21 May 2017

The Charlatans - Different Days

To be honest, I really did not think I would be reviewing the thirteenth album from the Charlatans.  When I looked at the last album 'Modern Nature' (our review linked here) I was very underwhelmed by the end result, it did not quite gel for me and I found it to be a little dull. This might seem like a strange way to start a review that has been offered to you in advance by a PR company, but I do think I owe the band, myself and the nature of this blog to be honest when it comes to any review, so it is best to be honest from the start. The other reason I mention this is that you will (hopefully) understand that any conclusion I come to on this review (and all the other reviews I have posted) is not bought (I never get paid for these), they always from my heart and will always be honest (even the Future of the Left one).  So, The Charlatans have come back after two years with 'Different Days' and the four piece have once again been joined by friends and colleagues on the drum stool (New Order's Stephen Morris, The Verve's Peter Salisbury, A Certain Ratio's Donald Johnson) and other guests along the way.  I do not want to list them all here, but it is an impressive list.  I am not expecting too much to be honest, but you never know when it comes to this band.  They have always had a knack of creating some great songs, but their albums never quite work out for me.  Now, I really have no idea what to expect here, but there is only one way to find out......

01 – Hey Sunshine

Opening this album is the gentle ‘Hey Sunrise’ which feels like the band have adopted a slight psychedelic approach on this album from the beginning.  They use acoustic guitars, the beautiful programming, a dose of modern dream-pop/indie which has been in vogue for a few years and one of the best performances I have heard from The Charlatans ever.  No, truly I mean that this opening has stunned me when I compare it to their other work (or the work of other bands from this year), it has such an emotional depth and the performance of all the artists on this song is beautiful.

02 – Solutions

Once again, The Charlatans are playing out of their skin in a way that I was not expecting after ‘Modern Nature’.  Solutions’ has a classic pop/indie combination that comes across as a mad hybrid of Joe Jackson & The War on Drugs having a bit of a jam, but it is embedded in their own style as well.  It is never going to be accused of being the most technical piece, but it can be the one that makes thousands of hearts melt when it is performed live.  It has a great progression on the verse, but if there was one fault, then it lies in the chorus.  It is slightly weak in comparison to the main riff and bridges, but it does not detract from the fact this is another very good number.  However, if they keep on creating great songs on this album, I will have to eat my hat.

03 – Different Days

A song that reflects on a failing relationship and how things can change very quickly, all placed out on one of those numbers that seems to sound like sunshine coming through a window in a dusty room.  Starting with a foreign accent (apologies, I am useless when it comes to languages that are not English and I would not want to cause offense by stating it was ‘X’ language), this song features backing vocals from Sharon Horgan, it has a beautiful hook in the chorus and it just keeps on give with each spin of the track. This song is a driving song, one that will make miles pass in minutes and journeys will feel shorter whilst it is playing.  It is a stunning song, one that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and it sound glorious!

04 – Future Tense

‘Future Tense’ is a short-spoken word piece that attaches to the end of ‘Different Days’ and it features the voice of Ian Rankin.  It is to the point, but it could have been kept on to the end of ‘Different Days’ and it would not have made a difference to the end result of this album.

05 – Plastic Machinery

‘Plastic Machinery’ is the second song on the album to feature guitars from Johnny Marr (the first was ‘Different Days’) and this was the first single to be released from the album.   It adds rock to their sound, its message is about being independent, to try to keep some form of self in this world where it seems as if the world can invade your home at a moment’s notice.  The sound of this song is beautiful, the strings, the drums, the bass is really good here (as it has been throughout the album), the guitars sound so fat and solid and the vocals are full of passion.  I can see why it was picked as a single, it gets your attention, it is not the best song on here, but it is still a great song.  At this point, I am wondering which rabbit hole I feel down to get to this place, but I am not complaining either as the music is brilliant.  So far, so good…..

06 – The Forgotten Ones

Another short-spoken word, this time by Kurt Wagner which acts as an introduction to ‘Not Forgotten’.  Once more, it could have been included on the next song and it would not have changed the result of the song.

