It’s incredible to think that it’s been 25 years since I first heard ‘The Only One I Know’ by The Charlatans. Along with the likes of The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets they were at the forefront of the Madchester sound that, at the time seemed to be fighting a lone battle in the charts with the pop of Stock, Aitken & Waterman.
Fast forward to 2015 and Rick Astley, Sonia and The Reynolds Girls are nowhere to be seen, The Charlatans are still here with latest album Modern Nature. Their first album in 5 years, and first since the untimely death of founding member Jon Brookes, is also their highest charting album since Wonderland in 2001.
And, I have to say, it’s easy to see why. An easy mix of soul and their earlier Madchester sound, the heavy Hammond organ sounds alongside Tim Burgess’ relaxed vocal give the album a sunset vibe that even transfers itself to the cover artwork. The album kicks off with the fantastic, low-key ‘Talking in Tones’. A nice chilled out groove in contrast to the more upbeat, sing along ‘So Oh’ that follows it. The lush production and harmonies on ‘Come Home Baby’ contrasts with the edgy guitar of ‘Keep Enough’ but they sit well next to each other.
‘In The Tall Grass’ and the 6 and a half minutes of ‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’ are possibly the two standout tracks on the album. Both seem to have their roots in 1970’s soul, the former in particular putting me in mind of Curtis Mayfield. In between these two is the catchy ‘Emilie’. One of the poppier tracks on the album.
‘I Need You To Know’ and ‘Lean In’ are two of the more guitar-driven tracks, with the former in particular being absolutely fantastic. Going back to the 70s soul vibe is ‘Trouble Understanding’ with the album closing with the upbeat ‘Lot To Say’.
Following the death of Brookes, Burgess had said that the band wanted to go into the studio and record songs that made them happy. In doing so, they’ve managed to put together a collection of tunes that are among the best they’ve ever done, putting Modern Nature on a par with Tellin’ Stories, my favourite Charlatans album.
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