Author Archives: tomvox1

chris-cornell

RIP Chris Cornell, 1964 – 2017

The sad and shocking news that Chris Cornell, founder and frontman of both Soundgarden and Audiosoave and one of the most gifted rock vocalists of his generation, has died at the age of 52 is still reverberating around the music world. He was found dead in his hotel room in Detroit on May 17th while on tour with his re-formed original band, the great grunge pioneers from Seattle, an apparent suicide. Cornell’s loss as an individual and his loss to rock music as a whole is hard to fully process. Our sincere condolences go out to his family and friends.

Searching With My Good Eye Closed – Badmotorfinger (1991) 

Unlike their local peers Nirvana and Pearl Jam, with whom they are most closely grouped, Soundgarden was less true “grunge” than an extension of classic 70s hard rock, albeit with sophisticated lyrical themes and innovative musical techniques. While initially satirizing the over-the-top nature of metal at the time they began in the late 80s — see “Big Dumb Sex” for the apotheosis of this in your face, on the nose send-up of hardcore metal misogyny — Soundgarden quickly graduated to a more lyrically complex, more darkly psychedelic metal sound that was uniquely their own. Their real breakthrough was Badmotorfinger, one of the seminal albums of the 90s in any genre. A borderline concept album, Badmotorfinger was inestimably weird and powerful, featuring guitarist Kim Thayil’s patented Drop D tuning on several hard-hitting classics like “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Outshined,” the soaring & ominous “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” and the punishing and mystical “Room A Thousand Years Wide.” Another track from this awesome album, “Mind Riot,” seemed to point in the direction that Cornell and the band would take in future: hard-edged, certainly, but with an almost ballad-like emotional intensity and strikingly original lyrics of searching strangeness and loss.

I was crying from my eye teeth and bleeding from my soul
And I sharpened my wits on a dead man’s skull
I built an elevator from his bones
Had climb to the top floor just to stamp out the coals (I’ve been caught in a mind riot)

Candle’s burning yesterday
Somebody’s best friend died
I’ve been caught in a mind riot

Mind Riot – Badmotorfinger (1991)

After the explosion of Grunge as a distinct genre onto the national scene, fueled by their own success and that of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Screaming Trees among others, Soundgarden followed up Badmotorfinger with an even bigger hit, Superunknown. The new album was characterized by a subtle shift away from pure heavy metal and more emphasis on mystical guitar driven psychedelia. Propelled by the huge MTV hits “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman,” the album also featured other classics like the title track and the propulsive “My Wave.”

Superunknown – Superunknown (1994)

The band also honed their penchant for extreme pessimism with the beautiful downers “The Day I Tried To Live,” “Like Suicide” and the very heavy “Mailman” and “4th of July.” Continue reading

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Watch Collector’s Notebook: Gianni Agnelli rocking an Omega PloProf

The late, great Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli (1921-2003), head of Fiat for decades, eventual part owner of Ferrari and longtime chairman of the Juventus soccer club, is rightly regarded as a true men’s style icon. From his pioneering mix of high and low in his day-to-day fashion — work boots with a finely tailored suit, denim shirts and jeans with an ascot — to his signature wristwatch-over-the-cuff look, Agnelli was man of unique and cutting edge personal style.

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Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that Gianni Agnelli began sporting the massive Omega Ploprof diving watch during his vacations and more casual moments in the 1970s. The very avant-garde asymmetrical case design must have appealed to the industrialist in him, as well as its eye-catchingly oversized dimensions. The Ploprof was also engineered to be a true “wrist machine” and not just another wristwatch so wearing one couldn’t help but make a statement, something Agnelli always like to do. A keen yachtsman, the Ploprof’s bona fides as a rugged professional dive watch and a timepiece of superior water resistance must have also appealed to Agnelli’s adventurous nature.

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It’s definitely cool that such a patrician, elegant figure could rock a beast like the PloProf and so effortlessly, as well. I never would have thunk it but then these pics don’t lie. Chalk another one up to the maestro of bespoke personal fashion. He certainly anticipated our current culture’s fascination with high-low attire and bold personal statements. But maybe don’t try wearing your PloProf outside your shirt cuff. After all, there was only one Gianni Agnelli and no matter how much of his ingenious, seemingly effortless élan has worked its way into our current sense of fine gentlemanly style some of his signature moves remain impervious being copied. Simply put, you can borrow from Agnelli but you can’t be Agnelli. So rock your Ploprof, old or new, however you see fit and make it part of your own look. You’ll always know you’re in very good company.

