Here’s the thing. The Charlatans could fill out a very nicely rounded greatest hits collection without any effort at all, and with no need for padding. Looking back, it’s clear this band produced some of the very best white boy pop singles of the 1990s. “The Only One I Know”, “Then”, and “Can’t Get Out of Bed” are just the first three to leap to mind. So, in theory, it should be good news that they’re back yet again, and that their newest recordings are actually going to get a US release. But too many excellent theories fail to survive even a first encounter with reality, and Simpatico is just the latest to bite the dust.
The Charlatans open Simpatico with a genuinely fine pop single. One that could easily share a stage with the band’s best work. Tony Roger’s piano churns in an incessant, driving loop. Mark Collins’ guitar slices across the groove. The bass and drums lay down a typical Madchester rhythm. And Tim Burgess sings some of the usual old meaningless and undecipherable nonsense, splendidly. “Blackened Blue Eyes” is as good a way to open a pop album as anyone will find this year.
Unfortunately, that’s about it for Simpatico.
The second track, “NYC (No Need To Stop)”, is a castrated Clash wannabe. Underwhelmed by funk, indeed. The magnificent who? And then it’s all down hill from there.
Don’t you love our western ways? On the evidence of Simpatico, Tim Burgess has been spending all his time on Negril Beach, smoking fattie after fattie and getting self-indulgently down with his inner trust-fund rasta self. Well, that’s fine as far as it goes, but spare us, Tim, please. Spare us from the anaemic, over-produced, shiny white boy skank and shuffle that makes up the bulk of this utterly unexciting, uninspiring, and unimportant album.
Amid all the second hand riffs, middle-class lyrics, and hollow reggae twaddle, the second best track on Simpatico is “Sunset And Vine”—a wet-as-lettuce reggae instrumental that puts the duh in dub. No, honestly, it is.
Give Simpatico an emphatic No.