XPN’s Gotta Hear Song(s) of the Week: Benjamin Gibbard covers Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque

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Ben Gibbard, lead singer of Death Cab For Cutie, has taken on a covers project dear to his musical heart. He’s covered – song for song – Teenage Fanclub’s 1991 power pop classic Bandwagonesque.

Formed in Glasgow in 1989, Teenage Fanclub debuted in 1990 with A Catholic Education, a collection of songs that showcased their influences of The Beach Boys and Big Star, but with a grungy, heavy guitar based sound. It was their third album, Bandwagonesque, that established them in the States.

Signed to an American record label, Geffen Records, the album was famously chosen by Spin Magazine as the album of the year in 1991, ahead of other incredible releases that year including Nevermind by Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest, Achtung Baby by U2, Pearl Jam’s Ten, and Out of Time by R.E.M.

Writing about his decision to record the album for The Guardian, Gibbard had this to say:

Last year, I was approached by a multimedia venture called Turntable Kitchen about doing a vinyl-only covers album. I contemplated a few options, but I landed on Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque: my favourite album by my favourite band. In a lot of ways, it changed my life.

There was a show on MTV called 120 Minutes that played underground indie and alternative videos. I would tape it on VHS and watch it over the course of the next week. The first Teenage Fanclub song I heard on it was probably The Concept – it was so melodic and beautiful, and the harmonies were amazing, but at the same time, like the punk rock I was listening to, I could see myself playing it. When I bought Bandwagonesque, it felt attainable to me, but also from some other magical world of music that I could only dream of travelling to. Teenage Fanclub, four men from Scotland, were making music that seemed to grab me by the heart and lift me off the ground. There was such an openness. I fell in love immediately.

Bandwagonesque runs the gamut, from light, playful pop songs such as Sidewinder to ones where you are like: is this a cry for help? Obviously, the production sounds like 1991, but the instrument choices are two guitars, bass and drums and the lyrics don’t place the record in a particular time period. It truly could exist at any point in the past 50 years of rock music.

Below, listen Gibbard’s versions of “The Concept,” and “What You Do To Me,” followed by the originals.

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