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tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — May selection

Well it’s the merry month of May already so time to get in the spring swing with something special — an uncommon 1970s Breitling reference 7806 Navitimer from my personal collection. What makes this vintage Navitimer special, you ask, other than being a fine example of Breitling’s legendary aviator’s computing watch? Well, the 7806 has an unusual movement under the hood: a seldom seen Valjoux 7740 rather than the traditional Venus 178 of nearly all other earlier Navi models.

BreitlingNavi7806-move3 copy

The manual wind 7740 is an odd duck in that it is essentially a Heuer/Breitling/Hamilton Chronomatic cal 11/12 but without the autowind mechanism (not sure how these wound up being branded “Valjoux 7740” but I guess that is a story for another day). Also unusual is the placement of the constant seconds sub-register hand at “6” while the hour counter is at “9” and the minute counter at “3,” as well as a small red date placed between “4” and “5,” another first for a Navitimer. My surmise is that the 7740 was tapped to be one of the replacements for the venerable Venus 178 in Breitling’s manual 3-register chronographs for some or other reason, along with the non-date Valjoux 7736, as you see these calibers start to appear with corresponding revised model references in the early 70s.

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All that technical talk aside, this mid-1970s Navi features gorgeously patinated Tritium luminous figures on its “Big Eye” Twin Jet logo dial, colorful red slide rule accents and an oversized 41mm all-steel case in excellent condition. That gives this beautiful vintage watch great presence and panache, as well as a being a model you’re not likely to see on someone else’s wrist. It’s just the kind of interesting, low production piece that gets the attention of fellow watch collectors in general and vintage Breitling collectors in specific. Just back from a full overhaul, this is a functional tool watch for timing fast feats on land or air and from a vintage marque I actually think is underrated considering the prices being fetched by more obscure brands. So take a good look and see of you don’t want to add this classic reverse panda chrono to your collection. With this beautiful and uncommon Breitling Navitimer on your wrist, the sky’s the limit!

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Check out the complete ad with many more pictures and complete condition report over at the always hopping Omega Forum’s Private Sales CornerON HOLD

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tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — April selection

Up for sale this tail end of April is a super cool and fairly uncommon 1990s TAG-Heuer reference CS3111 “Carrera 1964 Re-Edition” manual wind chronograph featuring a beautiful black dial with original lightly patinated Tritium luminous. Released in 1996, the 1964 Re-Edition Carreras were significant in that they represented an important acknowledgment by the modern TAG-Heuer group of their glory days in the 60s and 70s when they were simply Heuer and made sporting chronographs of the highest quality, often particularly utilized in motorsports. One might even go so far as to say that by mining its storied past and creating an exacting tribute to the original Carrera it led TAG-Heuer directly to their vintage-inspired renaissance that continues to this day.

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All that intriguing history aside, this fine neo-vintage chronograph is definitely a stunner in the here and now. Faithful in nearly every way to the original versions, this all-steel screw back watch features the classic Carrera-sized 36mm wide case with its iconic long, angled lugs. The black dial — these 1964 Re-Editions also came in silver but the black is the sexier version, IMO — features fine white contrast printing for the decimal track and engine-turned black sub-registers, as well as an inverted pie pan outer silver minute track. The original Tritium luminous has acquired a lovely ivory patina through the years on both the dial and the perfectly matching, uniquely Heuer-shaped hands.

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Under the hood is the legendary Lemania cal. 1873 chronograph movement — essentially the same movement that has powered Omega’s Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch from 1968 on — beautifully finished by Heuer with what appears to be rhodium plating and sporting 18 jewels. This robust caliber is a worthy successor to the venerable Valjoux 72 movement that powered the original 1960s three-register Carreras and all chrono functions are super crisp with timekeeping and power reserve excellent. Complimenting this racing-inspired watch beautifully is a modern shell cordovan rally strap, which also has this model’s genuine Heuer-signed “B” buckle installed.

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Running like a top and costing a fraction of what an original vintage black manual Carrera would run you these days, this CS3111 Re-Edition is top quality genuine 60s style at an affordable price. Snap it up, strap it on… and go!

Check out the full ad with many more pictures and complete condition report over at the very Heuer-centric Chronocentric ChronoTrader Forum.  ON HOLD

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What we’re listening to — Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose

A brief, shining 1970s phenomenon, the Florida family act Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose were essentially a two-hit wonder. Featuring very tight pop production and wonderfully controlled yet gritty lead vocals from Eddie Cornelius the quartet cut the incredibly catchy, string-heavy classic R&B pop single “Too Late To Turn Back Now” in 1972. Showcasing the band’s excellent lyrical dexterity that acted as a hook of its own — “I believe, I believe, I believe I’m falling in love!” — “Too Late” charted at #2 on the US Pop charts, outdoing its R&B status by three positions.

