Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Number 38: The Charlatans

I Never Want An Easy Life If Me And He Were Ever To Get There (Beggar's Banquet BBQ31CD)
Chart debut: 19th March 1994

Writers: Martin Blunt/Jon Brooks/Tim Burgess/Mark Collins/Rob Collins

Let's get the survivors bit out of the way shall we? You know the drill by now, drug, depression, prison, death... anyone could be forgiven for forgetting that they ever made records. But they did, and indeed still do, which is possibly something you'd not have predicted fifteen years ago.
It's probably fair to say that Up To Our Hips is the most underrated Charlatans album, the only one until 2004 not to spawn a Top 20 single, and remembered mostly for coinciding with Rob Collins serving a brief prison sentence. But it's the album that explains why they didn't go the way of Northside and the Mock Turtles after their big hit, with a somewhat stripped-down sound (produced by Steve Hillage of all people) and a greater focus on the darker, psychedelic side they'd always had.
When I bought the album unheard, this track stood out with it its insistent riff, the intro that bursts out of the speakers (after the shuffling fade of 'Come In Number 21' on the album), the bubbling electric piano (R. Collins) the energy and the prominent backing vocals: "How does it feel?" Further listening has revealed the claustrophobic atmosphere of the whole record and the darker side of that very energy - they're up against the wall and they know it, they're both waving and drowning. That's where the defiance of the unwieldy title comes in; they disdain the easy path in the knowledge that it's no longer open to them. And "them" is certainly the word here, because the bond between them is so intensely important. The energy is manic; I have the (not entirely literal) mental image of them throwing themselves at the walls.
Looked at that way, it's pretty heavy stuff and I'm starting to see why even a limited one-week-only release in a special box with three postcards and a demo version of the previous hit couldn't take this any higher than 38. And although that's unfortunate really, it suits this blog very well - this track never gets played on the radio, and although I don't claim it as their best single it's one that deserves more posterity than it has.

Official website: www.thecharlatans.net
YouTube If You Want To: The promo video, which may have cost almost £20 to make.
Where to get it: I've talked up the Up To Our Hips album more than enough, I think, but those wishing merely to dip their toes in the water are advised to pick up the "best-of" collection Melting Pot. Meanwhile, the B-side 'Subterranean' crops up on Songs From The Other Side and the video (which I've now seen) features on their first DVD.

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