Wednesday 3 April 2019

I Was A King - Slow Century

Norman Bleik, I Was A King’s debut single 10 years ago, made their intentions very clear: they liked Teenage Fanclub so much they even spelled the singer’s name wrong like TFC had done in tribute to one of their heroes, Neil Jung.

Norman Blake produces Slow Century and if so far it seems a little incestuous, this album’s quality will brush aside any misgivings. It’s the album Teenage Fanclub forgot to write after Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain, so makes it the best TFC album in over 20 years.

The early 1990s saw three bands emerge - Teenage Fanclub, Stereolab, Saint Etienne - who each had their own retro take but did it so well they made their own genres. In Teenage Fanclub’s case, this is bands who play power pop, jangly guitars and forlorn ballads by way of Big Star, The Byrds and Neil Young, but who sound more like Teenage Fanclub than the bands that informed them.

I don’t think anyone’s ever sensibly proposed that Teenage Fanclub are better than their influences, in the same way that only a few bands have been as good at appropriating those influences since 1990 as Teenage Fanclub are.

What I Was A King have done with their sixth album, though, is make a record to challenge Teenage Fanclub’s dominance. For my money, Slow Century is fresher, brighter and better than Teenage Fanclub have been since the 1990s. It makes the old sound new, the melancholy sound like the heart’s still bleeding, and the jangle as clear and jubilant as church bells on liberation day.

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