REVIEW: The Charlatans – Modern Nature (BMG)


Tracklisting: Talking In Tones / So Oh / Come Home Baby / Keep Enough / In The Tall Grass / Emilie / Let The Good Times Be Never Ending / I Need You To Know / Lean In / Trouble Understanding / Lot To Say

Today I will play the new Charlatans album Modern Nature with all the trepidation consistent with someone exposed to the cod reggae nonsense of 9th album Simpatico way back in 2006. That was the last time I’d venture a listen of a new LP from the baggy/Madchester/Britpop [delete as applicable] survivors, so damaged have I become with their disastrous foray into Jamaican rhythms.

Headphones on, I embark upon a stroll into the crisply chilled air of a February morning, fingers entwine in a good luck knot as I recite a silent wish for a return to the glorious sounds of their heyday: the consolidation of their early toil in the shape of a self titled fourth album (1995), the Dylan-tingedUs and Us Only (1999) and the tragedy flecked masterpiece Tellin’ Stories (1997).

The woozy “Talking In Tones” seeps into my auditory system taking me off guard, sedate and organ led, its exquisite tempo desecrating the winter freeze that surrounds my skull. Hands thrust into deep wool lined pockets I sense a warming in my soul and a tingle of anticipation, could this be The Charlatans of my youth, returned invigorated?

I’m transported to Californian beaches as the hazy “So Oh” conjures thoughts of slo-mo summer frolics, bikinis and board shorts discarded as lithe bodies tumble through sun scorched waves. February begins to seem so distant, a dying planet in a galaxy of enflamed stars, a forgotten whisper amongst a chorus of celestial beauty.

As I continue my adventure through the desolate streets of my South London suburb littered with discarded mattresses and dog shit, the Hammond heavy “Come Home Baby” delivers a classic Charlatans chorus that shifts tone and tempo from frisky to full blown party as Tim Burgess celebrates a burgeoning romance with the effective “I can’t wait, don’t hesitate, let’s be together”. Despite the surrounding murk, I lift my eyes to the heavens and smile.

I break into a strut as the 70s funk of “Keep Enough” bursts into life transforming my tired winter coat into pimptastic leather. Slinky blaxploitation strings recall Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield whilst Burgess’ sultry drone evokes seedy pleasures at elicit rendezvous’. The equally groovy “In The Tall Grass”, driven forward by stabs of urgent Hammond, quickens my pace, straightens my back and sends me into an uncharacteristic swagger full of ego and determination before “Emilie” sends me into full Dickie Ashcroft Britpop mince with its elegant shuffle and transcendental chorus.

The six and a half minute centrepiece of Modern Nature, “Let The Good Times Be Never Ending” urges me to “slow down, we’ll get there sooner,”but it’s too late, I’ve hit the crescendo as a glorious chorus erupts from a sublime organ fuelled jam dispatching me to Shangri-La.

A merciful lull hits with the dark, foreboding “I Need You To Know” slackening my jaunt with a dense swirl of noise. The Charlatans are back to their genre warping, experimental best conjuring magic from the least likely of sources. As if to confirm my affirmation, “Lean In” drags glam rock riffs across a baggy template whilst Burgess drawls “It’s because we know just where we’re going”, a towering example of a journey not yet complete and a band reborn.

“Trouble Understanding” is one for the fans, a glance back at the road once travelled. With New Order’s Stephen Morris on drums and a gospel tinged finale this is The Charlatans on steroids, everything you’ve ever loved distilled into four minutes of majesty.

“Lot To Say” soundtracks the final stretch home in rather lacklustre style but by then I’m too exhausted to care, too exhilarated by what has come before to really listen. It’s a minor blip on a wondrous adventure with The Charlatans as uniquely compelling company.

Today I listened to the new Charlatans album Modern Nature. Today was a good day.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5




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