for me after listening to Teenage Fanclub!

The clean+distorted guitar pairing is addictive, the melodies are consistently appealing, and to answer the rhetorical question in the Cure-esque closing instrumental (Is this Music?), yes it most certainly is and excellent music at that.

Did the listening experience hurt?  Not at all.

100% of the time, Bandwagonesque works every time.

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From → 1990s

22 Comments
  1. Nice one Stephen. I have one Teenage Fanclub album, Grand Prix, and have never heard Bandwagonesque. I’ll give it a try. Cheers!

    • My pleasure – I was reluctant to single out any individual tracks on Bandwagonesque as it felt like seamless transitions between each of the dozen tunes.

  2. jprobichaud permalink

    Teenage Fanclub is such an underrated band. I loved this album when it came out. Many people forget that it was chosen by more than a few music critics as album of the year in 1991 over “Nevermind”. I highly recommend checking out some of their later work as well.

    • I was pleased to read they’re still together – good to know the more recent stuff holds up as well, thanks for the suggestion!

      • jprobichaud permalink

        I’m not sure how together they are. They haven’t released new material in four years and principal songwriters Gerard Love and Norman Blake both have active side projects on the go. I’d love a new album though.

  3. ianbalentine permalink

    I agree, this album was one of the best of the ’90’s and I still listen to it today! Grand Prix is another goodie, and Songs From Northern Britain is just brilliant, maybe their best. I believe that SPIN magazine even declared Bandwagonesque their Album Of The Year back in 1991, beating Nevermind, Screamadelica, and a host of worthy contenders. On a side note, if any album from the ’90’s deserves/needs the Deluxe Edition treatment it is this one (Bandwagonesque). Thanks for the post, I’m pulling it off the shelf now!

    • I would be keen on a deluxe edition – the 12 songs fly by and I was certainly ready for more of the same.

      ’91 was a strong year and if you’re declared the best of a batch of solid records, that’s saying something.

      And my pleasure – enjoy the bandwagonesque revisiting!

  4. Thanks for the shout-out, Geoff!

    Teenage Fanclub was sort of off my radar – no one way playing any on Sudbury radio back then (actually, alt-rock was very obscure in Sudz back then…). But, this album fits nicely into my musical taste. It’s reminiscent of several bands – one in particular I hear here is Swervedriver (if you haven’t heard Mezcal Head, you better get on that!)

    • ‘Girl on a Motorbike’ is playing as I type – it appears Swervedriver is another one that seems tailor made for my tastes.
      They alas don’t make any appearances on the 1001 but they are now officially on my radar for when I’m scouring used record shops – thanks for the suggestion!

      • Right on! You bet! I knew this would be your bag. My faves: Blowin’ Cool and Duel…all of them actually! I am surprised they weren’t more acclaimed, honestly. Mezcul Head is obscure enough, but so well produced.

        And I will say this cautiously because my heart is with those dudes, BUT: I am sure Sloan WANTED Smeared to be Swervedriver’s Mezcul Head but wasn’t quite,

        More recent nods from me in a similar vein: The Vines’ Winning Days album, and Silversun Pickups’ Carnavas. I cannot stop listening to them! They get any nods? (the maybe the newer ed?)

      • And I think Geffen wanted ‘Twice Removed’ to sound like Swervedriver. When they recorded a pop record, the label was baffled, “This isn’t grunge! Kids don’t want this!”

        I could totally see Smeared songs like I am The Cancer & Underwhelmed fitting in with this group, that mix of melody and messy distortion was a nice early 90s combo.

        The book I’m going through ends in 2005, so it’s possible those records are in newer editions.

        I looked at The Vines’ Highly Evolved back in the early days of the blog – I was a big fan! I was actually going to reference them when reviewing Teenage Fanclub – they were another group that seemed to merge many influences into a unique sound. The vines comparison ended up on the cutting room floor though!

      • lol, if you did, I would have said, ” well, you must have heard Winning Days then…I LOVE it!”

      • There’s a quote I found about the Vines that I think also applies to Teenage Fanclub (to bring the discussion back full circle!):

        “The Vines never sound weighed down by all the influences they include in their music—it’s as if they’re so excited by everything they hear, they can’t help but recombine it in unique ways.”

        I’d agree!

  5. Nice review and a great album. Teenage Fanclub are often accused of sounding the same album after album. I usually answer this criticism in two parts:
    – no they don’t. Their later stuff is much more mellow.
    – and if they did, who cares when they sound this good!

    For my money Grand Prix is the (slightly) better record although Bandwagonesque should be in everyone’s collection.

    I think I may have an old Teenage Fanclub 12″ of What You Do To Me kicking about upstairs. I feel a blogpost coming on…

    • I would strongly support such a post!

      Fans can be fickle – it’s true, if a band doesn’t change dramatically, they’re accused of treading water. If they do, some fans will complain they either ‘sold out’ or just lament ‘their older stuff was better.’

      A few have mentioned Grand Prix, that’s now on my ‘to-explore’ list, thanks!

  6. Bandwagonesque & Thirteen were the two albums that really defined their clean poppy sound with their smooth harmonies and jangling guitars to me. Like all great power pop bands they have hooks that suck you in before you even know you got took.

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