Featured Album: Simpatico by The Charlatans (UK)
THE CHARLATANS (UK): SIMPATICO
WHO: The Brits that won’t quit release ninth studio album in 17 years. And best one in five.
WHAT: The Charlatans – and full disclosure, I consider them good friends – have a career-stalling habit of following each creative leap with an artistic step back. If 2001’s Wonderland (reviewed here) marked a successful middle-aged move from rock to soul, 2004’s Up At The Lake so dismally failed to deliver on that promise that it did not even see release in the USA. Fortunately, Simpatico not only shows the quintet moving into an ever more relaxed but easily emotive soulful haze, keeping the riffs simple, the melodies pure and affording the arrangements all the breathing room in the world, but it also finds them moving into reggae vibes with (surprising?) authenticity. ‘City Of The Dead’ may be copped from an old Clash title – and that might be why Tim Burgess effects a mighty good impersonation of Bob Marley – but ‘Sunset and Vine’ is such a decidedly hip-sounding dub instrumental that no casual listener could possibly recognize it as The Charlatans. Growing old in a rock group never sounded so graceful.
WHY: Some people think The Charlatans should have called it a day before the Stone Roses’ second coming. The group themselves – and there aren’t many lovelier people to have stuck around this business – know too many grown men and women who would never forgive them for succumbing so easily. I have had some of the best days and nights of my life at Charlatans shows and, thanks to Simpatico’s confident yet casual maturity, I can now look forward to many more.
WORDS: “We’re not here to educate, we only want to stay up late.” From ‘NYC (There’s No Need To Stop).’ Hey, no one said they were angels.
WINNERS: A trio of tributes to the major Anglo-American capitals: the Clash-rap ‘NYC (There’s No Need To Stop),’ the gliding bass-driven ballad ‘When The Lights Go Out In London,’ and the cinematic conclusion ‘Sunset and Vine,’ the lack of vocals for which should not disguise Tim Burgess’ input. (The Charlatans’ singer now lives in LA.)
WHINE: That its patchy predecessor Up At The Lake and Tim Burgess’ equally unbalanced solo album before that may well prevent Simpatico getting its fair share.
WEB: The Charlatans’ web site tries hard not to come across all corporate – but you still have to register if you want to stream the new album. Watch the video for debut single and opening song ‘Blackened Blue Eyes’ instead.
WINE: Tim, Mark, Jon, Martin and Tony will rarely so no to a tipple or two. Simpatico’s shimmery, summery vibes are positively Balearic, so let’s go for a white Spanish wine: the CASTRO BREY ALBARIÑO from RÍAS BAIXAS will sip nicely alongside a Simpatico sunset.