Charlatans Simpatico

You’ve got to hand it to the Charlatans — most Manchester bands from the late ’80s/early ’90s heyday of the "Madchester” scene seem content to retire as a historical footnote. However these guys just keep releasing albums, no matter what current musical fashion dictates. That said, they have deviated from the classic Charlatans sound in recent years. Singer Tim Burgess moved to L.A., and adopted a surprising falsetto voice on their last release Up at the Lake. Now onto their ninth studio album, Burgess’ voice has mostly returned to normal, but the shock this time around is the noticeable influence of reggae and dub tempos, particularly on "City of the Dead” and "For Your Entertainment.” There are still plenty of classic Charlatans songs, though, and their experience really shows, because the sound is tight. Sadly, ever since the tragic loss of their original Hammond organ player Rob Collins, they never regained the vibe that brought them into the spotlight in the first place. Still, there are some great moments on Simpatico, like "Blackened Blues Eyes” and "When the Lights Go out in London.” As a piece of work by seasoned professionals, the album is perfectly fine. However something just doesn’t seem to click. Long-time fans should enjoy this as an improvement on the last album, but it is unlikely this will catch on with first-timers. (Sanctuary)