Songs from Northern Britain

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Songs from Northern Britain
Northernfanclubalbum.jpg
Studio album by
Released29 July 1997
Recorded
Genre
Length43:24
LabelCreation
Producer
Teenage Fanclub chronology
Grand Prix
(1995)
Songs from Northern Britain
(1997)
Howdy!
(2000)

Songs from Northern Britain is the sixth studio album by Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fanclub. Produced by David Bianco and the group themselves, the album was released on 29 July 1997 through Creation Records. Teenage Fanclub's previous album, Grand Prix, had been seen as a comeback in their home of the UK, though its success elsewhere was limited. With more time and resources, the band recorded Songs from Northern Britain—a tongue-in-cheek title referring to their native Scotland—with producer David Bianco in Surrey. The record's lyrical themes focus heavily on love and domestic life. The album was completed at London's Air Studios, and its accompanying artwork was taken by photographer Donald Milne around the Scottish Highlands.

Upon its release, the album received mainly positive reviews from music critics. Commercially, Songs saw Teenage Fanclub achieve their highest chart positions in the UK, with the record peaking at number three on the UK Albums Chart. "Ain't That Enough", the lead single from the LP, became their best-charting single in the UK as well, peaking at number 17. The album fared poorly in the U.S., despite a high-profile tour with Radiohead. The album saw a re-release on vinyl in 2018, alongside four other Teenage Fanclub albums.

Background[edit]

By 1997, Teenage Fanclub had released five albums and toured heavily. When it came time to record their sixth effort, frontman Norman Blake felt as though the band were in a positive place. He later considered it to be a continuation of the band's previous album, Grand Prix, and the new effort was co-produced with that album's producer, David Bianco. The bulk of recording with Bianco was completed at Ridge Farm in Surrey in mid-1996.[1] However, the group had a "falling out" with Bianco during the recording process, so the album was finished with the help of George Shilling at London's Air Studios in late 1996.[2] Choosing London was a conscious effort, as the band hoped to switch their locale during each recording process.[3]

The band planned to record and mix the album in seven weeks, but found themselves recording longer than expected. They returned to mix the album later, which was beneficial as it gave them time to give the songs another look.[4] In 2016, frontman Norman Blake ranked Songs from Northern Britain as his second favorite album by the band, remembering, "I think we had been on a bit of a roll at this point. Everyone was happy." He ranked "I Don't Want Control of You" as one of his favorite songs he had written.[3] Musically, the album was influenced by the Byrds, particularly with the harmonies, and Badfinger, which was a primary source of inspiration for Blake at the time of recording.[4] In contrast to Grand Prix, which was largely tracked live, the band took their time with Songs from Northern Britain, taking the time to perfect harmony arrangements and introduce new musical elements, such as a minimoog, present in songs like "Planets".[5]

The photography for the album was taken by Donald Milne, and was shot around the Scottish Highlands during a three-day road trip in spring 1997.[3][2] The original press release for the album details the trip: "They visited the nuclear power station at Torness, saw the funfair being dismantled at Aviemore and played a round of golf under the gaze of Ben Nevis. It didn't rain once."[1] The band have described the album title as "a joking reference to Britpop, and everybody who thought we were part of that scene".[6] Blake expanded on the title in 2016, commenting, "We just thought it sounded funny. No one calls Scotland "Northern Britain," although technically it is."[3]

Commercial performance[edit]

Songs from Northern Britain was mainly a success in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at number three on the Albums Chart. "Ain't That Enough" became the band's highest-charting single, reaching number 17 in the UK. "I Don't Want Control of You" followed, peaking at number 43, and "Start Again" was the album's final single, reaching number 53.[7]

Columbia Records distributed the album in the United States, taking over from DGC/Geffen. The label planned to emphasize college radio stations in marketing the album, aiming to group them in with the burgeoning alt-country scene, such as Wilco and the Jayhawks.[5] The band toured with Radiohead in the U.S., for what was considered one of that year's most "eagerly anticipated outings," according to journalist Dave Thompson.[7] Despite these efforts, the album failed to chart in the U.S.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[8]
Chicago Tribune3/4 stars[9]
Entertainment WeeklyC−[10]
Mojo4/5 stars[11]
Pitchfork4.9/10 (1997)[12]
8.3/10 (2018)[13]
Q4/5 stars[14]
Rolling Stone2/5 stars[15]
Uncut8/10[16]

Upon its release, Songs from Northern Britain received mainly positive reviews from music critics. Rick Reger of the Chicago Tribune considered it among their strongest LPs, while noting that "there are no surprises on Songs from Northern Britain, no changes in direction, just catchier tunes and a lot more of them."[9] Elisabeth Vincentelli, writing for Rolling Stone, criticized what she felt was a "homogeneous" sound to the record, summarizing, "Overall, Songs is soothing to the point of narcolepsy."[15] At Allmusic, reviewer Matt Collar held a similar sentiment, admitting that it "may be too gentle and subtle for those listeners not willing to give it more than one spin." However, he praised the album's musical diversity and optimistic tone, considering it "a resolutely beautiful album that will most likely stand as Teenage Fanclub's masterpiece."[8]

