Release Date: Jan 26, 2015
Record label: BMG
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, British Trad Rock
The Charlatans have been serving up a melting pot of Hammond organ-laced indie for over 25 years now. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you have to admire their longevity, especially in the face of two tragedies hanging over them. First came the sudden departure of keyboardist Rob Collins in a car accident, yet they didn’t falter, they hit back hard; their next album – Tellin’ Stories from 1996 – is largely acknowledged to be their best amongst a count that now reaches a dozen after the 11th – the disappointing Who We Touch – arrived in 2010.
Wow, well, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the appearance of this mini-gem, after all. If you wanted to reach for the epithet in the lexicon best to sum up the Charlatans (modern UK version; not ‘60s US model), it would be “survivor”. This is the band who dealt with the death of their founder keyboard player Rob Collins (in a car crash) by producing the powerful, self-confident Telling’ Stories—a UK number one album, which brought together some of the best songs and performances of their career.
The Charlatans are no strangers to loss. Keyboardist Rob Collins died during the recording of their 1997 masterwork Tellin' Stories, and 17 years later they lost founding member Jon Brookes to brain cancer. His absence hangs over 2015's Modern Nature, the first record the band has made since Brookes' diagnosis in 2010, but the Charlatans aren't the sort to dwell in darkness.
From Madchester opportunists to middling Britpop act, the Charlatans have never quite escaped their status as the nearly men of indie rock. Modern Nature, the band’s first album since the death of drummer Jon Brookes 18 months ago, marks a new phase in their career. It’s a drifting, contemplative set infused with the spirit of Curtis Mayfield and chill-out rooms in 1990s clubs in the early hours.
Longevity is an increasingly rare feat in music. So it's something of an achievement for The Charlatans to be celebrating the release of their twelfth record. Indeed it will be 25 years this October since the band put out their debut Some Friendly, and while they've embarked on a rollercoaster ride encompassing every possible emotion over the interim period, their continued existence serves as a haughty slap in the face for anyone guilty of writing them off.
On the Charlatans' 12th album, Modern Nature, they've enlisted no fewer than three drummers — Pete Salisbury (the Verve), Stephen Morris (New Order) and Gabriel Gurnsey (Factory Floor) — to create a fluid release, a chilled-out, soulful take on the Charlatans' psychedelic sound complemented by muted horns and jazzy keys. "Talking in Tones" sets the pace and overall vibe of the album, sneaking in smoothly and treading lightly. "Keep Enough" is equally suave, with its funk flow and injections of soaring strings bolstering lyrics like, "Feels like the start," "Remember where you were yesterday" and the uplifting refrain of "Keep it up.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The Charlatans tend to be the go-to-band whenever someone is creating a list for the most underrated Britpop bands. Their longevity, however, somehow outdoes that of the likes of Oasis and Blur. Over the years, they've been all over the place as they managed to go from exploring Madchester and Britpop to even experimenting with reggae.
For 27 years, tragedy has dogged and driven The Charlatans. When keyboardist Rob Collins died in a car crash in 1996, they created 1997’s comeback masterpiece ‘Tellin’ Stories’. Now, in the wake of drummer Jon Brookes’ death in 2013, their survival instinct has kicked in again. Twelfth album ‘Modern Nature’ focuses on classic Charlies attributes: airy, melodic, Hammond organ-heavy, sizably foonk-eh.
In the wake of drummer Jon Brookes' tragic and untimely death at the age of 44 from brain cancer, it is of course tempting to read between the lines contained within the grooves of Modern Nature, The Charlatans' 12th album, for any implicit or explicit comments from the band on their fallen comrade. Is it there when Tim Burgess sings, "I feel strengthened by your presence" on opener 'Talking In Tones', or should a song with a title like 'Let The Good Times Be Never Ending' be taken as a defiant stand in the face of such horrible circumstances? This isn't the first time The Charlatans have dedicated an album to a departed member. 1997's Tellin' Stories was released after the death of keyboardist Rob Collins in car crash during the recording of the album and now, as then, The Charlatans find themselves regrouping and consolidating their skills both as musicians and as a tight personal unit.
Oh! Seemingly a favourite song title word for Tim Burgess in recent years. For me it’s as in, ‘Oh. My. God’. If I, along with probably Tim Burgess himself, read another Charlatans piece evoking them as “survivors”, I’ll probably scream, vomit, or scream so hard I vomit. So, you won’t ….