looking backwards

The Charlatans U.K. (Beggars Banquet/Atlantic)
The Charlatans U.K.

By Gary Savelson

The Charlatans U.K. have turned themselves on to rock n' roll with heavy guitars, melodic organs, and booming rhythm on their latest self-titled album. Once known for their Manchester dance sound (home of New Order, Smiths, Happy Mondays), these chaps have changed musical direction since their origin.

The Charlatans U.K. now have a broader appeal moving beyond the modern rock scene. One would guess they had been listening to old Stones and Zeppelin records before going into the studio this time around -- maybe even a Jackson 5 tune or two. Nevertheless, they still fit in these days with a sound comparable at times to fellow English mates Oasis and Blur -- especially the way vocalist Tim Burgess lets us hear his British drawl.

Check out "Just Lookin'" -- all Stones guitar and rhythm -- and "Bullet Comes," both having a '60s flower-children groove in the chorus levitating your consciousness to the luminous memory of older groups. "Just When You're Thinking Things Are Over" is a sincere tribute to classic rock with lots of guitar -- acoustic and electric -- as well as piano. A real jammer! Aside from a few nostalgic-sounding cuts (mentioned above), this album basically offers conventional entertainment. Let's just say the lads want to keep the old spirit (Stones, Zeppelin) alive!