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The Charlatans UK
Sanctuary Records Group

Forget everything you know about The Charlatans. For a moment set aside all the prejudices and feelings that you've developed for the band over the past half decade or so, and get ready to fall in love with them all over again. While the Curtis Mayfield style soul of Wonderland and the slightly off-center eccentric beauty of Up At The Lake were great albums for established fans of the band, they were not highly accessible to the uninitiated… and as a result, the band was relegated to a strangely distant position in the Britpop world. Not trendy enough to be the flavor of the week, but certainly not repetitive and washed up so as to be disregarded entirely.

With Simpatico, The Charlatans regain a bit of their rock and roll edginess, while continuing to evolve and incorporate new musical styles into their ever-growing range of musicality. The album kicks off in high-Charlatans style with "Blackened Blue Eyes", a pounding track filled with piano and sharp guitars that readily recalls the halcyon days of the band. This track is super melodic and filled to the brim with a brilliant energy that will certainly get your blood pumping and ready for the goodness that is to come. "NYC (No Need To Stop)" is an involving disco track, complete with groovy bass lines, up-beat drums and a disco call. Despite all that, it is still a good track that nicely showcases Tim Burgess' vocal range and the band's clean writing style.

Then the album begins to make a weird turn… and the songs begin to take on a reggae feel, marking the next musical experimentation in the band's history. "For Your Entertainment" slides between disco drums and reggae beats flawlessly, with Burgess chanting away and exploring new rhythms with his lyrical lines. "Dead Man's Eyes" straightens things out a bit, coming back to a more traditional Charlatans feel, but incorporating some great stops and drum breaks. "City Of The Dead" could just as easily been on a Madness record, or maybe even a by-product of The Selector. The track has a moody vocal harmony line that adds an eerie touch to the light ska beat and organ flourishes and creates an amazing bit of atmosphere.

The band straightens things out a bit more on "When The Lights Go Out In London", but then suddenly the song sounds like it could have come from an early Police record. Reggae guitars sit nicely atop a driving rhythm and a wildly melodic harmonica line… Only to return to straight up ska on "The Architect", a song that is a slow burning groove laced with solid rhythm lines and even a bit of theremin to add flavor. "Glory Glory" finds the band slowing things down for an introspective look at love and loss, with slide guitars that create an almost country feel over the beautifully picked acoustic guitars and hollow drumming. The album wraps with the cool vibe of "Sunset & Vine", an instrumental track that works in elements from all segments of the band's history to create a sonic palette that is intriguing and engrossing all at once.

While many have given The Charlatans up as lost over the past few years - and records - the release of Simpatico proves to the doubting crowd that the band still has what it takes to rock out old-school, while building in new textures to their sound. Finally, we have been given a record that can easily bring new blood into the fold of fans, without distancing the old fans or changing the band into something that it is not. Simply put, Simpatico is probably the most Charlatans-ish Charlatans record in half a decade, bringing back so much of what we've always loved the band for… poppy tunes with plenty of brilliant keyboard and guitars over a solid rhythmic groove that leads the supercharged vocals of Tim Burgess to a higher plain.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Blackened Blue Eyes
2. NYC (No Need To Stop)
3. For Your Entertainment
4. Dead Man's Eyes
5. Muddy Ground
6. City Of The Dead
7. Road To Paradise
8. When The Lights Go Out In London
9. The Architect
10. Glory Glory
11. Sunset & Vine

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