After a bit of a clingfilmic struggle to get liberate the contents of the too well packaged new offering from The Charlatans, I neglected to read the “instructions”, and pulled a CD from the sleeve, slipped it into player and sat down with the enclosed lyrics sheet. There was just one teeny problem; I couldn’t find any trace of the song! “We sleep on borrowed time…” sings lead singer Tim Burgess behind a thin layer of digital overlay on the first track of what it transpired was a CD of bonus tracks. Wow!!
The second bonus track opened and I was teleported back to mid-90s Madchester. “Walk with me” is a stunner, but what is even more amazing about this track is that it was written by their late drummer Jon Brookes from his hospital bed. Brookes succumbed to a brain tumour in 2013 and the album is naturally dedicated his memory. Incidentally Brookes played the drums on this track (it’s the only track he played on) giving it his trademark percussive sound.
“It’s the start of a journey , not the end of the road
Cause life is the enigma, only love can be cold,
… Walk with me, love walks by my side”
The bonus CD is quite simply wonderful and as great a warm up for the main event, as ever I’ve heard.
So to “Modern Nature” proper.
“Talking in Tones” is the opener and arguably one of the strongest songs on the album. The harmonies bring Simon & Garfunkel to mind there being something S&G about the soft synchronicity of the crossing vocals. It’s thoughtful and meditative in lyric and tone, attributes which can also be found in “Keep Enough” and the beautifully contemplative but up-tempo “Emilie”.
Musically, this album is heavy on the keyboards, which in the main have a 60’s retro feel with a slight hint of Manzarek; this nostalgic nod is bolstered by the addition of some gospel vocal, sexy brass sections (courtesy of Big Jim Paterson of Dexys fame), and some very 70s funky on down Collins guitar solos – “Let the Good Times be Never Ending” is a classic 60s/70s mash up with a distinct disco-vibe.
If “I need you to know” were a novel, it’d be a thriller; full of intrigue. It opens with a musical sense of foreboding, ramping up with “Bondesque” strings adding to the sense of mystery and intensity. “Trouble Understanding” is Tim Burgess’ favourite track and is piano driven, percussive toe-tapper, again with Gospel-like backing vocals giving it a very chilled vibe, which melds perfectly seamlessly into the final track, “Lot to Say”, a light, jaunty melody, with more airily blended harmonies, rounding off the album in wound down mode.
‘Modern Nature’ is by far one of the most stunning albums I have heard in a very long time. It took me by surprise, not having been a dedicated Charlies fan back in the 90s. It is a masterclass in musical resurrection and undoubtedly a shoe-in for every best album award for 2015. 10/10. Magnificent.
And as they say – “Let the good times be never ending”….