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Various Artists | Is This Music? A Teenage Fanclub Tribute (Painted Sky)
With a similar project in the pipeline from US label Not Lame (reportedly to feature the likes of Ken Stringfellow, Superdrag, Jason Falkner and, surprisingly, Counting Crows), it seems that the world has simultaneously woken up to the irrefutable merits of the Teenage Fanclub songbook.

The Japanese Painted Sky label (Posies, Pedro The Lion, Mark Kozelek etc) has compiled a generous nineteen track set which comprises artists from across the globe. Australia's The Deezleteens (aka Nic Dalton and Tom Morgan of Sneeze plus friends) kick things off with a country-inflected Star Sign, Norway's Beezewax raising the oomph-factor with a spirited Hardcore/Ballad. Current TFC drummer Francis Macdonald donates a suitably harmonious solo rendition of Norman Blake's The Cabbage before Spain's Ross deliver a musically note-for-note replica of Raymond McGinley's Verisimilitude, albeit with a curiously accented vocal. A more adventurous arrangement is provided by Scotland's The Pearlfishers who deliver a tastefully restrained take on Dumb Dumb Dumb, Jon Auer's Speed of Light similarly subdued. What elevates these tracks above many of the more straightforward readings is their emphasis on Teenage Fanclub's peerless melodic gift and vocal mastery. Far less successful, then, are Duglas (BMX Bandits) Stewart's hollow rocksteady treatment of Neil Jung, and Deluxe's heavy-handed, karaoke-style crack at the similarly sacrosanct Mellow Doubt. Perfunctory performances follow from The Mayflies USA (Ain't That Enough) and Michael Shelley (I Don't Want Control of You), before Groundswell put some Australian swagger into The Concept and France's Sweet Apple Pie deliver a punchy, jangly I Don't Know. Home-grown talents Tex La Homa tackle a second subsequent McGinley song, an acoustic ambient treatment of Genius Envy which, along with The Comas' Radio adds further to the album's successes. Spain's final representatives Gallygows contribute a cleverly constructed recasting of 'Catholic Education' classic Everything Flows as a delicate love song, a mood built upon by Knievel's Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From which boasts the album's only female lead vocal. Jyoti Mishra (aka White Town, remember him?) tackles 'Bandwagonesque's December with an oddly retro reading, before Mike Randle (Baby Lemonade, current line up of Arthur Lee's Love) gives a balmy, gently psychedelic interpretation of Planets, a track that would have brought things to a fitting denouement. That task, however, falls to Germany's Solarscape whose Is This Music? is a forgettable, Moog Cookbook-like slice of old-school keyboard antics.

Very much a mixed-bag then, as is the way of these things. With compatriots Francis MacDonald, The Pearlfishers and Tex la Homa; contemporaries Jon Auer and Mike Randle; and relative newcomers The Comas, Beezewax, Sweet Apple Pie, Knievel and Gallygows all delivering varyingly impressive renditions, 'Is This Music?' scores higher than most in the erratic world of the tribute album, whilst underlining (as if necessary) the prodigious and enviable might of Britain's all-time finest.

Matt Dornan
March-April 2003