Endless Arcade is the eleventh studio album by the long-running Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fanclub and their first without founding member, bassist and vocalist, Gerard Love. Consisting of twelve new songs, the record is a pleasant enough collection, though there’s little to be found in terms of standout moments. Working without a key bandmate thirty-plus years into their career, Teenage Fanclub’s latest full-length is exactly what it should be: a transitional album that finds the band acclimating to an altered sound due to a personnel change.
Upbeat, jangly strummed chords and an analogue organ open Endless Arcade with the midtempo “Home”. At over seven minutes, the album’s first song asks a lot of listeners’ patience. After three minutes, an electric guitar solo enters, and time thankfully disappears. There isn’t much differentiation offered in terms of tempo or instrumental tonality during the next two songs, and it isn’t until “Everything Is Falling Apart” that the band falls into a danceable groove. Here, the group’s former guitarist, Dave McGowan, skillfully implements some beautiful bass work. The eventual inclusion of handclaps, in addition to a spacey, psychedelic synth, help make the moment one of the album’s most memorable.
The band’s new lineup proves to be at its strongest musically when they’re utilizing sounds from the past as in the side B opener, “In Our Dreams.” Here, the distorted lead guitar with a slight wah-wah effect that appears sporadically is a good start to the record’s second side. Halfway in, the ballad “The Future” appears. “Thoughts of ancient times, gonna open up my head, but it’s hard to walk into the future, when your shoes are made of lead,” singer Norman Blake opines over an appropriately antiquated-sounding organ. Endless Arcade’s penultimate moment occurs with “Living with You”. Blake’s vocal enthusiasm during the choruses, along with its stuttered syncopation and harpsichord, make the song one of the most interesting on the album. Unfortunately, the record is concluded with the drab “Silent Song”, a swaying ballad that does little to leave a lasting impression on the entire experience.
Overall, the songs on Endless Arcade are fine, but the lack of tempo and stylistic variety render clusters of tracks same-sounding and therefore forgettable. Just once somewhere amidst these dozen songs it would have been nice to hear Teenage Fanclub step on the accelerator and drop the hammer for old time’s sake, but sadly that never happens. The band’s sound changing without the inclusion of Gerard Love was a foregone conclusion, and it may take another album before the remaining members figure out how to move forward creatively without him.