Grunge, with its snarling riffs and abundant anguish, may have been the most public face of early-’90s alternative rock, but bubbling beneath the surface was an equally vibrant alternative to that alternative — a starry-eyed celebration of innocence and guitar chime. No band embodied the latte values more completely than Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub, who’ve spent the better part of 15 years flying under the radar — but not so far under as to preclude them from selling out two good-sized shows on their first visit to Gotham in nearly five years.
The quartet, supporting their recently released Merge album “Man-Made,” played to their strengths over the course of a languidly paced 90-minute set, buttressing airy harmonies with guitar jangle that recalled Roger McGuinn one moment and America the next. While unabashedly soft-focus, that juxtaposition proved more vivifying than lulling — particularly on the one-two punch of “Star Sign” and “Did I Say.”
Monotony, often a byproduct of too many three-minute, three-chord songs, was kept at bay by the small but significant differences between the Fannies’ three writing voices. Bassist Gerard Love’s penchant for the elegiac (showcased nicely on “Don’t Look Back”) got something of a counterbalance when guitarist Norman Blake stepped forward with a more glammed-up offering like “The Concept,” which closed the set on a zesty note.
Aud, made up largely of true believers, proved particularly fond of the perf’s more self-referential meta-rock tunes, from the contentious “Neil Jung” to the encore-opening “Born Under a Good Sign” (a misty meander more redolent of the Zombies than Albert King).
And while the new songs, aside from the aforementioned “Good Sign,” didn’t stack up all that favorably to the foursome’s vintage material, devotees didn’t seem to mind. Aud in fact affirmed Love’s wistful worldview by affectionately echoing the opening lines of 1991’s “Everything Flows”: “We get older every year, but you don’t change/I think about it every day, but only for a little while.”