There are up-tempo songs and noisy bits on Teenage Fanclub's latest album, but they're not what sets the tone. The Glasgow quartet, which began 15 years ago by swathing power-pop melodies in grungy distortion, has developed into a band that specializes in folk-rock elegies and meditations.
"Man-Made" was recorded in Chicago with Tortoise's John McEntire at the controls, and fleeting moments suggest Stereolab, another British outfit that has worked with McEntire. Yet fundamentally the Fanclub sounds like the Byrds at their most shimmeringly pensive.
Loss, delusion, loneliness and death are among the themes of these 12 songs -- divided equally, as usual, among guitarists Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley and bassist Gerard Love. Despite the lyrics' potential for gloom, the three singer-songwriters never sound petulant or self-pitying.
Love titled one tune "Born Under a Good Sign," a wry twist on the bluesman's traditional pessimism, and Blake's "Cells" manages to be sanguine about "the slow decay" of, well, everything. Emphatic timbres and unexpected shifts make "Man-Made" the most experimental Fanclub album in years, but such musical ploys are well integrated into the group's mature sound.
This album's "Flowing" may not sound much like 1990's "Everything Flows," but both titles evoke a transcendental approach to guitars, harmonies and the universe.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Wednesday at the 9:30 club with the Rosebuds.