Friday, 27 March 2015

REVIEW: The Charlatans - 'Modern Nature' (BMG Chrysalis Records)

There aren't many bands who have been through as much turmoil as The Charlatans, and there are even fewer that have managed to survive. Yet after over 25 years after their formation, they are back with one of their strongest pieces of work to date. ‘Modern Nature’ is their first album since 2010's 'Who We Touch' and the first to be released since the sad death of drummer Jon Brookes in 2012. But rather than dwell on their bad luck, the band have once again triumphed over tragedy with a stellar set of tracks coloured with melancholic sunshine, soul vibes and subtle shades of funk. In their own words: “songs that made us happy.”

The eleven tracks that make up their 12th album mark something of a new chapter for this remarkable group, and feature contributions from the band’s three temporary drummers - Peter Salisbury ex of The Verve, Stephen Morris of New Order and Gabriel Gurnsey of Factory Floor. It begins in brooding fashion with the ghostly power of 'Talking In Tones', a contrast to the hazy sunshine that radiates from the sweet West Coast soul of the definite grower 'So Oh'. Breezy funk verses and a joyous chorus light up the glorious 'Come Home Baby', while a sumptuous guitar hook and swooning strings make for a stunning combination on the gorgeous Curtis Mayfield-esque 'Keep Enough', as do the baggy vibes and haunting harmonies of the infectious 'In The Tall Grass'. It's hard not to fall in love with the mysterious and beautiful 'Emilie', another helping of classic Charlatans that easily stands alongside any of their best loved songs. 

Complete with a killer bassline and an urgent disco rhythm, album centrepiece 'Let The Good Times Be Never Ending' makes you realise that this record isn't about mourning, more about celebrating life. That is with the exception of the desolate 'I Want You To Know', which casts a dark mood over the album and finds The Charlatans at their most emotionally intense. The mood is lifted back up as 'Lean In' strides with a vibrant swagger before the wonderfully uplifting 'Trouble Understanding' delivers something that's cathartic and introspective in equal measures. 'Lot To Say' is a sweet helping of psychedelic soul that concludes the record in blissful fashion, with Tim Burgess's vocal playing a key part in a truly captivating arrangement.

Packed full of the things that make The Charlatans so special, while also picking up new influences and moving forwards with great optimism, 'Modern Nature' is a joy to listen to. More proof that grief can inspire absolute magic. 9/10

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