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You Cross My Path

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Album Review

Why did the Charlatans give away You Cross My Path on the internet? Because they needed a way to announce that they were back, to grab the attention of onetime fans who had long ago stopped paying attention to the group. Not that the Charlatans ever cratered, losing all their listeners, but rather they sank into a pleasant retro groove, emphasizing their fondness for the Stones instead of the modernist dance rhythms that helped bring them into the spotlight early in the '90s. You Cross My Path acts as a corrective as the band revs up the rhythms and takes risks in their production, all without abandoning the classicist structures they've relied upon since their eponymous 1995 record. That album struck a good balance between modern and retro, with the subsequent Tellin' Stories tipping the balance toward retro, and You Cross My Path follows its blueprint, bringing back that blend of contemporary and classic, perhaps even gently favoring the modern as this does emphasize sound over song. The Charlatans hardly abandon the songwriting craft they've steadily honed over the course of a decade — the songs aren't growers, they're immediate — but what is compelling is the variety of sounds, how "Oh! Vanity" extrapolates a Booker T. & the MG's groove, how "Missing Beats (Of a Generation)" is a circular electronic chant, how "Bad Days" appropriates a bit of a chilly New Order pulse which "Mis-Takes" explores even further creating an icy synthesized vibe that uncannily sounds like a new wave relic without losing the Charlatans signature loose-limbed groove. That's the truly surprising thing about You Cross My Path — the Charlatans are taking risks again without losing their identity. If anything, they're reconnecting to the spirit of their initial series of albums, which is surely the reason why this album first appeared for free on the web: it was the easiest and best way for the Charlatans to demonstrate to all fans, whether they were forgotten or devoted, that they were once again operating at their full powers.


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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