The Charlatans - Who We Touch
Burning bright and dying young is just so old. Rallying and ploughing on - it's the new going down in flames. The Charlatans, mind-bogglingly, are in their third decade. Whatever high spirited irony they applied to their monicker is all but washed away. Despite a recent re-staging of 1990 debut Some Friendly, even diehards know that as the baggy sweat tops and beyond-sense flares were ditched in favour of tighter denim andtunes, The Charlatans shed their scene-y cocoon and became half decent.
I know. I keep my Indian Giver of the Year award in the downstairs loo but this is the problem with survivors - difficult to dislike but ever so easy to patronise. The Charlatans remain resolutely popular but still, I'm guessing, no-one's favourite band. Hey, there are worse things. (The Beautiful South made millions from this record buying proportional representation.) Those of us who, prior to this, had never heard a Charlatans record in its entirety can nod approvingly. Absence of 'The Only One I Know' type grooves? Check. (Phew.) Presence of the minor key country rock that seems to suit them so well? Check. A couple of tub-thumping rockers to show they still have it in them? Check.
The pounding thump of 'Smash the System' or the lilting 'Intimacy' offer every indication that the playing and the writing is well in hand. 'My Foolish Pride' and 'Your Pure Soul' offer unexpected delicacy and The Charlatans present themselves to the voter on a manifesto of craft, of a unit capable and trusted. I'll buy that. If they never exactly set the corpuscles racing, at least, unlike some contemporaries, you never saw Tim Burgess on the box and thought "What a twat." Gallagher(s), Albarn, Ryder? Ahem.
No, Who We Touch is hardly dandy but it's fine nevertheless. Any sniffiness would be both unfair and unrealistic. What these survivors peddle in 2010 is far from electrifying but curiously edifying. This undeniably catholic collection, fissured with pleasing soul influences, is still possessed of enough character to leave you in no doubt as to the identity of its creators. Whether the fashion victim soundalikes populating unfeasibly large festival stages this bank holiday weekend ever win themselves the artistic freedom to make the records they want to make is doubtful in the extreme. The thought of them doing it in twenty years' time is laughable. The Charlatans stroll on. Good on 'em.