The Charlatans - Up At The Lake
Alex Worsnip 26/05/2004
It really is incredible that this is the Charlatans' eighth record. Let's face it: it might not have been if previous album Wonderland hadn't been such a renaissance: a not altogether successful, but crucially, at least interesting, venture into white boy funk-rock, ushering in a newly discovered falsetto for lead singer Tim Burgess and working in an American feel to a hitherto ultimately British band (remember Tellin' Stories?). Burgess then went off to make his solo album, but here they return as a band. Things don't get off to a good start with the title track, a driving but derivative track reminiscent of the Stones trying to do Britpop (perhaps more accurately, the reverse). Jagged bluesy riffs adorn the album, with Burgess continuingly employing his falsetto to rather unfruitful effect.
The almost disco beat of 'Feel The Pressure' is different, but horribly dated next to newer and younger bands who fuse disco and rock in the same style. Burgess' venture into the alleys of American country and folk on his solo album comes through on 'Cry Yourself To Sleep' and 'I'll Sing A Hymn', both mildly pleasent harmonically but paling in comparison next to the originals of the genre, feeling somewhat like a fake version. It again veers too close to pastiche on the bluesy groove of the appropriately (and, it must be said, uniquely unimaginatively) titled 'Blue For You'. 'Loving You Is Easy' is even more so, genuinely opening with the line 'loving you is easy 'cos you're beautiful' - shamelessly ripped from another song. The track itself is a Lennon-esque strum, profoundly uninteresting. They keep on trying the various tactics, with the obligatory strings popping up on 'Try Again Today', which boasts a chirpy, positive melody reminiscent of American 90s guitar-pop (not a huge accolade, frankly)
The Charlatans sound like they've run their course at this stage, although they themselves seem positive about their direction. However, for the rest of us, 'Up At The Lake' will be both familiar and uninspiring, yet another modern British record that is mildly pleasent, but tremendously unentertaining. Background listening? Maybe, if you've nothing better. Inspiring? Not in anyone's books, surely.