Charlatans : Songs From The Other Side

Great singles band’s patchy B-sides collection...

There’s a bit in ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’, where one of the villains

ponders the nature of archaeology. You take something that’s empirically

worthless, he says, like a ten dollar watch, bury it for 2,000 years,

and then when someone digs it up, it’s priceless. So it is that we turn to

‘Songs From The Other Side’, a collection of B-sides fromThe Charlatans

seven-year stint at Beggars Banquet. A retrospective excavation to see how

time has treated the ten dollar watch that is, essentially, their songwriting.

True, it’s not been 2,000 years, but priceless ‘Songs From The Other

Side’ isn’t. What we have here instead is a selection of songs that divide

fairly neatly into three sections, each a revealing historical insight into

what was fleetingly musically fashionable in the 1990s. Until 1993The Charlies were Stone Roses fans trying to write ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, but

sounding like The Bluetones (‘Happen To Die’). Enlisting super-hippy

producer Steve Hillage in 1994, they brought out their dark and heavy

grooves (‘Stir It Up’, ‘Backroom Window’). And for the next three years, the

groove, pretty much unendingly, continued, with touches of – [a][/a] in the


It’s the bare bones of a story, obviously. The Charlatans are a popular

group for a number reasons (to recap: they give it 110%, all the time,

they’ve got a singer whose enthusiasm is undampened by the years, they are,

how could you forget, ‘doggged by tragedy’, they are, by and large, a good

singles band), and that’s what fleshes out their tale – it’s just that you

can’t find many of those qualities present here.

To deduce what we can from what’s present, instead you’d have to draw the

conclusion that until about 1997, The Charlatans found it difficult enough

to write A-sides, never mind B-sides, and concentrated on stodgy

atmosphere-heavy material which couldn’t be any more difficult to consume if

you were told to eat it. Things did get drastically better, happily, with

the likes of ‘Don’t Need A Gun’, ‘Title Fight’ and ‘Clean Up Kid’, but the

moral of ‘Songs From The Other Side’ would seem to be that, rather than

repackaging them and trying to sell them again, sometimes it’s really rather

better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Still – here’s to the next 1,998 years.

John Robinson