I can overlook the occasional disco drumming. I can overlook the
omitted reggae after building in us a need to hear it over the span
of the past two records. I can even forgive the overt lack of any
real "Madchester" sound, as we've all grown a bit older
and maybe a bit mellower. Luckily, even forgiving all these small
trespasses, I don't have to forgive anything about the new record
from The Charlatans (U.K.) and they have nothing to apologize
You Cross My Path is beautiful and filled with its
very own sublime perfection and the distinctive character of Tim
Burgess and Co.
From the opening slamming drums and brilliant melodies of "Oh
Vanity!" the record is awash in pure Charlatans' glory. This
song is catchy, relying heavily on a thundering drumbeat and catchy
pop hook that bends the ear ever closer. "Bad Days" changes
the groove, lays back a bit and works in some hearty soul, while mixing
in a bit of the disco drumming
it's okay, really. All of that
disappears on "Mis-Takes", a dark track that has a post-punk
flavor that has only before been hinted at from the band. The song
is sonically adventurous, falling on production to heighten the experience
of the song
Think early New Order (before the beep beep)
mixed with a bit of Gang Of Four and you'll have a good start
at understanding the glory. Later New Order is invoked on "The
Misbegotten", a track which trades all the previous Charlatans'
guitar flavor for a lead high-bass guitar and tons of synthesizers
if the track didn't fall between two Charlatans' songs, I'd have thought
it was [Bernard] Sumner and friends. The title track
ups the energy, once more falling back into post-punk territory, and
finds Burgess giving a fast-rap like he's never done before. This
track showcases the ever-growing abilities of this band, and their
penchant for re-inventing themselves in small bits with each album
The Charlatans have been one of the longest-lived bands coming out
of the the early 90's Manchester movement, and have survived because
of their unique adaptability and ability to force their own evolution.
The band returns to explore some of their collective roots on You
Cross My Path, turning an introspective and harsh eye on themselves.
"My Name Is Despair" is genuinely great proof of that self-inspection,
fusing the tenets begun by the post-punk bands of the late 1970s and
melding them with the band's own inimitable and ever-evolving sound,
creating an extraordinary album that should appeal not only to old
fans, but also to anyone who truly appreciates great, timeless music.
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