There’s something about the Charlatans that remind me of fall and early winter. I don’t even bother listening to them during other parts of the year; the tunes just don’t sound as good without the sea change of year’s end going on around you. Considering the “forward motion” dynamic that’s defined their career, the late-summer to fall to winter progression is certainly the most analgous to their body of work. Discovering their debut, Some Friendly, in November of 1990 didn’t hurt either. From the sluggish roll of “You’re Not Very Well” to track names like “Polar Bear,” Some Friendly could not have found its way onto my Discman at a more appropriate time of year, boring into my memory aside the chill of Thanksgiving.
The Charlatans have the unique distinction of being the only Madchester-era band to A) make it through alive (well, not entirely, but more on that later) and B) still be making records. And this 4-track EP, Over Rising, showcases all the reasons why; strong guitar work, thoughtful writing, the overlapping blues/shoegaze/Stones influences and their favored practice of toying with brilliant album tracks through the use of subtle alternate versions mixed by superstars.
While the title track is A+, the real gem on this release is Flood’s mix of “Opportunity” (here entitled “Opportunity Three”). Alomst unclassifiable, it meanders for over 7 minutes, supported by a nice organic break beat, hammond organs, sequencers and guitar creshendos buried deep into the backing track. Add to that Tim Burgess’ nasally, Madchester delivery (soon to be ripped off by so many Brit-poppers, namely the less talented Liam Gallagher), and you have a total package of what it was like to be on the cusp of greatness in 1991. This is a high watermark for a band that in subsequent years would lose their keyboardist to a car accident (who was also previously convicted of armed robbery), lose their early chart success to a series of less inspired follow-ups and eventually come out the other side as elder-statesmen after solid, if not brilliant, trad-rock records like Tellin’ Stories (1997) and Us and Only Us (1999), the latter of which is my personal favorite depsite them having aped New Order (of all bands) on You Cross My Path (2008) to stellar effect.
The Smoking Cupcake, October 2o11