I’ll Be Down When You’re Down I’ll Be Up When You’re Up

Both Tim Burgess and Jez at A History Of Dubious Taste noted that North Country Boy by The Charlatans was 21 years old yesterday. North Country Boy is a wonderful guitar record, both thrilling and poignant. The Charlatans were on a roll in 1997, having come through the post-Madchester slump to find that the world was suddenly in tune with them. Another 1997 single, one that easily the equal of NCB, is How High. Opening with a burst of distorted guitar, a clever switch from mono to  stereo and then a rush of words from Tim. The song shoots by, led by Mark’s guitar, without a proper chorus. The words ‘How high’ open the verses and the song surfaces for a bridge part that changes twice-

‘Love I’m fixing holes
The ones you break up
Come in from your drive
And the hand that rocks you
Cuts you up like
Lyrics of your life’

and..

‘Hang on to your hopes my darlin’
Don’t let it slip away
And the hand who holds you
Keeps you warm
And helps you live today’

…before dive bombing back into the torrent again. I’m sure Tim said that lyrically he was inspired by Wu Tang at the time but the main influence here has always seemed to be mid-60s Bob Dylan, the amphetamine rush of phrases and lines pulled from wherever/the ether- he even chucks in a Dylan reference- ‘pledging my time til the day I die’. There’s also the line that finishes the first verse which has always resonated with me- ‘like lyrics of your life’. I don’t think Tim Burgess is acknowledged as a lyricist but around this time he was very good at nailing a feeling.

How High

The single came with a song that didn’t make the Tellin’ Stories album, one of those songs that only the fans know about, called Title Fight- looped drums, multiple guitars and again a pile up of words. Well worth the £1.99 it cost on either vinyl or cd.

Title Fight

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And May You Always Have No Shoes

With No Shoes, the opening song from the Charlatans 1997 album Tellin’ Stories, has been buzzing around my head recently. It’s a song that is blatantly in thrall to mid 90s rock ‘n’ roll, a post-Britpop shuffle and with Gallagher-esque vocal tics. It opens with some harmonica and a burst of wah-wah guitar and then drum loops supplied by a Chemical Brother (Tom Rowlands I think). Stoned and groovey. The album was released following the death of Rob Collins but he played on much of it.

With No Shoes

I’m sure I read somewhere that Tim’s lyrics were inspired by The Stone Roses legendary 1989 intro tape, a trippy and slightly menacing piece of music- a rolling bassline, lolloping drum loop and screeching sound (all sampled from a 1987 hip hop record, Small Time Hustler by Dismasters). It apparently also contains a voice whispering ‘with no shoes’. It is a valuable addition to your ever-growing mp3 collection.

The Stone Roses 1989 Intro Track

Small Time Hustler

Which also gives me an excuse to post this picture of Ian, Mani and Reni on that tour of 1989, when they were capable of blowing ecstatic heads wide open and also of turning up to play to audiences of a couple of dozen.

Over Again

The Charlatans 2017 album Different Days seems to have been a bit of an opinion splitter. A bunch of good songs with a few skippers is my view- not as good as Modern Nature but better than some of the albums that they put out in the 00s. The newest single from it, Over Again, came out on green vinyl just after Christmas (to match the green Sproston Green sweatshirt modelled above). Over Again is a breezy, lighter than air kind of song, driven by some early 90s drums.

It’s been followed by a remix by Bagging Area favourites A Certain Ratio, a loose limbed groove with Tim’s vocals intact and added whistles and squiggles. The end section in particular could have come straight from ACR:MCR. Put it with the Barry Adamson one they remixed last year.

Hurling Their Own Powers Against Them

One of this year’s treats has been a remix by Chris and Cosey of Different Days, the title track of The Charlatans latest album. Rude Audio, a London based collective, have done a completely unofficial re-edit of Chris and Cosey’s already rather gorgeous, Balearic remix. Rude Audio have pared the vocals back, dubbed it up and let the lovely, bubbling synths take centre stage.

In the picture the Fantastic Four’s own powers have been combined by this set of magic gloves and this will enable them to be totally defeated–now– and forever!! By hurling their own powers– magnified many times– against them!!

A Boy With A Stronger Emotion

The Charlatans have just put this up online, a remix of the title track from their new album by Chris and Cosey. A lovely, summery, 80s sounding,  Balearic version.

Opportunity Three was a different, remixed version of Opportunity (off debut album Some Friendly). It was mixed by Flood, originally released as the B-side to the 1991 Over Rising single and then saw the light of day again on Melting Pot, their first Best Of back in 1998. Opportunity Three is a delicious seven minute plus slice of 1990, equal parts 60s psychedelia and late 80s dance infused rock, led by some very loose drumming. The band (bass, guitar, Hammond) all swirl around, tripping out while Tim sings some sweet nonsense.

Opportunity Three

Different Days

The Charlatans have a new album out tomorrow, Different Days. The single came out at the end of April, a chiming and clanging guitar led tune with some of the six string magic down to Johnny Marr.

The new album has all kind of special guests on it-Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert from New Order, Paul Weller, Anton Newcombe, Ian Rankin, ACR’s Donald Johnson and Kurt Wagner among them. I hope it doesn’t get weighed down by this multitude of guest stars. The previous album, Modern Nature, was a stunning record, full of songs shot through with sunshine and loss, a band writing their out of tragedy (the death of drummer Jon Brookes). The single above sounds like a Charlatans song to be played on sunny days from your car stereo or heard through open shop doors and windows. That’s good enough for now.

Trouble Understanding

Norman Cook remixes? On the whole in the past I could take ’em or leave ’em. Too often it was a case of stick a whacking great big beat underneath, drop it out two thirds of the way through and use that ‘make it sound like you’ve thrown the drums in a tumble drier’ effect, build up it up, climax. There are exceptions but not so many.

The Charlatans survived the Madchester boom, outlived Britpop, never split up and then cashed in by reforming. They had a few years where they gave their albums away for free on the net and no one seemed interested but quietly kept going to produce Modern Nature, one of last year’s highlights and one of their best.

Norman remixed Trouble Understanding from Modern Nature and thankfully avoided the big beat tricks, turning it into a gorgeous Balearic come down tune with a hint of Massive Attack’s Teardrop. It came out on RSD and only 1500 were available. Luckily you can hear it here…