How far from current rock trends can a band be without actually sounding outdated? The answer is the space between, say, gaseous Coldplay or icy Franz Ferdinand and the warm earth tended by Teenage Fanclub since 1991's much-hyped breakthrough, Bandwagonesque
. This year's model, Man-Made
, is moodier and more sophisticated than the original, but only by subtle turns. Whereas once they crafted sunny, Byrdsian harmonies, pop classicists Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley now sound more like the Mamas & the Papas, finer and just a touch sadder. Ragged, ringing riffs join a weave of piano-like leads, organ sounds and strings, and the lyrics -- once breezy and hopeful -- are now breezy, hopeful and
evocative. The three singer-songwriters lilt about "Blue rivers flowin', reachin' for the sea/Scattered seeds we're sewin', fruit is on the trees," painting an infectious landscape of adventure and optimism. With the summery "Born Under a Good Sign," they even implicitly rewrite Albert King's over-covered blues classic into an anthem for the glass-half-full crowd. The one-time flavor of the month has proved to be a timeless pleasure.