A reviewer for Q viewed it as a "a willfully murkier, momentum-halting record," criticizing the writing on the album as trite.[17] The original review for Pitchfork by Brent DiCrescenzo negatively compared its sound to dentist office waiting room music, though it acknowledged that "this album has its moments of jangly, sun-drenched, harvest pop pleasure."[12] Retrospective reviews to the album have been more kind. Ryan Bray at The A.V. Club praised its "classic yet contemporary" nature, while bemoaning that the band seemed to lose followers as they grew older and more mature: "Songs From Northern Britain's legacy is an unfortunate one, an example of a great record that struggled to find a home beyond its loyal admirers."[18] Sam Sodomsky, reviewing the 2018 vinyl reissues for Pitchfork, commented that "In both its thematic concerns and its gentle, pastoral tone, Songs From Northern Britain is an embrace of native terrain. Their contentment sounds radiant."[13]

In his book 31 Songs, Nick Hornby names Songs from Northern Britain as one of his favourite albums. He names the introduction to the book after "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From", and also praises "Ain't That Enough".[19]

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Start Again"Norman Blake3:11
2."Ain't That Enough"Gerard Love3:42
3."Can't Feel My Soul"Raymond McGinley3:21
4."I Don't Want Control of You"Blake3:08
5."Planets"2:50
6."It's a Bad World"McGinley4:20
7."Take the Long Way Round"Love3:25
8."Winter"Blake3:46
9."I Don't Care"McGinley3:06
10."Mount Everest"Love5:15
11."Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From"McGinley3:29
12."Speed of Light"Love3:53

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[20]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1997) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[21] 70
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[22] 39
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[23] 12
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[24] 28
UK Albums (OCC)[25] 3

Notes and references[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The strings and brass were recorded on this date.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "TEENAGE FANCLUB - Songs from Northern Britain" (Press release). Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Dan Stubbs (August 10, 2018). "Teenage Fanclub: the story behind their brilliant Creation-era albums – and the time Liam mimed an entire Oasis album for them". NME. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Cam Lindsay (September 6, 2016). "Rank Your Records: Norman Blake Merrily Rates the Ten Teenage Fanclub Albums". Noisey. Vice. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Chris Nickson (September 1, 1997). "Teenage Fanclub: Same Band, Different Wagon". CMJ New Music Monthly. CMJ Network, Inc. (49): 18. ISSN 1074-6978.
  5. ^ a b Steve Knopper (June 28, 1997). "Hiatus from Hype Benefits Columbia's Teenage Fanclub". CMJ New Music Monthly. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 109 (26): 10. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  6. ^ Unterberger, Andrew (7 April 2015). "SPIN 30: Teenage Fanclub Talk Unlikely Breakout Album, 'Bandwagonesque'". Spin. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  7. ^ a b Dave Thompson (2000). Alternative Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 682.
  8. ^ a b Collar, Matt. "Songs from Northern Britain – Teenage Fanclub". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  9. ^ a b Reger, Rick (1 August 1997). "Teenage Fanclub: Songs from Northern Britain (Columbia)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  10. ^ Flaherty, Mike (1 August 1997). "Songs From Northern Britain". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  11. ^ Eccleston, Danny (September 2018). "Whatever you want". Mojo (298): 100.
  12. ^ a b DiCrescenzo, Brent. "Teenage Fanclub: Songs From Northern Britain". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 16 August 2000. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  13. ^ a b Sodomsky, Sam (11 August 2018). "Teenage Fanclub: Bandwagonesque / Thirteen / Grand Prix / Songs From Northern Britain / Howdy!". Pitchfork. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Teenage Fanclub: Songs from Northern Britain". Q (175): 128. April 2001.
  15. ^ a b Vincitelli, Elisabeth (21 July 1997). "Teenage Fanclub: Songs from Northern Britain". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 29 April 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  16. ^ Deusner, Stephen M. (September 2018). "Teenage Fanclub: Bandwagonesque / Thirteen / Grand Prix / Songs from Northern Britain / Howdy!". Uncut (256): 51.
  17. ^ "Q review for Songs from Northern Britain".
  18. ^ Bray, Ryan (9 September 2014). "Songs From Northern Britain proves that sometimes nice bands finish last". Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  19. ^ Hornby, Nick (2002). 31 Songs. McSweeney's. ISBN 1-932416-24-2.
  20. ^ Songs from Northern Britain (liner notes). Teenage Fanclub. UK: Creation Records. 1997. CRECD 196L.
  21. ^ "Australiancharts.com – Teenage Fanclub – Songs from Norhern Britain". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  22. ^ "Teenage Fanclub: Songs from Norhern Britain" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  23. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Teenage Fanclub – Songs from Norhern Britain". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  24. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Teenage Fanclub – Songs from Norhern Britain". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  25. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 15, 2018.

External links[edit]