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Melting Pot

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Album Review

When the Charlatans emerged with "The Only One I Know" in 1991, there were countless bands similar to them, but they immediately catapulted to the forefront of the Madchester scene, standing alongside such icons as the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays. They had such success because they not only could ride the groove, like so many Madchester bands, but they could also write great songs, drawing partially from the '60s-saturated Roses and the Rolling Stones. These were the gifts that made them among the greatest British survivors of their time, rolling through tragedy and stylistic changes to amass a terrific little body of work — one that was modern enough to play in clubs (they were the first rock band to embrace the Chemical Brothers, after all) but classicist enough to stand the test of time. Occasionally, they could pull all this together throughout the course of a proper album — particularly on 1995's The Charlatans and 1997's masterpiece Tellin' Stories — but usually they shined their brightest on singles. And this means that the 1998 singles compilation Melting Pot shines bright among their catalog, making a strong argument for their talents. Over the course of 17 songs (including such nominal rarities as the U.S. version of "Sproston Green" and the Chemical's mix of "Patrol"), the singles unfurl at an intoxicating pace; some get by only on texture, but there are more than enough where the sound and song merge brilliant, highlighted by the lazy Jaggerisms of "Can't Get Out of Bed," the raucous "Jesus Hairdo," "Just Lookin'," the hard dark funk of "One to Another," the blissful "North Country Boy" and, of course, "The Only One I Know," a record that transcends its baggy times to stand as a pop classic. And if this doesn't necessarily prove that they shine like geniuses, Melting Pot does prove they were a damn fine band, whose best moments hold their own alongside bigger stars from either side of the ocean.


Formed: 1989 in Manchester, England

Genre: Alternative

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

No relation to the British alternative rock band of the same name, the San Francisco-based Charlatans have been widely credited as starting the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic scene. In retrospect, their contribution was more of a social one, planting seeds of a rock counterculture with their unconventional, at times outrageous dress and attitudes. While they occasionally delved into guitar distortion and fractured, stoned songwriting, the Charlatans' music was rooted in good-time jug band blues, not...
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