Two seconds into 'Blackened Blue Eyes', when Mark Collins' guitar punctuates the super groove of Tony Roger's piano, one thing is clear -- The Charlatans are a vital force. And then Tim Burgess’s vocals come in, with a melody that's so beguiling it almost disguises the disturbing intensity at the heart of the song.

It's great to have the band back with a record, ‘Simpatico’, that finds them better and fresher than ever, and ready to take on the world again. It's a record, in short, that sees every member of The Charlatans step up to the plate and give it everything.

But first, a little history. It's a singular tale of success tarnished by acute tragedy. Formed in 1989, the band put their first single, ‘Indian Rope’, out on their own label Dead Dead Good records and sold 20,000 copies (that's enough to get a number one nowadays). They were snapped up by Beggars Banquet and achieved their first Top Ten single with ‘The Only One I Know’, a perennial Nineties’ favourite that defined the Madchester scene while simultaneously signposting such 21st Century sounds as Kasabian.

The Charlatans sported insouciance and looks to spare, but with talent to match - their debut album 'Some Friendly' charted at number one. Then in 1992 disaster struck when keyboard player Rob Collins was unwittingly involved in an armed robbery and was sent down for eight months. The band, however, bounced back with ‘Up To Our Hips’, a record that saw them get some of the most extraordinary critical applause in the band’s long career.

In July 1996 Rob Collins was killed in a car accident during recording sessions for the ‘Tellin' Stories’ album. The stricken band decided to continue. A month later, 'One To Another' was their biggest UK hit to date. Duffy of Primal Scream stepped in to help finish the album. Tony Rogers was later recruited as full time keyboard player.

Since then The Charlatans have released a series of enormously successful albums -- their most recent, ‘Up At The Lake’, came in 2004 when it was also becoming obvious that the band’s restless collective imagination was signaling a change in direction for their future records.

They approached working on their new album with all the band members bringing new ideas to the studio. Says Tim Burgess: “We still fight for what we believe in, we had quite a lot of songs that we had to get down to 12, and that's quite a lot of fights y'know? Because everyone's put so much work into it. You want them all to come out and be heard.""

To ensure they took advantage of this new start, all the old ways were abandoned. They rejected working in their own Big Mushroom Studio and brought in a new producer, Jim Lowe. Conditions designed to challenge the gang.

Says Martin Blunt: ""Not doing it at The Big Mushroom again and taking the recording out of the band’s comfort zone took the album somewhere else, and the different environment ensured there no distractions. Jim Lowe impressed us… he was a fan of the band and we thought, great, we'll try him out. Sometimes you can get too precious, but with this it was different.""

The band ended up in Reading's Hook End Studios with just four weeks of time and money to complete the album, ready to give it a raw edge. The classic rock influences are still there – the band had pictures of Gram Parsons and Joe Strummer looking over them as they recorded at breakneck speed.

Says Burgess: ""Basically we wanted to record the album quite quickly and keep it fresh. I think everyone dived straight in and with was all guns blazing. Everyone knew we had to do it in three to four weeks. We spent all our money and just did it.""

Blackened Blue Eyes

Alternative Modern Rock
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The Hazy

6/6/2007 6:06:26 AM
One of the best Charlatans songs, seem to get better all the time.



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