The Charlatans: The Charlatans (2021 Vinyl Reissue) (Beggars Arkive) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Charlatans

The Charlatans (2021 Vinyl Reissue)

Beggars Arkive

Oct 08, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The Charlatans have kept going as long as they have partly due to their adaptability. Since the early ’90s they’ve followed their instincts and incrementally evolved record by record, whether doing so put them in or out of sync with the pop moment. Their eponymous fourth album was the point where everything fully clicked, and it remains a benchmark for the band.

In his memoir, Telling Stories, Charlatans singer Tim Burgess recalls shooting the cover photo for “Crashin’ In,” which would become the first single off The Charlatans. In it, the band are sitting on a curb in a fish-eye view with a Hammond X-5 organ at their feet. Burgess recalls the idea was “borrowed from the cover of Beastie Boys’ seminal album Check Your Head!, a favorite of ours at the time.” The vintage vibes and roadworn rock riffs that fuel The Charlatans made for natural comparisons to The Rolling Stones, but less apparent at the time was how an influence like the Beasties was in there, too, lending an undercurrent of heavy-footed hip-hop rhythm and a dollop of light-hearted bravado.

The Charlatans were never ones for overhauling their image like some bands, but they were actively seeking rejuvenation as they began to write the songs gathered here, and they found it. The album, according to Burgess, “was originally titled First Shag in Ages,” taken from a chapter in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, the movie for which would come out the following year and help plant the flag for the Britpop era. The Charlatans didn’t cynically set out to capitalize on Britpop, but the newfound swagger and ’60s-informed songwriting of The Charlatans made them a natural fit, and surely opened some doors for them at the time.

There are no missteps on The Charlatans. Between the taunting Nah-nah, nah-nah’s of the otherwise wordless opener “Nine Acre Court” and the pulsing credit roll of “Thank You” stand 10 of their best—11 counting “Chemical Risk” (a remix of “Toothache”) added to this vinyl reissue. The first half in particular builds momentum, from the exuberant “Feeling Holy” and lazy teenage riot of “Just Lookin’” to the surefooted grooves of “Crashin’ In” and “Bullet Comes.” It all comes to a head with another g-dropper, which became one of their biggest singles to date, “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over,” a peppy cousin of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” brimming over with Burgess’ coolspeak non-sequiturs (“You look good when your heart is on fire/It’s a matter of taste, yeah”).

After that peak the album mellows a little but doesn’t weaken. “Tell Everyone” is a warm strumming embrace, “Toothache” lean and mean, and “No Fiction” a copacetic comedown before the rousing send-off of “See It Through.” The Charlatans is one of those records that naturally fits together piece by piece, as if there was no other shape it could have taken. It would also turn out to be the last complete picture of the band’s classic line-up, as keyboardist and rogue heart of The Charlatans’ sound, Rob Collins, would be tragically lost in a car accident in the midst of recording their next and biggest selling album, Tellin’ Stories. Inadvertently then, The Charlatans captures both a band and an era in its fertile prime, seizing the day with enduring style. (

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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