|Coming soon in EP format|
When The Number One Son came up on Wednesday for Curry Night (more on that story later), he could see, from the CDs piled high and wide next to the hi-fi in the kitchen, that his old man had mostly been listening to Teenage Fanclub. In particular Grand Prix and its baby brother EP, Teenage Fanclub Have Lost It.
When I told him that Grand Prix was probably their finest hour and isn't it a shame that the band probably all reside in nursing homes now in various parts of Scotland, he replied 'It's not as good as Bandwagonesque.' 'Yes it is' I came back with. 'Of course it is.' 'But Bandwagonesque is a masterpiece' he said. 'It's got the same chord progressions as The Beatles. It's made for you, dad.'
I sat him down and told him that I had had real struggles with this album he was getting so worked up about. I had taken it out of its sleeve so many times to play and rarely got past track four or five. I found listening to it hard work. The tunes weren't there, the jangly guitars weren't there. It was turgid.
'I demand you listen to it again' he said. 'And I demand that you like it.' He never actually said that last bit, but he was thinking it.
Anyway, next day I put it on in the car. I'd got loads of places to be so I listened to it five times straight on Thursday. All the way through. And four times yesterday. All the way through.
I'm a firm believer in starting an album with all guns blazing. Hit them with your best shot. And then build on it. Don't dither around. So what do The Fannies do on Bandwagonesque? In their defence they come out of the traps with The Concept. It's got that tongue in cheek swagger that wants you to know where it's getting its reference points from. It's all seventies and Freebird. What does come through loud and clear is that fellow Creation stablemate Noel Gallagher, not for the first time, would nick this (and the remnants of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird), put some strings on it and and turn it into Whatever.
And then we get the pointless musical interlude. Satan - A wall of guitars feeding back that just grates and doesn't in anyway help the smooth passage from Track One to Track Three: December is actually a cracking little song. Some jangly guitars (how could I have missed them first time around?) and a tune to boot. Is this the same album I listened to in 1991?
What You Do To Me could easily have been written for The Monkees. I can see Micky Dolenz singing the shit out of this. However, the handbrake is applied and Track Five, I Don't Know, is instantly forgettable and you wonder what it's doing here in the first place.
Star Sign starts in the studio next door and fades in majestically. Now I'd have opened the album with this. It's funny how many bands get running orders wrong. Yes, this has got Side One Track One written all over it. And now it all gets annoying again (my 20 year old memories are coming back to haunt me): Metal Baby, Track Seven, should never have made the cut. Ditto the next one up Pet Rock.
Sidewinder tries, it really tries, but again it's nothing more than a B-Side punching above its weight. Alcoholiday, terrible title, terrible song and then we have Guiding Star. Guiding Star should have wrapped up proceedings. It could have closed the album nicely before everyone packed up and went home: a touching little thing that doesn't deserve to be followed by the limp instrumental that follows.
Is This Music would sit well on a Scottish regional affairs programme in the seventies. Think Nationwide, north of the border. Grampian TV could have commissioned the first 30 seconds of this and everyone would've been happy.
Summing up then. As you can see I've not really reviewed it in an orthodox way, more of a when the doctor taps his little hammer on your knee to gauge your reaction kind of way.
Bandwagonesque has its moments. It was a work in progress that led to bigger and better things. Much better things. But it showed promise. And if the band can be persuaded to come out of their nursing homes long enough, I know that next year marks the album's 25th Anniversary, so the chances of them playing this album from start to finish in a concert hall near you is a real possibility.
However, to these ears Bandwagonesue is a so so album with a really good EP in there waiting to be heard in the right order.
1. Star Sign
2. The Concept
5. Guiding Star
So when they regroup next year, they could play the EP and Grand Prix in full. Sorry James, I did try.
And before the hate mail comes in, I know this is their homage to Big Star, but Denim did it much better the following year (1992) with their stunning Back in Denim album. Go and check that one out, why don't you?