Friday, March 18, 2011

The Charlatans Cover Themselves

There is absolutely no explaining how THE CHARLATANS have lasted this long. They were initially part of the post STONE ROSES "Madchester" wave of britpop bands that took hip hop rhythms and meshed them with rock song structures. Their use of keyboards and slippery bass lines gave them dancehall credibility. But they should have crashed and burned, flamed out like so many others (Chapterhouse, The Milltown Brothers, Happy Mondays...). But here they are still going strong and now throwing us yet another curveball with the "Warm Sounds" ep.

The six songs on the ep are re imaginings of their other songs. Rather than cover other artists, they have opted to cover themselves. Now my rule with covers is, if you dare take on someone else's work you have to put an original spin on it. But what about your own work? How do you judge it? Well, I think it's best to think of them as both original on their own and as if they had covered another band.

"Smash the System" from their last record gets stripped of the techno backbeat which is replaced by a computer blip track along with a simple guitar line. Singer Tim Burgess becomes a much greater presence in this mix. "The Only One I Know", loses the keyboard and replaces it with a jangly acoustic guitar. Much has been made of the band's love of Bob Dylan this ep seems awash in Dylan style musical arrangements. "North Country Boy" becomes a Tom Petty-esqe mid tempo rocker. "Oh, Vanity" is slowed way down to just a strummed guitar and Burgess's voice. "Blackened Blue Eyes" which originally was a club anthem now becomes a country stomp played on the front porch. "One To Another" which was a CHEMICAL BROTHERS production in it's original incarnation has morphed into a bluesy guitar pop track worthy of THE BLACK CROWES or THE KINKS.

The whole ep is an interesting listen merely to see what the band may do when freed from the shackles of their day job as standard bearers of a dying genre. In the real sense, THE CHARLATANS have eclipsed the scene are now embarking on their third decade of making music. Not bad for a bunch of also rans...

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