New album after keyboard players death for The Charlatans.
The Charlatans only seem to get more optimistic as every new tragedy strikes them. Having lost keyboard player Rob Collins in a 1996 car accident at the height of their fame, they now release this 12th album in the wake of their drummer Jon Brookes’ death from a brain tumour in 2013. Modern Nature is mellower and more contemplative than the tracks they’re best known for, but it’s not a record which suggests its creators – in particular, lead singer Tim Burgess – have been associated with.
Co-opting The Verve’s Pete Salisbury, New Order’s Stephen Morris and Factory Floor’s Gabe Gurnsey as stand-in drummers, the Northwich-formed group have adopted a more reflective, modest gait this time out. “I feel strengthened by your presence,” croons Burgess to an unknown friend or lover during the opening Talking In Tones, which sounds like the Byrds played through a breezy baggy-era filter.
The most upbeat moments on the record come at the start, including So Oh, a cheery wash of pealing guitar and Hammond organ, and the infectious positivity of Come Home Baby, its joyous choral call to a separated lover in times of strife one of the most Charlatans-sounding things here. The mood becomes more introspective after this, with the sauntering soul of Keep Enough, In The Tall Grass’s smoky jazz arrangement and Lots To Say’s twinkling acoustic balladry positioned alongside the vaguely disco-funk Let The Good Times Be Never Ending and straightforward indie-rocker Lean In. That they still exist is a wonder; that they create music this good is a joy.