Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Charlatans UK - Simpatico.

Year: 2006
Genre: Britpop

Highlight Tracks: "Blackened Blue Eyes", "City Of The Dead", "When The Lights Go Out In London"
Weak Tracks: "Glory Glory"

This is an extremely strong outing from britpop veterans (and my personal favs) The Charlatans UK. Over the course of their 18 year career they have never put out a weak album; not even when they were tinkering with their trademark sound. Simpatico. is definitely one of their tinker albums and it works swimmingly.

The album blasts out of the gate with the only traditional britpop numbers to be found here. "Blackened Blue Eyes" is a terrific Charlatans single that gets the listener bobbing along while Tim Burgess belts out lyrics that are dark and ambiguous. "NYC (There's No Need To Stop)" is a great late night sing-along anthem for the endless party that is the illusion of New York City.

With their two barn-burners out of the way the band slow it down for the rest of the album. This is the Charlatans like you've never heard them before. With a slower tempo the band explore their craft by building a series of songs that dazzle in their rhythm and sonics. The majority of the album falls somewhere between two-tone ska and The Clash in influence but never completely crosses the line into those previously perfected territories. The Charlatans walk a tight-rope between inspiration and imitation like seasoned acrobats by adding their own unique twist the whole time.

Simpatico. is a very atmospheric album but deceptively so. If you slightly modify the volume in the upward direction the album becomes a great foot-stomper with its deep bass lines and unstoppable percussion. This album has got cool rhythm to spare. The keyboards and piano playing are front and center once again but in the form of more direct piano compositions rather than as a rhythm instrument as on some of their previous albums.

Tim Burgess' vocals are pitch perfect on every track on Simpatico. He has always been a competent front man, but I think that on this album he has found a perfect middle-space between the many directions he has taken his vocal style over the years. Now as a slightly older performer he has the mastery to dip into each of those past styles when needed without letting any one eclipse his excellent natural singing voice.

"City of the Dead" is my favorite track on the album. The name is a nod to The Clash while it sounds like it would be right at home next to the Specials' "Ghost Town" or Madness' "Night Boat to Cairo". It is an incredibly different kind of song for The Charlatans to be playing but somehow they make it sound current and completely natural. It is the most exciting song on their best album in years.

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