Swaggering survivors' best record yet...

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Charlatans : Wonderland

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Charlatans : Wonderland

The story so far: our five heroes have battled through towering adversity

(surely you don’t need their various crushing mishaps listed [I]again[/I]) to

become the most durable British rock band of the last 12 years. A brilliant

singles band. A terrific live proposition. And now a great album band, too.

Who’d have guessed they’d pull that last feat out of the locker this late in

the game? There can be few bands, past or present, who could use their

singer’s emigration to the other side of the world as the springboard to

creative rejuvenation, but that’s what’s happened here. With Tim Burgess now

living in LA, The Charlatans have been reborn. They have a new sound, a

warm, lush and funky noise powered by producer Danny Sabre’s sympathetic

programming alongside Tony Rogers’s bold keyboards, and they’ve created a

great party record with it.

We’re talking about an ecstasy and cocaine party, to be precise (it’s no

surprise that the album’s good times centrepiece ‘Ballad Of The Band’ was

originally entitled ‘Ianocce’…must we spell it out?) and the various mood

swings that any party fuelled by those chemicals involves.

There’s the brash, up for anything opening trio of ‘You’re So Pretty – We’re

So Pretty’, ‘Judas’ and ‘Love Is The Key’, the latter being the song Black Crowes

have been grasping at for so many years now. There’s the

soft-focus confessional lovers rock of ‘A Man Needs To Be Told’ (hee, hee)

and the quite beautiful My Bloody Valentine

play Memphis flutter of the

closing ‘Love To You’: not only an ambitious song, but also Burgess’ most

affecting vocal display to date.

There’s the brittle comedown self-awareness of ‘And If I Fall’ and ‘Right

On’, the pin-eyed lust of ‘Is It In You’ (‘Is it in you?’ gasps Tim, ‘I’m a

hunk of burning love”…ooh la,la!), the excellent Sly Stone

freak-out in

‘Ballad Of The Band’ ….it’s a big mental party. And in the middle of the

party Tim Burgess is dancing with his wife and singing love songs to her.

Quite often in a falsetto.

Yes, in a falsetto, although it?s more Curtis Mayfield (slightly too

obviously in ‘Wake Up’) than Barry Gibb. It suits him far more than the
Dylan affectations of ‘Us And Us Only’. When he?s not singing in falsetto –

as is the case for over half the album – he1s actually in the best form of

his career. This is Tim Burgess finally, really singing from the heart,

unselfconsciously and true. It’s great.

So let’s recap on how ‘Wonderland’ updates The Charlatans‘ story: An equally

light and heavy party record. A sunny new atmosphere. Good singing, good

sounds. Hmm. Seems their excellent tale still has some way to travel.

Ted Kessler