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Up to Our Hips

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Album Review

Having experienced initial fame and its retreat, the Charlatans (perhaps somewhat self-consciously) set out to create a series of classic-rock-inspired albums, fusing everything from Dylan and the Stones to whatever else caught their fancy. Up to Our Hips, the first result, was produced by Steve Hillage, who made a career ranging from wacked-out hippie ramblings in Gong to the clean, inspired synth/Krautrock surge suffusing his production for Simple Minds. One thing he contributed to the Charlatans was more active percussion. While Flood didn't hide the drums on Between, on "Come In Number 21" Brookes' work feels strong and punchy for the first time. While production was a touch more straightforward than on Between, Hillage otherwise let the Charlatans be the Charlatans; where changes are apparent, it's more in the name of atmosphere than attention-getting, especially on the echoed, rumbling funk instrumental "Feel Flows" (excellent Blunt bass and Rob Collins clavinet on this one). The band stretches with the lovely, acoustic stomp "Autograph"; Mark Collins' guitar work was, increasingly, a larger part of the band's sound than Rob Collins' Hammond, but both worked well together. The laid-back lead single "Can't Get Out of Bed"'s lazy Exile on Main Street vibe and the equally groovy "Patrol" and "Jesus Hairdo" showcased both of their work to good effect, especially on the breaks between chorus and verse. Rob Collins certainly still has his moments — witness the opening build to the title track, another great effort with Blunt. Burgess sounds his strongest yet; while his singing still lurks in the mix more than anything else, he never disappears entirely.

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Manchester, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

For many years, the Charlatans UK were perceived as the also-rans of Madchester, the group that didn't capture the Zeitgeist like the Stone Roses or the band that failed to match the mad genre-bending of the Happy Mondays. Of course, they were more traditional than either of their peers. Working from a Stonesy foundation, the Charlatans added dance-oriented rhythms and layers of swirling organs straight out of '60s psychedelia. At first, the Charlatans had great promise, and their initial singles...
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