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Album Review

Seven albums in, and the Charlatans haven't so much settled into a groove as they've settled into a style. They long ago carved out a niche between classic British rock and post-Madchester British dance, and that's what made their music seem fresh for several different generations — they represented whatever you wanted to see within their distinctly British blend. In that sense, they are indeed proving themselves to be like the Stones, who subtly incorporated modern trends into the sound, sometimes so seamlessly you didn't realize they were branching out. The Charlatans work from the same template, gradually expanding their sonic texture in terms of modern dance trends, without ever abandoning their rock base. They occasionally emphasize one side over another — Us and Us Only played to the rock side of the fence, while Wonderland is very heavy on groove and texture, a move that's strangely emphasized by Tim Burgess' unexpected reliance on a falsetto. This can mean that the songs fade into the background, but that often seems like an intentional move, since it happens so frequently throughout a record where the surface remains stylish and sleek. Still, that means there's not a whole lot to hold onto, although certain songs start to emerge upon repeated listens — "You're So Pretty - We're So Pretty" seduces with its minor-key swagger, "Love Is the Key" rocks convincingly, "I Just Can't Get Over Losing You" swings nicely. Even so, this winds up as simply a good, solid Charlatans record, despite the efforts to jazz things up with a heavier dancefloor quotient. That may seem like a slight, but a solid Charlatans record still satisfies, and can't quite be taken for granted just yet.


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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Wonderland, The Charlatans
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