Modern Nature is the album that very nearly didn’t happen at all. Following the untimely death of drummer and founding member Jon Brookes in 2013, the 11-tracked record is finally set for release at the end of this month. It would be hard for any band to pull together and create a record after such a loss, however The Charlatans have managed to create a record that couldn’t be further away from any darkness and morbidity than could be expected. Instead Modern Nature is a true soul filled, uplifting, summery record that stands up as one of The Charlatans most confident, effortless albums to date.
The album opens with ‘Talking in Tones’, that according to lead singer Tim Burgess, is about ‘telepathy in relationships’. Late last year the track was firstly released through Quietus Phonographic Corporation as a limited edition 7’ vinyl giving us the first taster to the record that was to be. That first glimpse into the album is full of rolling rhythmic choruses and overflowing with distinctive organ sounds from Tony Rogers, cooed vocal harmonies from Burgess and cyclical guitar riffs. ‘Talking In Tones’, the title of which Burgess oddly came up with standing outside of a bank in London, is an understated but graceful pop song that sets the flow for those breezy, easy listening rhythms for the rest of the album.
Second track ‘So Oh’ continues the album with its dream worthy hazy rhythms and a chorus that has potential summer live festival headliner written all over it. It’s the track that apparently reminds Collins of Barry White and Burgess of Bill Callahan, and to us it just sounds like the lovechild of both; soulful dream-pop with a cooing chorus that’s simply unavoidable. Next song ‘Come Home Baby’ is filled again with a bright organ sounds, understated rough guitar licks that’s reminiscent of a lazy Sunday afternoon and a chorus that creeps up on you with euphoric, soulful, feel-good proportions. ‘Keep Enough’ follows with smoother tones and features atmospheric strings arranged by the prolific collaborator and former High Llamas man Sean O’Hagan.
Fifth track ‘In The Tall Grass’ and concluding track ‘Lots to Say’ are perhaps the only songs in the record that appear to fall a little short, and almost seem misplaced in an effort to pad out an otherwise focused record. However stand out tracks, are easily, ‘Trouble Understanding’ and ‘I Need You to Know’, the former all rattling electronics and piano, with anthemic qualities that are reminiscent to New Order sounds and has British indie pop stamped all over it. In contrast ‘I Need You to Know’ has more of an early cosmic, psychedelic feel to it with a strange yearning distaste through a beautiful introduction full of reverberating chords as Burgess begins with “I could have said, I should have said, It’s always the same’, in trademark buttered vocals. Finally ‘Let The Good Times be Never Ending’ is exactly as you would expect from its title, as the stand out dance worthy track of the album. Expect to hear a snare-heavy rhythm and added female backing vocalists to a song that really is going to be hard not to move to.
When The Charlatans re gathered at their Big Mushroom studio in early 2014, it’s a surprise that deflation and melancholy following the loss of a fellow band member really didn’t reflect in the music they were about to start creating. Instead Modern Nature, The Charlatans twelfth album and their first release for new label BMG, is reminiscent of a memory and spirit that is uplifting to any listener, as if the band themselves have created music that made them feel better and consequently resulted in a soulful guitar pop record that will have you dreaming about summer already.
Modern Nature is out January 26th via BMG.