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.