Grand Prix is an album that I expected to fall in love with. I got recommended it a whole load of times in the early 2000s, but upon hearing it something just didn’t click in place for me. Sure, Grand Prix is an album of brilliant guitar pop, and Teenage Fanclub certainly had much more to offer than the majority of the Britpop hordes of the mid 90s, but for some reason something failed to spark between me the listener and the music. I suppose we just didn’t connect.
It’s not as though I just sat there and thought “I just don’t get it”, because there are songs dotted throughout Grand Prix that I utterly adore. “About You” and “Don’t Look Back” are some of the finest guitar tunes that the 90s had to offer and “Neil Jung” is still probably my favourite song by them. Trouble is, Grand Prix as an album just didn’t grab me in the way I want to be grabbed at the time. Did I respect Teenage Fanclub? Sure I did. They’re one of the greatest exponents of power-pop of the last three decades, never once cheapening themselves by offering the lowest common denominator of music to their fans, while their more famous label mates were dragging their knuckles across the UK music scene.
Then a while back something happened. The click finally clicked. Nearly 20 years after hearing Grand Prix for the first time, I got it. I understood why Teenage Fanclub, and particularly Grand Prix, have endured when so much music from the 90s just got washed away. Maybe I had to gain a shit-ton more life experience, maybe I had to achieve a certain level of emotional maturity. Teenage Fanclub are not just a band you enjoy, they are a band you adore. Once you’ve allowed them in to your heart, they burrow in and truly matter.
“About You”, “Don’t Look Back” and “I’ll Make it Clear“ are stunning offerings of Big Star-indebted power pop. They always have been, it’s just taken me the distance of quarter of a century since its release for me to appreciate what an achievement they, and the rest of Grand Prix, is. This is not an album that embarrasses itself by trying too hard to impress, this is just a collection of great guitar pop tunes without any unnecessary swagger or braggadocio. Grand Prix just doesn’t need any of that shit, simply because Teenage Fanclub are above all of that. That said, back when I first heard Grand Prix, “Neil Jung”, dad-joke pun and all, was the obvious highlight for me, and it still is.
While Grand Prix doesn’t ever actually disappoint, there are moments which do sound a bit odd, like the horns through “Tears”, which sound processed and compressed to hell. Also, at thirteen tracks it’s perhaps a couple of songs too long, but then you figure out that the run time is barely 42 minutes, and you realise actually, they probably got it exactly right. Of course they did, they are Teenage Fanclub.
Teenage Fanclub weren’t the only Big Star indebted act doing the rounds through the 90s, but they were by far and away the best, and Grand Prix was their finest 42 minutes. It took me this long to “get” them, but I’m really glad I did.