The Charlatans

Average Sex: The Victoria, London

London’s Average Sex signed off their first UK tour at East London’s Victoria this past Friday night. Having warmed up for us at our 8th birthday just over 2 weeks ago, we were salivating at the thought of a tour hardened band returning home.

In lead guitarist Sam O’Donovan, they have a king hook maker. Whether it’s The Strokes, Beach Boys, Ramones, or The Charlatans, he can turn his hand to the lot. On ‘U Suck’, he taps into Television and adds the destruction of punk to back mercurial front woman Laetitia Bocquet. Much like Mozza and Marr, he is fuelling the fire of Bocquet for the most part, but, on ‘Dump’ and ‘Ugly Strangers’, his licks step out of the darkness to star.

It is impossible though, to watch Average Sex and not be in awe of Bocquet. Her ability to method act each songs’ narrative is joyous. Whether it’s the hysteria of ‘We’re Done’, the wry venom of ‘Erotomania’ or the raw emotion of ‘My Dead Friend’, she gives the audience something different, almost every verse.

Together, not forgetting their slick rhythm section (Louise Earwaker / Finnigan Kidd / Jamie Graeme), they are band who seem to just get it. It’s not enough to just have great songs, you have to mean it, and Average Sex become their songs on stage. This is integrity will lead them to bigger stages sooner rather than later.

*Image courtesy of The Gig Slut

Tim Burgess and The Anytime Minutes: 100 Club

For Independent Venue Week, The Charlatans front man embarked on a tour around the UK's iconic small venues. For his London date, he came to Oxford Street's 100 Club. As any Charlatan fan will attest, they've been on a roll since 2015's 'Modern Nature' album. So, to do anything live to top that was never on the cards, was it?

Backed by members of the brilliant Average Sex (signed to Tim's O Genesis label), something magical happened this past Wednesday. Especially when Laetitia, the singer from Average Sex entered the affray. Tim and Laetitia became the post-punk Marvin and Tammi and, as a result, created a party for the ages.

'Clutching Insignificance', usually a bewitching take on the archetype Charlatans sound, became a different beast. Vocally, Laetitia is a behemoth. Her fire and 60s soul enriched the song to spark dancing both on and off stage.

Anyone who didn't fall in love with their partner or a past love all over again on 'One Last Kiss' is dead inside. On record, its a crisp take on classic Phil Spector and Brian Wilson records and with Average Sex in tow, heightened the the icons sound.

Then, just when your thinking this party has nothing left to give, they dropped a cover version Culture Club's 'Time (Clock of the Heart). The happiness oozing from the stage had an almost desperation to it. It had to escape, it had to infect the lives of others. The bleakness of the society had to be washed away.

Charlatans guitarist Mark Collins popped in for a stripped back punk version of 'North Country Boy' before the party went out with a bang on Burgess' 2003 classic 'Oh My Corazon'. After this gig, the roll the Charlatans are on is going to have to pick up the pace to surpass this.

At the time of writing this review, the news has announced the tragic death of legendary comedian Jeremy Hardy. I would like to dedicate the happiness this gig and writing about this gig to Jeremy. He has given me so many great nights out and in on Radio 4. You'll be sorely missed.

The Charlatans – Different Days

When The Charlatans released their 13th studio album ‘Different Days’ two weeks ago, few could have expected them to top their last offering ‘Modern Nature’. Beset with emotion, ‘Modern Nature’ was highly charged after the tragic death of drummer Jon Brookes and every emotive point felt that bit extra charged for fans.

Perhaps, the emotional stress ‘Modern Nature’ caused led to Charlatans becoming a collective of mates this time round (Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, Kurt Wagner, Sharon Horgan, Ian Rankin, Pete Sailsbury, Anton Newcombe, Gillian Gilbert & Stephen Morris all feature). In doing so, they have managed to mesh their mod-cum-soul-indie side with their more experimental New Order production side for the first time in their career.

This is witnessed tentatively on the opener ‘Hey Sunrise’ but really kicks in on the mixed trio ‘Different Days’, ‘Future Tense’ and ‘Plastic Machinery’. ‘Different Days’ (featuring comedy treasure Sharon Horgan on backing vocals), boasts big booming piano notes and sun drenched production which, comes in layer by layer. It’s such a seamless blend of the two, it allows them throw in a deranged guitar solo to counter any good will.

Immediately following, are the poetic tones of Rebus novelist Ian Rankin. Steeped in intensity, Rankin delivers a tale of hope, discovery and doubt before bursting into the big evolving single ‘Plastic Machinery.

Of the many guest appearances, its Johnny Marr that will leave you reeling. Marr should be the anointed the king of youth culture as he reenergises The Charlatans with spirit of ‘Tellin Stories’ on ‘Different Days’, ‘Plastic Machinery and ‘Not Forgotten’. On ‘Different Days’, their archetypal Hammond organ gets a run out and then, something magical happens. Marr splices in a guitar part reminiscent of ‘How Soon Is Now’ to provide the albums one true moment of ecstasy.

It would be negligent to ignore album closer ‘Spinning Out’. Co-written with long-time friend Paul Weller, this defiant ballad is an astounding end to the album. As the song drifts towards Weller’s luscious entrance, Burgess utters the most resonant lyrics of the album:

“Trying to get back there again / trying to get back there again with you”

On an album which saw their saw a mature approach to their mid-90s hedonism sound, this sense of love of and hope towards their mortality is far more rewarding than the usual fear and doubt.