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.