Power pop’s finest hour

Bandwagonesque?  Frosting on the Beater?  Girlfriend?  Bellybutton?  All recognised early nineties guitar pop landmarks that pale into insignificance next to Velvet Crush’s powerpop behemoth Teenage Symphonies to God.

Named after one of Brian Wilson’s working titles for Smile, and built around the drumming prowess of Ric Menck, Paul Chastain’s brilliant vocals and Jeffrey Borchardt’s crunchy guitar, the group, which had been pumping out tweepop 45’s for years under names like the Choo Choo Train and the Springfields, drafted in Let’s Active legend Mitch Easter to twiddle the knobs and Stephen Duffy and Matthew Sweet to contribute a chord or two on this, their first and last Creation long-player.

This record has all the trapping of a lost classic – a superlative retro cover, sensational tunes, impassioned driving performances and the backing of a great label.  Unfortunately Britpop was about to blow the yanks out of town, and the album faded into obscurity – last spotted in HMV for 99p.

The record kicks off with the full-throttle, Richard Lloyd-style guitar squall one-two of Hold Me Up and My Blank Pages before a reworking of Gene Clark b-side Why Not Your Baby – worth the price of admission alone and featuring the most startling, soaring, ecstatic pedal steel solo committed to tape since Sneaky Pete was doing his thing with the Burritos in the late Sixties. And that’s just the first three tracks. 

The album moves from the twinkling acoustic loveliness of #10 to the hazy nostalgia of Faster Days. Star Trip shows the Fanclub how to do that jangling September Gurls thing, Weird Summer is the sound of REM made good and This Life is Killing Me is like grunge, but hey, with a tune.  And still there’s room at the end for the endearing country lament Lingerin’ On.

Never bettered (although they came mighty close with 2002’s majestic, autumnal Soft Sounds), this is an album of unparalleled white soul, with a chequed shirt.

Velvet Crush – Teenage Symphonies to God (Creation) 1994

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