The Charlatans return after a 5-year hiatus with their 12th album entitled Modern Nature. During their time away The Charlatans kept busy with various projects Tim Burgess wrote a book, released a solo album and had a child. The band also suffered the recent death of drummer Jon Brookes from a brain tumour, their second loss since Rob Collins died in a car crash in 1996. Before his death, Jon wanted to band to push on and record a new album, and so they did with Modern Nature.
Modern Nature was recorded at their own Big Mushroom studios, produced by The Charlatans, Jim Spencer and mixed by Craig Silvey (Portishead, Arcade Fire). The album features contributions from temporary drummers – Pete Salisbury of The Verve, Stephen Morris from New Order and Gabriel Gurnsey of Factory Floor.
The Charlatans golden period for me was when they emerged during the baggy era 25 years ago. Everything they released from their first single ‘Indian Rope’ right up until the Up To Our Hips album was fantastic. Charlatans albums after that weren’t bad there was always some good singles and deep cuts on each album but nothing that warranted repeated plays, Tim said their hearts weren’t in it for Simpatico and Up At the Lake and while many considered 1997’s Tellin Stories to be a masterpiece I thought it was overrated.
That said no one can ever accuse this band of sitting still, with each album they experiment and reinvent their sound while still managing to sound like The Charlatans. Modern Nature is another departure from their previous work. The first two opening tracks ‘Talking In Tones’ and ‘So Oh’ with their scraping guitar sounds and groovy basslines introduce us to the new chilled out sound, the band have never sounded so laid back. Next single, The Summery ‘Come Home Baby’ has Martin Blunt all over it with a great chorus and gospel singers which give the track a lift.
The Strings laden ‘Keep Enough’ sounds like a Motown song, the production is crisp clear and polished which is evident throughout the album. ‘Emilie’ is the most immediate and catchiest song here the funky drum track drives this uptempo song along nicely with some understated guitar from Mark Collins.
The album’s centrepiece, ‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’ is where they really shine.
The instrumental breakdown at 3.55 is worth the price of the album alone, it slowly ascends in layers to fade. ‘I Need You to Know’ is Modern Natures weaker moment and wouldn’t sound out of place on an Ian Brown solo album, while ‘Lean In’ recalls their early sound. Modern Nature winds down with the blissed-out ‘Lot To Say.’
The Charlatans have been through a rough time again but as always they have got through it and produced a sensational record. With its bouncing basslines and swirling Hammond organ, Modern Nature is a soulful record with hints of classic rock, it’s joyful and melancholic, and with repeated listens you will discover that Modern Nature is easily the best Charlatans album yet.