07 – Not Forgotten

Another song featuring Johnny Marr, as well as the organ sounds of Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre.  This one feels like the road west has turned into a desert and the sun is starting to set.  It is an interesting song, one that has a wild side to the music and a sense of psychedelic added to the sound and it all drifts with effortless ease and style.  I love the way that this sounds, I love the fluid feeling of the music and it sounds brilliant.  It is an incredibly subtle song, one which grows with every spin of the record.

08 – There Will Be Chances

A song about how you are in control of your own destiny, but these answers might not be in the great beyond and might already around you.  To be honest, this is the first song on the album which does not met the high standard that this album sets itself.  The gentle sound of the record just passes me by, but it is not a bad number either.  ‘There Will Be Chances’ just happens to be in the shadow of giants on this album, this is something that happens a lot on records and it is cannot be helped - you are going to get filler songs.

09 – Over Again

With percussion from Donald Johnson of A Certain Ration and backing vocals from Nik Void of Factory Floor, this song has an indie disco feeling about it from the beginning which keeps going throughout the whole song.  It feels like it is 1992 once more, the world is on a trip and everything is going so well.  Usually I find this sort of track a little bit dull, it can be a bit passé when bands hark back to a sound from years ago.  But this one has something else about it, a modern touch to the sound that brings joy to the sound.  I really like this, it is a subtle beast that makes me smile.

10 – The Same House

Featuring Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris of The Other Two and New Order, this short song feels has a stop/start quality to the music and it is very repetitive in nature.  It is a short number, one that very nearly falls into the trap of outstaying its welcome if I am honest.  But it has a brilliant bit in the middle that clicks so well that you forget about the repetitive beginnings of the song, it is a strange song which I am still trying to figure out in my mind.

11 – Let’s Go Together

Another track which seems to be able to employ sunshine as its constant companion, with a psychedelic sound that makes the world a better place just for existing.  The band are back on top form once again on this number, making music that will bring rapture to fans both old and new, supplying a song that speaks of the need for companionship when you need to make a difficult choice.  I love the gentle nature of the music, the depth of the lyrics and the way everything combines in such a brilliant way – another quality number on this album.

12 – The Setting Sun

The penultimate number on this album is a short instrumental, it is under two minutes in length and it is another track which does not really do anything for me when played on its own.  But if you are playing the album in one go, it makes sense when it links in with the next song.  It is bringing the energy down for the finale and that makes sense, but much like the short-spoken word tracks earlier on the album it could have been absorbed by another track and made the same impact.

13 – Spinning Out

The finale of this album was co-wrote with Paul Weller, who also playing the piano and provides backing vocals for this track.  It is a daydream song, one which guides the album and listener back down to earth, with a slow and thoughtful tune that engages you withal the force of the gentlest caress of a lover.  It is about trying to reach a special place with a loved one who is distance and withdrawn, the thought of giving up is not apparent in this song as the band play with an emotional depth that smooth the wounded soul.  It does not end the album with a bang, but it ends the album perfectly.

Here is a photo of my hat (not my exact hat as it needs repair and slightly scruffy, this is a promotional image from Amazon) -

Tonight, I will be eating it with smoked garlic, chopped onions and a sweet chili sauce.  They have done it, they have finally done it (at least for me)!  They have made a great, great album that will (hopefully) be held as their classic record!  Now, it is not a perfect record, there are a few tracks which could have been jettisoned and it would not have affected the outcome of the album, but they do not detract from the quality of this record sounds.  As a person who has been a casual fan of their music, I am very impressed by this album.  If this ended up being voted the Album of the Year for this blog (or any other poll), at this point I could not disagree with the result.  It is one of those moments where everything seems to come together for a band, the production, the songs, the guests helping the songs instead of overshadowing the band and it just sounds so good.  I sort of hate myself a bit for saying that after so many years of moaning about them, but I am also so glad I picked this up as I truly love it when a band creates such a great record.  Well played Messrs Blunt, Burgess, Rogers and Brookes, well played and well done!

9 out of ten
Almost perfect, almost......

Top track
– Different Days

You can purchase Different Days on Amazon here.

You can visit the Charlatans website here.

You can follow the activities of The Charlatans on Facebook here.

You can stream Different Days on Spotify here.

You can stream Different Days on Deezer here.

You can stream Different Days on Tidal here.

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