Their eponymous debut album also featured the Booker-T & the MGs-inspired “Treat Her Like A Lady”, a nicely funky story song with a moral about how to get the babes by being a gentleman. If it wasn’t exactly the political consciousness of Curtis Mayfield or Sly & The Family Stone, “Treat Her Like a Lady” was still on the right side of the moral equation and a propulsively danceable aural delight. It made it to # 3 on the Pop charts but only #20 for R&B, confirming that the band’s true niche was more Top 40 than true Funk or Soul.

If they never again reached those giddy heights, the band still had some good music tucked away on their LPs. “Don’t Ever Be Lonely (A Poor Little Fool Like Me)” is a sweetly catchy self-pitying number in the Tyrone Davis mold (sans the great TD’s Chicago-by-way-of-the-Deep-South soulfulness)…

…and “Big Time Lover,” the standout title track from their second album, played the reformed ladies man card just right, another fine entry in the long tradition of Rock and R&B “I used to run around ’til I met you, baby” cuts.

Though the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose fizzled out just as quickly as they hit the big time, with both brothers Eddie and Carter finding very different religious callings later in the 70s, the  songs they left behind are still a candy colored pleasure to listen to. Caught in a zone of pre-disco and scrubbed-clean Soul the band’s better efforts are simple, enjoyably well-executed pop records with a pleasing R&B veneer. And sometimes, in an age where modern R&B vocalists and production values can be at once cruder and more histrionic, that kind of clean, straight forward attack to making a 3-minute single can come across as mighty refreshing. I highly recommend picking up their greatest hits, The Story of Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. Just as much as their trademark gaudy leisure suits they’re a 70s footnote but a damn enjoyable one.

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Watch Collector’s Notebook: The Keepers — Rolex 6240 Daytona

When you get to a certain level as a wristwatch collector/enthusiast you may find yourself test driving a lot of different watches but keeping relatively few of them long term. This sort of restlessness isn’t uncommon — many of us are looking to replicate the thrill of acquisition that we felt more frequently when we were just starting out in the hobby and all was new to us. But these newer infatuations — and even old ones — can be fleeting as our tastes evolve. And obviously financial circumstances can dictate selling off pieces just as much as falling out of love with a watch. So I wanted to talk about the watches that are in my Keeper category rather than those that simply come and go and how and why they stay there year after year. These are the pieces that I would be most loathe to covert into cash whatever their current or future value. They’re the watches that I enjoy, wear and that have pride of place in my collection. In other words, they’re not going anywhere if I can help it because they’re what I feel makes my collection uniquely mine.

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I’ll begin this new series of personal reflections on my keepers pretty much at the top — with my mid-1960s Rolex reference 6240 Cosmograph Daytona. Picking one’s favorite watch is like picking one’s favorite song. There’s never really one top spot just a select few all-time greats that you keep coming back to. For me, this Daytona is one of those evergreen classics that always puts a smile on my face. Typical of what makes Vintage Rolex so seductive as a pursuit, the 6240 has a lot of subtle nuances and details that all add up to make it a special watch. The reference is the first true Oyster chronograph produced by Rolex with not only a bigger screw down crown than its predecessors but also screw down pushers to prevent the wearer from accidentally engaging them when in the water. This latter safety feature marked a sea change in chronograph design and is still found on Rolex’s modern Daytonas, as well as other competitors’ sport chronographs like AP’s non-Offshore Royal Oak and Vacheron’s Overseas.

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My example has an early serial # for the 6240 reference at 1.2 million, which dates it to circa 1965, the model’s debut year. And it is also delightfully period correct, with the original shorter “stubby” screwed pushers, original Mark I black acrylic UPH bezel and the correct type of sub register hands (note the difference between the thin constant seconds and the thicker hour and minute counter hands). The case shows wear but not any polish, just how I like my watches and a pretty uncommon bonus, as the custom back in the day was regular polishings at service to “refresh” the watch. As you can see the dial does not have the word Oyster on it despite the big water resistant upgrades in the 6240. Very soon screw down pusher models would have Oyster printed on their dials but in true Rolex fashion the early generation 6240s tend not to, as Rolex was keen to get the new improved Daytona out there and simply used pump pusher dials early on. There is also the theory that these non-Oyster 6240s might have started life as Paul Newman-dialed models but were swapped out by dealers anxious to get rid of that then-unpopular style and move their merchandise. Due to the sheer frequency of the non-Oyster dials — both small and large DAYTONA fonts — occurring exclusively in the earlier serial number ranges this seems unlikely to me. Also note that at this early date there are no Sigma symbols surrounding the T SWISS T nomenclature below the “6” counter. This addition, making a bigger deal out of the already extant white gold markers on Rolex dials, would come later in the 60s.

