The Charlatans - Different Days

by Jeff Penczak Rating:10 Release Date:2017-05-26

Shit, to be honest, I thought these guys packed it in twenty years ago, and with the tragic deaths of half the original members, I can understand how difficult it would be to carry on. So it looks like I only missed about a dozen albums, but boy is this the one to catch up with! The jury was out in my house when they burst on the scene (27 years ago today [14 May 1990], as it happens) with their blatant Stone Roses ripoff, ‘The Only One I Know’. But lads will be lads and labels will be greedy, so any chance to hop on the (Britpop) bandwagon and move a few units was overlooked with the sheer genius of that seemingly-a-lifetime-ago opening salvo. Unfortunately, the band never caught on in America (where they were unceremoniously forced to change their name with that ridiculous “UK” appendage ), the albums sank unnoticed, and the singles weren’t even released over there. So that’s my excuse for treating their latest like the long lost return of the prodigal son. That and it also happens to be one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year. And, it's a nice 50th birthday present for Tim Burgess, to boot!

Burgess’ smoky, languid vocals were always the band’s focal (and strong) point and it’s taken on an even sexier lustre throughout. There’s a touch of Ian McCulloch and Richard Butler lurking within…elegant, yet sedate, and always in service to the tunes, which are killer. Mark Collins’ opens the set with a gentle acoustic strum over Tony Rodgers’ flowing keyboard fills, ushering ‘Hey Sunrise’ into your heart like the warm, new day dawning the title suggests. ‘Solutions’ is the first of many singalongs and if it’s not the leadoff single, it should have been. Hell, this might even wake them up in America!

The title track could be considered a nostalgic look back to those “different” dancehall Britpoppy daze, but they’ve mellowed with age and experience, so the grooves are smoother and the arrangements peppier, even if they do verge on “boy band” cuteness. Overall points are deducted for the annoyingly distracting and completely unnecessary (albeit mercifully short) sound byte drop-ins (‘Future Tense’ and ‘The Forgotten One’), but ‘Plastic Machinery’ saves the day, sounding, as it does, like an Oasis outtake. Your thrill quotient will vary, but since this reviewer is of the not always popular opinion that Our Kid & Co. were the best thing to happen to British music in the last quarter century, giving a moribund industry the kick in the arse it needed, this stadium standout should deservedly top the charts before the summer arrives.

It’s also great to hear that they haven’t lost their psychedelic touch, and with Brian Jonestown Massacre front man Anton Newcombe’s swirling organ swooshing all over ‘Not Forgotten’, it’s as if the past 25 years never happened and it’s 1990 all over again. And while I was busy resuscitating myself from that Rip Van Winkle snooze that kept me away from their back catalogue, I was jumping up and down, full of “happy happy joy joy” to discern a distinct New Order-styled dance beat shuffling in and out of a few tracks. I’m glad that they (Charlatans) didn’t totally turn their backs on their illustrious past and decided to toss in a few happy feet booty shakers, only to discover that “The Other Two” (Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert) are on board to up the party atmosphere and help turn this album into the Earth-shattering event it deserves to be. (The Verve’s drummer Peter Salisbury continues to help out, trading the drum seat with Morris throughout.) Oh, and did I mention that those incredibly infectious melodies on the aforementioned killer thrillers ‘Solutions” and ‘Plastic Machinery’ were no doubt due in no small part to the brilliant chiming guitar strumming of one John Martin Maher, late of a small musical parish called The Smiths. And as long as we’re name dropping here, how about that over the top, funky body swerve of ‘Over Again’, courtesy A Certain Ratio percussionist Donald Johnson. I also love the lads’ night out, Madness-inspired shout along ‘Let’s Go Together’. But wait, there’s more. Suggesting they have the best damn address book in music, they’ve coaxed Paul Weller to not only co-write ‘Spinning Out’ but to drop by the studio to add piano and his distinctive raspy tonsils to the dreamy ballad.

So, a guess list to die for (no obnoxious, insensitive pun intended), a return to roots while simultaneously stretching out to shake shake shake their booties, exquisite harmonies, killer melodies, funk, Britpop, dreamy ballads, psychedelic embellishments, singalong wall-rattlers… Excited? Damn right I am. This shit’s da bombdiggity!

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