Teenage Fanclub emerged from the Glasgow C86 scene. Their sound is reminiscent of West Coast bands like the Beach Boys and the Byrds, and their seventies counterparts Big Star. Originally a noisy and chaotic band, their first album A Catholic Education, released in 1990 on Paperhouse, is largely atypical of their later sound, with the possible exception of "Everything Flows". The King, their next album, received critical reviews; it consisted of a number of self-confessedly shambolic guitar thrashes and a cover of Madonna's "Like a Virgin".
Their next album, Bandwagonesque, released on Creation Records in the UK, and Geffen in the US, brought Teenage Fanclub a measure of commercial success. Bandwagonesque was more deliberately constructed, the hooks became stronger, the guitar riffs were brought under control, and the harmony vocals took shape. Bandwagonesque won Spin magazine's 1991 end-of-year poll for best album, beating Nirvana's Nevermind, their Creation stablemates My Bloody Valentine's album Loveless, and R.E.M.'s Out of Time.
The subsequent, Thirteen, suffered scathing reviews on release. Brendan O'Hare left Teenage Fanclub during this period because of "musical differences", to be replaced by Paul Quinn (formerly of the Soup Dragons).
Grand Prix, Teenage Fanclub's fifth album, was both a critical and commercial success in the UK, becoming their first top ten album. Released at the height of Britpop it almost certainly benefited from being released on the Creation records label. In the United States however the band failed to regain the ground that Thirteen had lost them. Around this time Liam Gallagher of labelmates Oasis called the band "the second best band in the world" — second only to Oasis.
Songs from Northern Britain followed Grand Prix and built on the former's success. It became their highest charting release in the UK and contained their biggest hit single to date, "Ain't That Enough".
The follow-up album, Howdy!, released on Columbia Records in the UK after the demise of Creation, continued the sound of Songs from Northern Britain. Francis Macdonald rejoined as the drummer for the tour supporting the album after Quinn left the band. Quinn went on to form The Primary 5.
In 2002, they released Words of Wisdom and Hope with cult icon Jad Fair of Half Japanese.
Their final release on a Sony label, Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds – A Short Cut to Teenage Fanclub, collected the Fanclub's best songs along with three new songs (one from each member).
Their next album, Man-Made, was released on 2 May 2005, on the band's own PeMa label. Man-Made was recorded in Chicago in 2004, and produced by John McEntire of Tortoise.
In 2006, the band held two special concerts (in London and Glasgow) playing their 1991 album Bandwagonesque in its entirety.
The band began work on their ninth album in August 2008, booking an initial three weeks at Leeders Farm recording studio in Norfolk. The album is called Shadows and is released on the band's own PeMa label. It became available in Europe, Australasia and Japan on 31 May 2010, and was released by Merge Records in North America on 8 June 2010. Gerard Love is also working on a solo album for release on Geographic backed by musicians including Bob Kildea, Tom Crossley, Dave McGowan and Brendan O'Hare.
Teenage Fanclub are influenced by Big Star and Orange Juice. They performed a cover of Orange Juice's "Rip It Up" with Edwyn Collins. In December 2010, at the ATP Bowlie 2 music festival, they performed as the backing band for Edwyn Collins. Teenage Fanclub were regularly name-checked by Kurt Cobain in interviews and described by him as "the best band in the world". Fanart Banner