CosmoWrst-2 copy

Dial condition is paramount on the list of criteria that I use to judge a watch and this silver panda dial is essentially perfect with the fragile luminous dots all intact and having a lovely matching patina with the hour and minute hands. This generation of dial with the small Daytona printed in the top quadrant and not in red above the hour counter is also interesting in that there is a lacquer coat on top of the sunburst finish. This dial finishing process was abandoned by Rolex on later production models like the 6263 and 6265, the Oyster successors of the short run 6240, and on this dial it leads to a pearlescent quality with a glowing, subtle rainbow effect at certain angles like mother of pearl or petroleum floating on water that I find very unusual and attractive.

Stock photo from watchonista.com

Stock photo from watchonista.com

Inside the watch is of course a redoubtable Valjoux 72 manual wind column wheel movement. Now, these Rolex Valjoux 72 chronos are sometimes bashed for using such a ubiquitous movement while paradoxically they also have their use by Rolex highlighted to jack up the prices of other Val. 72 chronos (“Sure it’s a Wittnauer but the movement is the same as in the Rolex Daytona!”). But to say that the Valjoux 72 in a Rolex Daytona is the same as those found in so many other chronographs of the 1960s is not really accurate. Rolex by this time was using their own proprietary balance incorporating a Breguet hairspring and microstella screws for finer regulation and greater accuracy and robustness. This is why Rolex Valjoux 72 iterations go through a dizzying array of caliber designations in a relatively short time. From the time Rolex began tinkering with the balance in the early 60s, you’ll find that the stamp changes from simply 72 (or VZ if much earlier) to 72A, 72B, 722, 722-1 and eventually 727 in the early 1970s. Most experts feel that the 6240 could have come with the 72B, 722 or 722-1 and mine has a 72B, which for me fits the early serial number, as it is the oldest variation in that sequence.

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So all that backstory accounted for why is this Daytona a keeper for me? Well, for one thing it’s a relatively rare reference as far as Cosmographs go, perhaps the third most uncommon model reference behind the extremely short run ref. 6262 pump pusher model and maybe the pump 6264. It’s certainly the rarest screw pusher model. And since it is also the first screw pusher Rolex chronograph that also makes it a bit special, as it represents a significant technological innovation in chronograph design. Obviously I love the look — it’s very clean and mid-60s with the simple, elegant bar markers and elongated stick hands. The way the black acrylic Tachy insert plays off against the black subdials is magic, not to mention that shimmering quality that the silver sunburst dial has due to the lacquer coat. At 37mm it’s a perfect size in my estimation, fit for any occasion casual or formal, and it’s also in all-original condition. And frankly it’s a premier Rolex Grail-type watch to other collectors, a prestigious reference that is simply difficult to come by in the watch world and a true blue chipper seemingly immune to the whims of fad or fashion. Because let’s be honest — status is not inconsequential to the pieces we choose to keep in our collections, whether we think we’ve found a sleeper or whether we’re buying into an established hierarchy of elite watches. Fair or not, the Rolex Daytona is widely considered the king of vintage chronographs and the 6240 is right up there with anything that isn’t a PN or Killey.

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Lastly, with the honest admission that money is always a part of the equation, when I bought the watch I felt I paid a small fortune because for me it was. But it was right after the bubble had burst post-Revolution in mid-2009 (not to mention post-housing bubble) and actually Daytona prices were a bit soft. Since then they have more than recovered and lately they seem to have gone bananas again, as with so many nice vintage mechanical chronographs. So on the one hand it remains a solid investment and on the other I probably couldn’t afford to buy it again. It was a stretch nine years ago but nothing like the stretch it would be now and I’d have a hard time justifying spending that kind of money on one watch, no matter how fantastic. So I’m happy to have bought it when I did even though it was still a hell of a lot of money at the time.

CosmoWrst-3 copy

All these factors add up to the sum total of why I keep any watch in my permanent collection: beauty and aesthetic appeal first; then desirability and overall importance within the watch world; and then monetary considerations. For me, this 6240 Daytona Cosmograph also marks a milestone in my collecting life where I saw a watch from my ultimate wish list and converted it into something I actually owned and could wear anytime I wanted. It still gives me a thrill every time I see it, wind it up & strap it on and I still feel a sense of accomplishment as a watch collector by having it in my collection. And isn’t that really be the definition of a Keeper?

