Us and Us Only Album reviews.
Release Date: 10.19.99
Record label: uni/mca
What's In a Name?
by: bill aicher
The average American's concept of Britpop is a vision filled with images of Radiohead, Oasis, and Blur. With the release of Us and Us Only, The Charlatans UK (Charlatans everywhere else except the US) have shown that they too are a contender in this musical battle for recognition. And while Tim Burgess's lyrics may never reach the artistic incomprehensibility of Thom Yorke's, and nor will the band members become as recognizable as the often-despisable Gallagher brothers, The Charlatans UK continue to climb up the Britpop ladder.
Us and Us Only is the fifth album from The Charlatans UK. It is also their first album on MCA, after breaking from indie label Beggar's Banquet. The album continue the natural progression of the band while at the same time dealing with the death of their keyboardist, who was replaced by pianist Tony Rogers.
Building melodies around keyboards has always been a standard tactic with The Charlatans UK, and this album is no different. However, this time around other influences become apparent as well. Such is the case with the album's opener "Forever." Influences of the UK's big beat scene are unmistakably present. Sampled strings, a driving bassline, and a steady drum beat slowly build until Burgess's vocals enter and the song takes full form. Sound layers build, combine, and recede creating the sonic force necessary to introduce this album.
Music varies in style throughout the album, running the gamut of haunting mental discharges to earnest acoustic ballads. "Good Witch / Bad Witch 3" is a Stone-Roses-esque blend of Air-meets-Death in Vegas lamentation which leaves the listener at a state of meditative mental stasis, only to be thrown from this stasis by the opening acoustic chords of "Impossible."
Throughout the album the band continues to shine. Bob Dylan influences are obvious in some of the acoustic songs, especially "A House is Not a Home" to the point where it would not be surprising if the man himself stepped in for a verse or two. Yet other songs place layers upon layers, incorporating harmonicas, synths, organs, and pianos taking pop-rock music and transcending its boundaries.
The Charlatans UK started out with their own vein of rock, and have continued to stay within that vein. They tread their own ground progressing at their own rate, oftentimes leaving the rest jof the pack behind. While Oasis has continued to remake the same album time and time again and Radiohead progresses so much as to change style on every album, The Charlatans UK bring back their previous styles and build upon them. Fans of earlier works will be pleased by this album, and for those who are looking for Britpop that is staying up with the times, Us and Us Only is the answer.
They have at times been called too hip for alt.rock fans as well as not progressive enough for fans of Britpop innovation, but nevertheless this album is an excellent work - one of their best. It will also be the album to introduce them to an audience larger than their fellow countrymen and those Britpop junkies who have already realized the band's talent. Hopefully this new audience will give them the appreciation they deserve.