Album Review: The Charlatans – Modern Nature

Modern Nature

the charlatans modern natureReleased January 26th 2015

It’s no secret if you’re a regular reader of Popped to know that I am a fan of this band, more than fan girl, not quite totally mental, though I have had my moments that’s for sure. This album has been a long time coming and for many will be an emotional first few listens having lost drummer Jon Brookes in 2013.

The Charlatans are known to have experimented with new genres, sounds and concepts throughout their career to date. Across 11 studio albums they have covered everything from traditional indie rock, to pop, electronica, dance, shoegaze and even ska and reggae. Modern Nature has seen a move away from their last album, 2010’s Who We Touch, but those substantially familiar with this band’s back catalogue, b-sides and rarities included, might find themselves finding little hints ever backwards rather than just the new. Still the album feels fresh and current in 2015 and as ever has a new twist for their ever evolving sound.

 Modern Nature is almost an album of two halves. The first three songs, also being the first three singles from the album, are cleverly composed and can be exposed as the basic building blocks from which the rest of the album is built. There’s the slow driving whirr of the Hammond in Talking In Tones, which both steadies and changes pace entirely in other tracks. There’s the mix of percussion; from electronic, standard kit and all kinds of acoustic. The change in pace, tone and texture between the three also becomes even further explored and expanded throughout the album. The introduction of soul and gospel backing vocals in Come Home Baby isn’t a one off and of course neither is that classic indie jingle jangle of Mark Collins’ guitars in the summery feel of  So Oh. Of course there’s also the warmth and depth of Tim Burgess’ vocals and his intriguing and  creatively expressive lyrics, which, have always been a talking point and a common theme for the band since the early days. There isn’t that one thunderous bass track on this album but to be honest it wouldn’t fit, it has its moments and you feel them even if sometimes you crave just a little more.

Following the opening tracks come further sounds in a similar vein though with much more of a soul and funk feel especially Keep Enough; a slow burner of a track which blends funk with classical romantic strings and feels like something that might sit within Tim’s solo album Oh No I Love You. I know it sounds like it might be an odd mixture but in truth it’s genius. In The Tall Grass is as bluesy as it is funky. It pulsates and teases before finally letting the keys flutter, taking you off into a new landscape. Yet it also makes me want to get to work on a remix. I can’t pin point exactly what it is about it that makes me start singing For You Love by The Yardbirds over the top of it when really it feels like something  more psychedelic than that.

Let The Good Times Be Never Ending is the turning point for this album. It’s the point at which the album kicks it up to 10 and throws absolutely everything into the mix.  It’s joyous and up tempo, it’s fun and it wouldn’t sit too uncomfortably against the track list on You Cross My Path/Who We Touch at times. This is probably my favourite track on the album right now. It has the pounding driving drums with those high hats going at 10 to the dozen. The bass is superb here, thumping and driving, courtesy of Martin Blunt. I love the Hammond touches too, and that keys motifs are replicated by other instruments gives a really nice musical theme throughout. A touch of brass and gospel backing vocals keeps it fitting well within other the other tracks on Modern Nature.  This is a truly uplifting track and the opening bars on the keys will take you straight back to early days Charlatans.

I Need You To Know, Lean In and Trouble Understanding all continue with the power surge. Gone are the whimsical summery sounds of So Oh and a rockier sound is back in the driving seat. A louder, faster harder Charlatans sound for this album. I Need You To Know builds in layers with a wall of sound being thrown up and feels almost Tellin Stories/The Charlatans era at the beginning. Lean In, in particular, feels much more like the electric guitar driven tracks fans have come to know and love. With perfect haunting harmonies and a dark eerie feeling that festers away and again driven wildly by the Hammond. It has classic Charlatans stamped all over it. Trouble Understanding starts to slow the pace again but with a drum machine keeping the tempo upbeat it’s the vocal melody and soulful harmonies more than anything that helps wind this track down and leads itself so well toward the slow and spacious album closer Lots To Say. 

Modern Nature in parts very much takes it’s lead from the band’s 2011 Warm Sounds EP so fans won’t be unfamiliar with this kind of sound even if it’s not what was expected. You could also say it’s a heady mix of everything, you could say it’s heavily influenced by other sounds and other bands, and all of course would be right. That’s just what this band does. Modern Nature feels a befitting name for an album that sets to explore more than just emotions but also landscapes, space, time and soundscapes. It could have so easily have been filled with a darkness and anger but it’s not. It’s a yet another wonderful gift for any music lover’s record collection if you give it the time it deserves. It won’t instantly grab you by the shoulders and shake you but it will seep into your subconscious and stick with you and that for me is just how this album should be.

This review is dedicated to the one and only Jon Brookes.


Listen to So Oh here:
Listen to Talking In Tones here:
You can also now stream Modern Nature in full here:
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2 Responses to “Album Review: The Charlatans – Modern Nature”
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  1. […] The Charlatans share their new video for new single Let The Good Times Be Never Ending. The track is a celebratory romp through a myriad of genres with a huge injection of gospel soul, making it easily the most uplifting track on their recent album, Modern Nature. […]

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  2. […] weeks after The Charlatans released their 12th studio album, the top 10 charting, Modern Nature, they share this rather special live version of album track Trouble […]

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