The Charlatans UK | Modern Nature (BMG)

The-Charlatans 75This really doesn’t have the feel of a 12th album; rather, it is more like a debut in its assuredness.

Modern Nature is the 12th album from England’s The Charlatans. This fact is brought up to eventually make a point, and goodness me I hope it makes sense. Most bands that manage to stick around for 12 albums, or for 25+ years, rarely make albums in their later years that are anything but passable. By that point in their career, most times they produce mostly passable, respectable music to give them a reason for a tour and sometimes to make good on a record contract obligation. Through their 27-year span, The Charlatans have been extremely consistent in making pretty solid albums, with 1997’s Tellin’ Stories being their career zenith. They initially got knocked for being baggy Stone Roses wannabes coming out of the Madchester scene but later migrated more towards the Britpop scene of the mid to late 1990s. 1997’s brilliant Tellin’ Stories unfortunately shares something tragic in common with Modern Nature. During the recording of Tellin Stories, they lost keyboardist Rob Collins in a car accident. They took that tragedy and persevered on producing their best album of their entire career. The band started work on their latest album in 2013, when drummer Jon Brookes passed away due to brain cancer. Again, they took this latest tragedy in stride and went on to produce easily their best album since Tellin’ Stories and can be looked at as the next best album in their catalog.

Modern Nature is a very cohesive-sounding album with a very strong 1970s-era funk and soul groove through most of it. This soul vibe doesn’t completely dominate the album but certainly helps tie things together and gives it some flavor by weaving in and out of tracks. 2010’s Who We Touch was a little haphazard in shifting styles and Modern Nature feels none of those challenges. A soulful vibe should not be confused with a mellow or too far laidback-sounding record. In fact, this is a fantastic, upbeat album that strives and wholeheartedly succeeds in making you feel good. Given their latest tragedy and their past history with it, this is a great affirming album that shows the passing or departure of a key member doesn’t have to mean the end. This really doesn’t have the feel of a 12th album; rather, it is more like a debut in its assuredness. I hate to say that sometimes tragedy brings out the best in people, but in the case of The Charlatans, that rings true. They make a statement here. They are telling you they will not fall from this, so youd better pay attention. B+ | Michael Koehler

Standout tracks: Talking In Tones, So Oh, Come Home Baby, Keep Enough, Let the Good Times Be Never Ending

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