In At The Deep End?

first_imgThe Charlatans have come a long way from their heady indie days in the early ‘90s. Coming after a year’s hiatus, Up at the Lake is a spangly, guitar-powered, disco-ballad engine. Powering out upbeat anthems such as ‘Feel the Pressure’, this is The Charlatans at their most technically brilliant. The album even features the occasional slice of well-crafted melancholia that creates a stylistic balance. Perhaps raw invention is something of a martyr to production values here, with the ballads, in particular, sounding as if they’ve spent too long in the studio before being approved. Nevertheless, this is a solid album that showcases exactly why The Charlatans have been at the top of Britpop for over a decade. Releasing in May was a prudent move: if any recent British album screams “summer” then this is it. Even the slower numbers sound as if they should be crooned out at a summer festival. This is achieved by some delicate instrumentals in perfect harmony with one another, One surprise is the adaptability of Burgess’ voice. We already knew that he could punch out a rock anthem; the surprise here is how sensitive and soaring his voice can be. This suits the new grown-up aura surrounding The Charlatans. The trials of musical success allow Up At The Laketo eschew the stoned-sounding guitar playing and mumbling vocals of lesser contemporaries in favour of thoughtful lyrics and a subtly layered sound. Perhaps it can’t strictly be called indie, but The Charlatans sound as if they don’t care. By being willing to embrace a less specific, more experimental sound (underwater piano, anyone?), they avoid sounding like a group who meet up to churn out the same mindless crap year after year. The Charlatans have achieved a rare thing for such a well-established band – an album that manages to sound both fresh and evolved. It is overproduced in parts; ‘Loving You Is Easy’ would sound more like a Pop Idol finalist’s song were it not for the guitar rollicking around in the background. If extensive fiddling around is what’s needed to produce an album of such quality, it can be forgiven. As Burgess croons in ‘Bona Fide Treasure’, “the cream of the crop, with cheese on top.” Set aside comparable acts, this is quite true.ARCHIVE: 3rd week TT 2004last_img

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