We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
A few years ago, the Charlatans seemed poised to disappear along with Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, and other remnants of the 1990 Madchester explosion. Last year, the band defied expectations by tossing off a swaggering single, “Can’t Get Out of Bed,” and Up to Our Hips, a sonically expansive record that was the sleeper of the year. On The Charlatans UK, the band proves itself the most rhythmically interesting and tastefully retro group to emerge from Manchester’s trippy scene. “Just When You’re Thinking Things Over” conjures “Sympathy for the Devil,” and the album’s songwriting, organ and guitar textures, and palpable narcissism evince a debt to the Stones. But the band’s supple groove is as influenced by German art-rockers Can as it is by the Stones or the Faces. Though its sound draws from the past, the group’s lyrical concerns are decidedly contemporary: Singer Tim Burgess observes the dystopia of modern England, dropping subtle references to post-Criminal Justice Act unrest. “I’m just lookin’ to see what I’m missing/You startin’ a riot,” he intones. “Crashin’ In” and “See It Through” are soaring tracks that display Rob Collins’ keyboard and Mark Collins’ guitar at their smartest, the former’s Hammond often taking the lead. Recorded only six months after the band’s last record, The Charlatans UK has the focus and pop immediacy necessary to stave off has-been status.