You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Britpop fan than me. After all, I’ve gone so far as to make trips to Canada for the express purpose of scoring Canadian releases of my favorite bands who aren’t “lucky enough” to get Stateside releases. So why is it, I’ve never been passionate about the Charlatans. It might have something to do with Tim Burgess’ laid-back vocals and the rarely-fiery instrumental backing. Or it could be that lacked the standout tunes of their Manchester compatriots The Stone Roses or the outrageousness of fellow Mancs Happy Mondays.
Whatever it is, The Charlatans are undeniably a great singles band—“Only One I Know” WAS the sound of baggy pure and simple—but have never been a great album band. Until now. Us and Us Only is the band’s finest effort and also their most “American-sounding,” at least when the Bob Dylan flourishes make their appearance. The band has broadened their sound way beyond baggy and well beyond the Britpop of Tellin’ Stories, tossing roots rock and folk into the mix and even a harmonica or two. Gee, I wonder if they’ve been listening to Gomez or Beta Band.