Given all the label difficulties Teenage Fanclub have faced lately, itís easy to forget that this ultra-melodic group were once Geffen royalty who regularly opened for bands like Nirvana and Radiohead. Although early Geffen releases like 1991ís Bandwagonesque garnered lavish praise and comparisons with power-pop luminaries Big Star, Teenage Fanclubís overseas label, Creation, folded in 2000. And then drummer Paul Quinn departed during the sessions for Howdy!, leaving remaining bandmembers Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley to face the bleak reality that the last two Teenage Fanclub CDs ó Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain ó were all but ignored here in the US.
So itís almost a miracle that the summery Howdy! is so cheerful. The disc is filled with spot-on vocal harmonies, gorgeous strummed guitars, and sweetly lovelorn lyrics. Hooks abound, and the material overflows with sing-along melodies. Alas, the band rarely find anything very captivating to do with all those pop elements, and the dragging tempos tend to bog down even the most lighthearted sentiments. Like pungent perfume, "My Uptight Life" and "I Canít Find My Way Home" emit a sickly cloud of sweetness that lingers. Howdy! shines brightest in its liveliest moments: the crisp wordless crooning on "I Need Direction" and the spiraling riffs of "Accidental Life" and "The Sun Shines from You." Thatís the Teenage Fanclub that the fanclubís been waiting for, with or without Paul Quinn.