The Charlatans it ain’t – but their singer’s second album is sweetly affecting
The Tim Burgess of 2012, it has to be said, bears scant resemblance to the baggy flower-child of The Charlatans’ heyday. In the mid-’90s, Burgess was the chap the girls had pinned up on their bedroom wall, a dreamy cross between Ian Brown and Professor Brian Cox who’d taken all the drugs and had the goofy grin to prove it. Now, he’s sporting a shocking bleach-blond mop top, hanging out in Tottenham squats with stern electro group Factory Floor, and talking about how amazing anarcho-punks Crass were to anyone who’ll listen. Man, what happened to ‘Can’t Get Out Of Bed’?
Curiously, Burgess’ second solo album owes relatively little to either his past or his present. Forged out of a fandom-turned-friendship with Lambchop vocalist Kurt Wagner, it’s a country-rocky thing recorded at a studio in Nashville with help from Lambchop, Clem Snide and My Morning Jacket. Wagner wrote the lyrics, and you sense that if he was singing them in his cracked whimper, this would basically be a Lambchop record. Burgess’ rather slight Cheshire burr, conversely, sometimes struggles to find its feet among the sumptuous brass and gospel choirs. But when it does, ‘Oh No I Love You’ provides undemanding pleasure. ‘White’ mixes twinkling synths and perky ‘Up With People’ brass to tell the tale of a ruined love affair with unlikely cheer, while ‘The Great Outdoors Bitches’ is a gently yearning mix of electronic beats and sighing lap-steel that finds Burgess confessing, “Everywhere I look/Reminds me of you”.
Yes, his falsetto comes a bit unstuck on ‘The Economy’. And that things get emotionally harrowing on ‘A Case For Vinyl’ – a man surveying his romantic history through the filing of his record collection – is telling: this is not particularly heavyweight stuff. While we await a new Charlatans album, though, this is a sweet postcard from a man who still gives a shit about trying something new.