VCOverseasDeepStream-1 copy 2

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — February selection

I consider myself a true vintage watch guy so it’s not often that I offer a modern watch… but when I do it’s a stunner. And so it is to start February with this amazing Vacheron Constantin Overseas “Deep Stream” Automatic. This gorgeous and avant-garde discontinued modern classic comes as a full set with complete boxes, open papers & VC passport, tags, USB stick user’s manual and two great straps — classy crocodile and sporty rubber.

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This limited production Deep Stream version of the second generation Overseas line from the storied house of Vacheron is characterized by a sunburst finished anthracite gray dial that changes tone in different light & a sexy titanium bezel that contrasts with the 42mm stainless steel case. The dial also has handsome stylized white gold quarter-Arabics, as well as sword and dagger-style hands, both of which feature strong Super Luminova luminous elements. Along with its 150 meters of water resistance that makes this a genuine tool watch, albeit an extraordinarily elegant and distinctive one, suitable for either a day’s fishing or a proper yacht race.

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As the new Gen III Overseas with in-house movement, scaled down case & more conventional styling cues comes online this year after its intro at Basel 2016 there is already a lot of love being shown for these more aggressive, macho Gen II Overseas models. I’m sure the debate about which model is better looking will only intensify over time. But one thing’s for sure: Vacheron won’t be making any more of this one so grab it while you can!

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Check out the complete ad over at RolexForums.com’s Non-Rolex Classifieds section, as well as other select sales corners, for a full condition report and many more pictures. ON HOLD

BigCountry

Earworm of the day — Flame Of The West by Big Country

This old Big Country song from their remarkable Steeltown album way back in 1984 has been going through my head on repeat to start 2017. The late, great Stuart Adamson certainly had a way with a socially conscience anthem.

Aside from the more charismatic elements of the subject it definitely reminds me of someone today. Can’t quite put my finger on it but it’ll come to me, I’m sure…

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tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — December selection

You know December’s finally arrived when the air has gotten genuinely cold and the Holidays are just around the corner. And as long as we’ve all got visions of beautiful gifts on our minds it’s probably not a bad thing that I have an abolsutely gorgeous Rolex on offer this month. An uncommon transitional Datejust with old-style acrylic crystal and beautifully warm Tritium luminous but with the high-beat, quickset date caliber 3035 under the hood, this circa 1979 reference 16030 is pretty much the best of both worlds — old school, classic good looks with the functionality of a more user friendly, more accurate movement than previous Datejust models.

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Even better than its technical sophistication is the absolutely fantastic silver-gray dial, a metallic marvel that changes from gunmetal gray to pure silver depending upon the angle. It’s essentially flawless after all these years and looks amazing on the wrist. And with its timeless 36mm case size and Rolex-signature “Castellated” engine-turned bezel, this all-steel stunner can be worn with a suit or a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, making it an ideal daily driver.

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Add to that its really nice tight and long period Rolex USA Jubilee bracelet and the overall Excellent vintage condition of the watch and this transitional 16030 makes for the perfect stocking stuffer for that special someone. Even if that special someone turns out to be you.

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Check out the full ad with complete condition report and many more pictures over at Vintage Rolex Forum’s Market section. ON HOLD

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Earworm of the day — It’s All In My Mind by Teenage Fanclub

There are bands that are really good but that are destined either by bad luck or the fickle tastes of the music-buying public to never quite make it to the top. Professionally accomplished, critically acclaimed, yes, but big sellers, never. Teenage Fanclub is one of those bands. The Scottish group started full of promise way back in 1990 and has released just under a dozen albums. They’ve seen critical success based on an enchanting reworking of the power pop of the past from their key influence, Big Star, mixed with folk rock textures and angelic harmonies inspired by the Byrds. They’ve seen big label contracts and heavy cross Atlantic buzz. But they’ve never seen big sales, as their sort of classic soft rock was just completely out of step with the prevailing trends in pop during their peak years.

Which is a shame because a song like “It’s All In My Mind” from 2005’s Man-Made is simply a stunner with insanely catchy hooks that make you want to hear it over and over. Unashamedly pretty but leavened somewhat by a sardonic, mature, bittersweet feel to the lyrics, “It’s All In My Mind” is an excellent jumping off point to get to know Teenage Fanclub. And after hearing this near-perfect single you’ll likely want to explore more of their back catalog, as I did. What you’ll find is many more beautiful tracks, once again proving that mass market success in music is not at all correlative to quality or excellence. But then sometimes it’s nice to be one of the select few in on a secret like Teenage Fanclub that’s hiding in plain sight.