“Blackened Blue Eyes” by the Charlatans | Solely because I’m driving to Clark this morning – technically, I already have; I might be driving back as you read this – I’m posting about a song that really should make for a good driving track. It’s driving, it’s dramatic, it just spells freedom from whatever you glean from the lyrics. But then, this is Manila. There is an exact right moment for this song to play, but the traffic means your timing will always be off, and this song might come up just as you’re stuck in a jam, which would be terribly antithetical of it. And you can’t put this on repeat – or maybe it’s just me who hates repeats. But, well, good song. A modern, if not underrated, classic. [NB]
It’s worth noting that the Charlatans – one of the many (perhaps) unsung stalwarts of the Britpop movement – have continued doing their thing up to this day, and without seemingly losing a step, either. Different Days is their 13th album and pretty much continues the band’s rejuvenation after the unfortunate death of drummer Jon Brookes. However, unlike its immediate predecessor Modern Nature, this one’s a little more subtle, and thus a little less urgent. A bit of a letdown considering how the previous album just drove to wherever it wanted, but it’s not a disappointment. Different Days takes a while: I thought it really reached its groove at the very end of the album, but that wasn’t met with feelings of coming short. A second listen gives away that that drive remains, but this time a little more layered, a little more quiet. It’s not the sound of settling down by any means, but then I can’t begrudge them for taking the time to slow down just a wee bit. [NB] | 3/5
We’re closing up shop for another year, which means our obligatory look at the year that was – and, like in the past two years, it’s in the form of ten songs, arranged alphabetically by artist. And it’s been an interesting year, indeed. Pop music was, once again, no longer a guilty pleasure. The much-anticipated comeback of guitar music did not happen, but we had some genre-pushing, if not outright weird, alternative anyway. We’ve seen new acts make a legitimate splash, but it wasn’t for the sake of a new voice. We’ve seen old acts make triumphant returns, but nostalgia wasn’t the biggest thing. Things have not settled down to the way people want it to be (and that could mean anything depending on who you ask) but things have never looked this good in recent years either. It is weird. Interesting, but weird.
The Charlatans are, arguably, survivors. Not that that narrative has been front and center of their 25 years so far, but in between good albums and duds, there was the death of keyboardist Rob Collins in a car crash in 1996. And then, last year, their drummer, Jon Brookes, died of a brain tumor, and the band felt their days are numbered – but here we are. Modern Nature, the British group’s 12th album, has this oddly jubilant vibe: it’s celebratory yet contemplative, and despite all that, is not at all schmaltzy. It is soulful, softer, but still maintains the Charlatans vibe of old: somehow they managed to not dwell in the past. “So Oh” and “Come Home Baby”, for instance, work well as slow burners in an indie disco. I don’t know if it’s circumstance – after Brookes’ death, they somehow managed to pull together, with multiple guest drummers, and create an album they never thought they’d be able to make – but there’s a quiet beauty in Modern Nature, making this one of the more interesting albums of this young year. [NB] | 4/5