Teenage Fanclub at The Academy, December 2nd, 2016

“In 1991 as his band partied their socks off with Nirvana in the penthouse suite of the Fairmont Hotel, Norman Blake fired a television over the balcony, destroying the Lamborghini below and launching Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque into the stratosphere like a katyusha rocket….The band finished the 90s with album sales in excess of 20 million units before finally breaking up in 2001 to tend to their broken marriages and heroin habits.”

Absolute nonsense of course…Anyone who loves Teenage Fanclub knows that the above scenario may have happened in a parallel universe, but even there it’s doubtful.  If it had happened there’s no hope that I would have seen them for the tenth time when they played a wonderful show in Dublin’s Academy on December 2nd.  I first saw them when they played Midnight at the Olympia on June 20th 1997. I’d never heard their music before but that night a mate – who’d introduced me to both the Go Betweens and Husker Du – sprung a surprise by bringing me along.  He didn’t think there was much risk that I wouldn’t like them.

2016-12-02-20-55-09We watched from upstairs and while I wasn’t doing cartwheels in appreciation – I rarely do – I was impressed.  My main memory was the audience reaction at the end of “Don’t Look Back.”  It was like a scene from the Muppet Show when everybody stands nodding their heads at the end in appreciation of how good the song actually is.

They’ve played that song every time I’ve seen them and if there’s a track with a better guitar solo at the start, well I haven’t heard it yet – though Johnny Hickman’s guitar break at the beginning of Cracker’s “River Euphrates” comes close.

Yes it would be magnificent if they got their dues and sold millions, if they weren’t so bashful and apologetic before introducing yet another brilliant song…Heck I would also love if Francis MacDonald murdered the skins like Joey Castillo or Chuck Biscuits but that’s never going to happen.  There have been numerous pieces written over the years bemoaning their sleepy existence and how they could do with a good old kick up the arse from a thick culchie farmer, but ambition only gets you so far.  Would more ambition have improved the stellar set list they worked through the other night?

Most bands are lucky to come up with a handful of genuinely outstanding songs but Teenage Fanclub have produced bucket loads and though the majority come from their brilliant nineties output the albums they’ve produced since then have more than added to their cannon.   “I’m in Love” the superb Norman Blake-penned opener on their latest, Here, is very uplifting and proved to be even better live – probably the highlight of the show for me.   In all they played for an hour and forty five minutes, which is long for them, but a show without close to ten tracks from Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain just wouldn’t feel complete.

At the opening bars of “Ain’t that Enough” my brother mumbled that it was the track he’d been waiting to hear all night.  Whatever about the harmonies on their other songs there’s something incredibly beautiful about how the voices of Gerry Love and Norman Blake work on that track.  On the rare occasion that I’ve needed a bit of picking up  as I’ve gone through my life “Ain’t that Enough” along with  the rest from Songs from Northern Britain usually does the trick.

A big surprise on the night was their cover of the late Grant McLennan’s Easy Come, Easy Go.  Gerry Love handled the vocals.  I remember listening to that song on my old red walkman as I passed through Llandudno Junction on the way to Euston in August 1993.  It has always been one of my faves of his.  Just to think that if they hadn’t played it I would never have heard it performed live.  What a way to remember one of the greats.

Going to see them is like going to see your mates from down the road.  They come around on average once every five to six years, and while it would be nice to see more of them, maybe it isn’t good to sample the genuinely good things in life too often.

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Jon Brion on Sound Opinions

Sound Opinions replayed a 2006 interview with music producer Jon Brion last week.  I’m a big fan of the Aimee Mann albums he produced, and I reckon “I’m with Stupid” is her best work.  The interview is possibly the best feature I’ve heard on Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis’s fantastic podcast, with the highlight being the looped track “I was Happy with You.”  What a talent….AND he mentioned that both “For Your Pleasure” and “Siren” , the Chris Thomas produced Roxy Music albums, were their finest recordings.  Well there was never any doubt about “For Your Pleasure” but I’ve always enjoyed the overlooked “Siren” the most and it was nice to here some form of validation for that piece of work from Brion.

Check the show out when you get a chance here.

New Music on the way from Teenage Fanclub

Are Teenage Fanclub the laziest band of all time? Possibly, but they’re also the best thing that came out of the UK in the nineties. In Bandwagonesque, Grand Prix, and Songs For Northern Britain, they produced some of the catchiest and most uplifting music written by any group since the Beatles.  Their shows are always a treat – one of the good things in life – and it will be interesting to see how the new songs of the soon-to-be released “Here” stand alongside gems like Start Again, Ain’t that Enough, Don’t look Back and The Concept.  If  “I’m in Love” – the first single of that album is any indication, we won’t be disappointed.  It’s very nice indeed.

 

Mallorca Ironman 70.3 2016

 

Here’s a video that captures the extraordinary conditions we had to endure at last month’s Ironman 70.3 in Mallorca.  Apart from the jellyfish stings I nearly preferred the torrential rain to the oppressive heat we had to endure in 2014.  Hopefully the Aussie lady I bumped into leaving transition after the race is recovering from the jellyfish stings to her face.  It’s a great race regardless of conditions – the largest 70.3 on Earth I’m told – and every triathlete should do it at least once.

There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

I’ve lost count of the number of managers or consultants I’ve come across who claim to have a secret “rocket sauce” that’s going to make a big difference to each and every business they touch.  Go in to a selection of consulting websites and more often than not you’ll see a specific methodology, outlined in a series of clunky coloured boxes, that’s supposedly unique and is going to save the world, so to speak.

Tom Peters regards Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” as the best project management manual he’s come across and I’d agree.  Published in 1971 this political science classic outlines what it is to organise in order to attain and wield power successfully.  Given that the really hard work on projects is always the people stuff, Alinsky’s book is probably of more benefit to a project manager in the long run than the Prince 2 manual or any of the trite click bait articles that appear on websites like Fast Company.

Alinsky was a leading community organiser of the poor and powerless in US cities in the ‘40s and ‘50s and his methods are cited as having had a major influence on both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.   It’s a stonker of a read for people involved in getting things done at any level in life and I often return to it for a browse before I start a new project.  How about this for a whopper of a quote:

“I detest and fear dogma.  I know that all revolutions must have ideologies to spur them on.  That in the heat of conflict these ideologies tend to be smelted into rigid dogmas claiming exclusive possession of the truth, and the keys to paradise, is tragic.  Dogma is the enemy of human freedom.  Dogma must be watched for and apprehended at every turn and twist of the revolutionary movement.  The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.”

So, where am I going with this?  Well, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat, and as long as you behave yourself, tell good stories, and deliver great results your clients aren’t going to give two hoots about your methods.