“Indian Rope” came out in 1990. I’ll just let that sink in for a while.
Regardless of what you feel about The Charlatans, you have to admire their tenacity. They’ve survived the rise and fall of Britpop and God only knows what else the industry has thrown at them. They’ve survived the inevitable “too much too soon” of a number one debut album. They’ve suffered the tragic loss of band members. And they’re still going. You could almost forgive them for coasting a bit – knock out a quick album, trouser the cash and have a nice holiday. Well ladies and gentlemen, I’m not sure that’s the way it happened. “Different Days” sounds like a band who still feel they have something to prove.
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It’s lucky 13 for The Charlatans – this is their 13th album since “Some Friendly” shot to the UK No 1 spot in 1990. Only singer Tim Burgess and bassist Martin Blunt remain, but there are still echoes of that debut. Anyone remember “Indie-Dance”? The Charlatans do, but they’ve refined it to a slinky, sinewy groove. “There Will Be Chances” will be very popular at student discos on Thursday nights all across the UK by now and “Plastic Machinery” (with its rather Liam Gallagher-y vocal stylings) will make even the most reticent, middle aged fan jump about (a bit). “The Same House” throws a bit of a curved ball – over a clanking piano and a burbling synth, Burgess sings in an uncharacteristic monotone until the chorus – “We live in the same house, we can all wear matching shoes”. It’s like New Order, but a playful New Order. Imagine that.
It’s the less obvious tracks that set the album apart and the album is bookended by a pair of outstanding pieces. The opener, “Hey Sunrise” has Burgess crooning over strummed acoustic guitars and the mood is almost psychedelic. “Spinning Out” – a collaboration with Paul Weller – closes “Different Days”. Soulful and strong, this tune alone shows that the band are looking for ways to stretch themselves.
Maybe it’s the quality of the guest musicians who have made the band up their game. On drums we have Pete Salisbury of The Verve, New Order’s Stephen Morris and A Certain Ratio’s Donald Johnson. Johnny Marr adds his guitar and impressive haircut to three tracks and the aforementioned Paul Weller pops in to play on one. Even crime novelist Ian Rankin gets his dulcet tones on a tune. They’ve been integrated seamlessly into the material and enhance rather than dominate it.
When a band has been around as long as they have, making good, solid albums and always being a presence on the music scene, they become very easy to overlook. Always around. Always three quarters of the way up festival bills. Dependable. You think you know what they’re going to sound like. “Different Days” is an album that might challenge your preconceptions of The Charlatans.
“Different Days” is out now via BMG
Track-listing is as follows…
The Forgotten One
There Will Be Chances
The Same House
Lets Go Together
The Setting Sun – Instrumental