Albums: New music from Teenage Fanclub, Arab Strap, Gabrielle and Madison Beer
TEENAGE FANCLUB – ENDLESS ARCADE
TEENAGE Fanclub return to bring us hope in difficult times.
It has been all change for the power popping Glasgow indie rockers since their last album, 2016's Here: founding member Gerard Love has departed, leaving them a singer, songwriter and bass player down – though they have added Euros Childs of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci on keys.
Endless Arcade is written by singer/guitarists Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, with the former's songs infused by loss and melancholy, the latter more philosophical, advising "don't be afraid of this life" on the title track.
Opener Home stretches out over more than seven minutes, as a lost-sounding Norman Blake sings "I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be home again", before a classic Raymond McGinley guitar solo.
On much of their 10th studio album, 1960s influences are to the fore, including The Byrds, The Hollies and, on I'm More Inclined, Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Yet, despite the nods to the past, Teenage Fanclub are definitely not stuck there.
ARAB STRAP – AS DAYS GET DARKER
LAST year's Turning Of The Bones single marked an unlikely yet spectacular return for Arab Strap, John Carpenter menace over a disco beat, and they've now made one of the albums of the year just as labelmates Mogwai are enjoying their first chart topper.
With the emphasis now less on autobiographical confessionals, Aidan Moffat has clearly developed as a storyteller and, though their original skeletal sound is still there, there is more depth to the music.
Here Comes Comus! is the worthy follow-up to 2003's The Shy Retirer, driven along by a surprise appearance by Doktor Avalanche, while Tears On Tour sounds like an out-take from Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree until a Mark Knopfler solo gatecrashes the ending.
Fable Of The Urban Fox is the best of all, a tale of two foxes unwelcome wherever they go and obviously a metaphor for the treatment of migrants – a different darkness to the Arab Strap of old.
GABRIELLE – DO IT AGAIN
GABRIELLE'S voice is unique. It is instantly identifiable, which makes it so surprising that Rita Ora, Jonathan Ross and co took so long to reveal her identity on ITV's The Masked Singer.
Hackney-born Louise Gabrielle Bobb performed a fair number of these tracks on that show, including Tracy Chapman's Fast Car and Falling by Harry Styles. But look beyond that.
This is more than just a crass attempt at cashing in on TV glory. From the moment she hits the first, tremulous note of Killing Me Softly With His Song, Gabrielle is in her element.
Her version of Proud Mary is more hit than miss, with a grooving, uplifting pulse.
Her take on Teardrops, however, does little to improve, or even change, what was already a near perfect product. Two new tracks are perfectly pleasant and show off her revered vocal chops.
Take my advice: don't think too deeply about Do It Again. Just sit back and listen.
MADISON BEER – LIFE SUPPORT
MADISON Beer may only be 21 but her debut album has been a long time coming. By the age of 16 she had been discovered on YouTube by Justin Bieber, signed to Island Records and dropped quietly with a half-finished album.
In hindsight, this may have been a good thing. Life Support is the kind of personal, layered album that would have been impossible to make in those restricted circumstances.
Beer may occasionally slip into the kind of slick R&B familiar to fans of Ariana Grande.
But more often than not, Life Support's poppier parts are tempered by her own more left-field influences.
Smatterings of grungy guitar on Follow The Write Rabbit nod towards Nirvana, while the album's first two songs draw on the psychedelic styles of Tame Impala. Beer's voice is a highlight, dancing between fragile on the atmospheric Blue and full diva on BOYS***.
Life Support is an album made for the fans – and the naysayers.