Album Review: The Charlatans – Modern Nature

By on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Words by Harry Gold

Bridging the gap between Baggy and Britpop in the early ‘90s, the Charlatans were one of many bands that rode the wave of success of the Manchester music scene that developed after the emergence of the Hacienda as a ‘superclub’ in the late ‘80s. Despite offering their own take on the psychedelic swagger of Madchester sound, the easiest way to describe the group’s 1990 debut LP ‘Some Friendly’ would be “The Stone Roses with an organ player”, offering an arguably more accessible and poppy sound. Re-emerging in 2015, The Charlatans seem to have completely remolded themselves, with vocalist Tim Burgess’ Gallagher-esque drawl having seemingly dissipated into something more versatile and wide reaching. The music also appears more expansive, sounding surprisingly cosmopolitan for a group hailing from Northwich.

Stripped down to its bare bones, ‘Modern Nature’ can be described as a record by a West Coast psychedelic rock band with electronic and acid house undertones. This, interestingly, would be also have been a fitting way to describe the band at the height of their success in the ‘90s, making ‘Modern Nature’ a massive sonic departure, but also a remoulding of old influences. While ‘Some Friendly’ was a testament to staying indoors and taking drugs at shady nightclubs, the album as a whole feels like the rediscovery of a world outside of raving and clubbing, a welcome contrast to draw with convoluted modern pop music.

Opening track ‘Talking in Tones’ marks a departure from the electronic groove-led energy of the band’s earlier material, the group appearing to be looking around and appreciating the world around them more rather than focussing exclusively on themselves and their immediate surroundings. The main musical influences are immediately noticeable, with the shadow of the Doors being omnipresent throughout the record, especially on album track ‘Let the Good Times Be Never Ending’. Paired with a drum sound reminiscent of New Order’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’, the group’s Stephen Morris being one of the guest drummers playing on the LP, the band seamlessly merge together sounds originally created decades apart.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLEGsayAXKw[/youtube]

Recent single ‘So Oh’ hints at more contemporary psychedelic wanderings, with the thought of Tame Impala immediately springing to the fore. There are moments when such sunniness seems almost unconvincing coming from a group that have probably only experienced a heat wave once in their lives, living in an otherwise gloomy part of Britain. Beneath the vibrant exterior, the creation of ‘Modern Nature’ feels as though it has occurred alongside the daunting realization that the group has outgrown their old youthful energy and need to “grow up”. The album, as a result, feels like a result of these blind meanderings, a transitory moment for the band as songwriters and musicians, but also as people.

‘Modern Nature’ doesn’t, however, feel like a step into the future, rather a celebration of the past. After the passing of drummer Jon Brookes in 2013, The Charlatans seem to have garnered a new appreciation for life, allowing them to see not only the world around them, but also themselves, in a completely different light. Featuring members of the Verve, Dexy’s and Factory Floor, the record is a celebration of all that has come before, with musicians born generations apart pulling together, marking ‘Modern Nature’ as a key point in the groups career, encapsulating their past into one record so they can move forward into the future.

8/10

‘Modern Nature’, the Charlatans’ 12th studio album to date, is out now on BMG / Chrysalis. The band have lined up a UK tour in March, with many of the dates already sold out.

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