Teenage Fanclub + Lucky Luke
Cambridge Junction, May 18th 2005

It would be charitable of me to claim that I missed Lucky Luke due to some unforeseen yet pressing commitment. Follicular cleansing, for example. Charitable, but false, as I stood there desperately trying to wedge tendrils of greasy hair into my oppressed ears to withstand the moribund onslaught of cockawful tradfolk riddledeedee Celtic pish the like of which may have been witnessed if Jefferson Airplane had gone into ill-conceived rehab in Balamory, and the like of which should never be witnessed again.

Witnessing Teenage Fanclub in the twenty-first century is an experience not dissimilar to going to some kind of sonic craft fair. Their notions of immaculately arranged, meticulously-wrought songsmithery have drifted into obsolescence, and as the opening swathes of Speed of Light cloak the audience in perfect jangles of harmonic guitar gossamer the static, subdued and frankly fucking old crowd seem like part of some schmindie variant on one of those English Civil War re-enactment societies, nobly ignoring the passing of time, the nostalgic sepia that seems to have almost prematurely tinted and tainted TFC's consistently rewarding back catalogue.

The prevalence of new stuff exhibited tonight was therefore something of a relief, and while Man Made is a more teutonic, restrained, unriffy album than the five that preceded it, the clipped precision of 'Cells' and 'Nowhere' help to alleviate the air of complacency that would, in fairness, be forgivable from the Golden Girls of indie. That's not to say that the new material is bereft of traditional Fanclub family values. 'It's All In My Mind' is an archetypal TFC single, all gorgeous cascading melodies and shimmering charm, and 'Slow Fade' sees them rediscover big guitars to gloriously lush effect.

Oddly, considering it was the augur of a commercial nosedive, 1997's Songs From Northern Britain is played virtually in its entirety and Grand Prix and Bandwagonesque were virtually ignored. But Teenage Fanclub are a band who operate by their own calendar (a lump-in-throat lovely rendition of half-a-decade-old 'I Need Direction' was introduced as 'a new…ish one' with no trace of irony whatsoever) and on by their own rulebook. Of course there were concessions to former glories - the 'Sparky's Dream'/'Everything Flows' double whammy was a crowd-pleasing inevitability and the whole shebang was, all things considered, a bit of a low-key love-in.

And, as we shuffled politely out of the venue past the scousers peddling unlicensed cardigans, slippers and pension plans, the whole thing felt like a noble, stoic triumph. A quiet refusal of the lure of sex, violence, bravado, image, cool, MTV2, street teams, style magazines and postmodernity. It felt like we were eschewing the cultural hypermarket, being kind to a small business, to the cottage indiestry. For an evening, we'd relived the good old days.

Matt Abysmal