Teenage Fanclub – Words of Wisdom and Hope

Teenage Fanclub
Words of Wisdom and Hope

This is the first collaboration between power-popsters Teenage Fanclub and the ever proficient Jad Fair. Fair is best known for his work with his brother David in their band Half Japanese, but he has worked with many other artists like Yo La Tengo, Daniel Johnston, and many more. Teenage Fanclub are an oft-overlooked group who have been playing some dirty power pop for over a decade. This unusual pairing of talent on this release proves quite fruitful, with both sides doing what they do best.
“Behold The Miracle” starts the disc off with a chiming/crunching melody driven along by crunching guitars and surging keyboard. Fair refuses to get overpowered by the music with his unique half-spoken / half-sung vocal stylings and odd lyrics of love. “I Feel Fine” has Fair quavering along with lyrics like “Early in the morning no fear of bee sting / no evil harpies sing” to some sugary sweet guitar work and the backing vocals of Katrina Mitchell. “Near To You” is a swilrling pop workout with the gorgeous backing vocals of Mitchell blending pefectly with Fair’s more off the cuff style, with the Fanclub adding just enough power and crunch to avoid being too sweet.
“Smile” has Fair sounding extremely vulnerable with his wavering rambles of adoration and love, with Teenage Fanclub adding the extra power during the chorus. “Crush On You” is a driving crunchy anthem with lyrics like “I’m not usually one to boast / But I think your the most / Santa Claus on wheat toast” that may be the only time you hear that line used in a love song. “Crush On You” is one of the standouts of this disc with it’s mix of dirty surging guitars and Fair’s talent of tying together humorous lyrics that seem to make sense with what he is saying. “The Power Of Your Tenderness” sounds like it could have come out in the heyday of bubblegum, with its bright guitars and keyboard. “Vampire Claw” has the Fanclub going into some pop/country melodies a little bit that don’t always work, but the song is somewhat saved by Mitchell’s backing vocals.
“Secret Heart” starts off with some jumping bass and drum work and a pumping keyboard chiming in to play a couple of little fills. This track is one of the most interesting with its danceable instrumentation and funky backing. “You Rock” is a slow ballad that drags along without reaching where it seems to want to go, and the performance is lacking a little bit. The disc ends with a better attempt at adding some mandolin and a folk/pop arrangement with “The Good Thing” again with some lilting backing vocals to accompany Fair.
Both sides of this collaboration stand out and show their talent and flexibility with working together. Teenage Fanclub show why they are undeservedly under recognized by music fans, at least in the US with their backing of Fair on this release. Fair is also in very good form throwing off some humorous wordplay for all to enjoy. In a couple of spots the songs tend to get a little samey, but that is a small nitpick with this extremely enjoyable CD by two tragically over looked artists.