For more than half of the 1990s, these Scots were among the most beloved and successful bands in the United Kingdom. Over the course of several albums, most notably the beloved “Bandwagonesque” and “Songs from Northern Britain,” Teenage Fanclub presented the kind of high-end song chops and production that drew comparisons to vintage-pop/power-pop idols like Big Star or Badfinger. For more than a quarter century (and 10 full-lengths), they managed to keep the melodic and lyric inspiration flowing, a feat nourished by three songwriters who contributed content equally: Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love.
In 2018, Love went his own way, leaving songwriting chores to Blake and McGinley. “Endless Arcade” is their first Love-less effort. And while it keeps the Fanclub's reputation afloat, the two aren't able to thoroughly compensate for Love's absence.
The dozen songs here breeze in and out in 45 minutes – numbers almost identical to previous albums'. All the components of classic TF make appearances: bright, sing-along melodies; crisp, lofty harmonies; and enough thoughtful or clever chord progressions to justify a listen.
But here the Fanclub sounds less like a band born in the 1990s and more like one plumbing the sounds of 1960s British and American folk rock and easy-listening pop – bands like the Hollies, the Association and, on more than one occasion, the Moody Blues.
Gone are the loud, fuzz- and drone-ladened guitars and skyscraping, lockstep, three-part harmonies. Instead, the music here is more laid-back, breezier and softer around the edges – the sound of a band running in place as it plots and adapts to new directions.