During the COVID-19 lockdowns, Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess has been hosting Tim’s Twitter Listening Party. Fans and the artist listen to favorite albums in real-time, tweeting responses, insights, and bits of trivia. It is a brilliant way to bring music lovers together. Naturally, several of the Charlatans’ albums have been featured. During the episode for Between 10th and 11th, the band’s 1992 sophomore album, Burgess commented, “Listening to all the songs on [the] album is ace. I forgot how good some of these songs are.” Surely, he was not the only one.
After forming in 1988 amid the UK’s “Baggy” dance-rock scene, the Charlatans found whirlwind success with their single “The Only One I Know” and debut album Some Friendly (1990). They were understandably overwhelmed and not a little uncertain about how to follow it up. They started by sacking their guitarist, Jon Baker, whom they felt was holding them back creatively, and replacing him with Mark Collins. Hiring hot hand producer Flood (Depeche Mode, U2), they wrote most of what became Between 10th and 11th in the studio, recording basic tracks and then handing them off to Flood to strip down, enhance, and rearrange.
The results were poorly received, both commercially and critically. The band could not seem to move on from Between 10th and 11th quickly enough, dropping most of its songs from their live set after the obligatory tour. In Burgess’ 2012 memoir, the album gets little more than a cursory mention.
As is often the case with “black sheep” albums, however, time has provided a different perspective on Between 10th and 11th. It became, and remains, a fan favorite. Removed from the burdens of uncertainty and overhyped expectations, the band’s huge leaps in maturity and sonic sophistication came to the fore. The rehabilitation was certainly deserved because Burgess is right: Many of the songs on Between 10th and 11th are very good, indeed.
Starting with Mark Collins’ bluesy guitar chords on “I Don’t Want to See the Sights”, the album is shot through with a strange sort of weary confidence. Sometimes, as on the brilliantly unhinged techno-rock of “Weirdo” or the swirling, apocalyptic “The End of Everything”, the tension manifests itself as a form of neurosis. Mostly, though, it is heard as a free-flowing melancholy. The gorgeous, heartbreaking “Can’t Even Be Bothered”, the album’s best song and still one of the Charlatans’ most striking, switches between the two approaches, the weary verses interrupted by a towering, brash chorus and angry refrain of “Who do you think you are?”
It is not difficult to hear why lovers of “The Only One I Know” didn’t know what to make of nearly formless mood pieces like “Subtitle” and the E. E. Cummings-inspired “(No One) Not Even the Rain”. But it is tough to figure how the groovy, blissfully melodic “Page One” was not even released as a single.
In hindsight, one can also hear Burgess emerging as a first-class frontman. His pleasant, lilting performances on Some Friendly were fine but often faded into the ensemble. Here, he is more emotive, intriguing, and at times a bit sinister. He may have been feeling miserable, but Burgess sounded better than ever.
Indeed, the one consistent bit of praise Between 10th and 11th received was for Flood’s production. Clean, crisp, with plenty going on, but everything given proper space, the record may still stand as his most impressive job. Martin Blunt’s propulsive basslines are the center, while Rob Collins’ (no relation) Hammond organ, so prominent on the debut, is often replaced by piano, synth, or sampler. But contrary to conventional wisdom at the time, this was no case of a producer taking a band hostage. Though they never worked with Flood again, the Charlatans continued to mix dance and electronics into their loose-rocking indie sound. In more recent years, they have returned to the clean, spacious production values, if not so much the sonic experimentation, of Between 10th and 11th.
For this belated “Deluxe Edition”, the original album has not been remastered. That is probably good, as never has an album sounded in less need of it. What has been remastered are the extra disc’s worth of tracks from a 1991 concert at the Metro in Chicago. These have been much-bootlegged and sought after by fans, at least according to the folks at Beggars Banquet. The show is cracking, another reminder that the Charlatans always were a powerful, charismatic live act.
But there are problems. Recorded Between 10th and 11th was released, the concert features zero songs from that album (there is a rather ugly song called “10th and 11th”, but a studio version was never released), and so provides no historical context. Good-quality live recordings of the Between 10th and 11th tour exist, so why were those not used? And several live tracks are among the contemporaneous b-sides and alternate mixes that, while probably already collected by many fans, might have been neatly compiled here. In his Twitter Listening Party comments, Burgess intimated some of the album’s songs went through many varied incarnations. Hearing these evolutions in context might have been enlightening, but none are included.
Even in its “deluxe” version, Between 10th and 11th still isn’t given its proper due as one of the best British albums of the early 1990s.