Album Review: The Charlatans – Who We Touch

17 Sep

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Charlatans…now don’t confuse that with me hating them, they are far from a bad band and I know they have their fans so if this review does not agree with your tastes, then feel free to comment, this is just how I feel, I don’t claim to be an expert on this band but I am a person who likes music and The Charlatans well they make music so here’s the review.

Who We Touch is the band’s first album since 2008’s You Cross My Path which was released on the internet as a free download before getting a retail release a few months later. While not a bad album You Cross My Path failed to do much to set itself apart from the crowd. A couple of great singles with memorable melodies made the album worth hearing a couple of times but nothing more really, at best it gave you a couple of songs to add to your shuffle, anyway that’s the past Who We Touch is the present and the question is, is it better?

Kicking off with Love is Ending, actually before I get into the actual song I just have to say that it has one of the weirdest openings to an album I have ever heard, it sounds like someone hit the record button a second or two late and the song starts mid-note, either way after about 6 or so seconds, the band seem to realise they’re making noise and get on with the actual song which is…well pretty generic. Nothing about the song really makes it stand out and the chorus feels kind of out-of-place and just really is pretty flat, it’s just a weak start to the album overall. Thankfully though the opening of My Foolish Pride shows the band are indeed capable of more than your standard BritPop song; while not really sounding all that unique the song has a pretty good melody to really drive it into your head and while the lyrics aren’t anything special they’re not bad either, which is pretty much true for the entire album, I’m not going to go into detail on the lyrics as well they’re not worth it, either to complain about or praise.

Your Pure Soul manages to sound appealing despite the fact that Burgess seems to be trying a little too hard to make every line rhyme, at times it works at other times it just comes off as awkward, as the lyrics half the time seem like random sentences thrown together just because they rhyme. I feel like I’m going to use the word generic a little too much in this review, but there’s no other way to describe the strings; we’ve heard them in a million songs before. Smash the System starts off strong but is let down by a weak chorus, which while starting good seems to get caught by the usual problem of repeating the song’s name too much; which wouldn’t be that bad if it wasn’t said in such a boring way, the potential for greatest is here just never realised. Intimacy again goes par-for-the-course (hey I needed another word) with its sombre drum and bass start while of course semi-exploding into a wall of sound after about two minutes. Sincerity sees the band get back to a bit of rock, driven by a good bass line, what really makes the song stand out is that fact that the vocals seem to vary for once, while Burgess is a good singer his voice can get a bit samey at times so it’s nice that the band finally shake that up. As the longest song on the album it manages to for the most of its 6 minutes length without feeling too long, though at several times throughout I couldn’t help but wonder when the song would end but each time my thoughts were thankfully met by the song varying just enough to keep my interest.

Trust in Desire continues on from were Sincerity left off with another solid bass driven rock song; with a really good chorus, a nice melody and for once none contrived rhymes, despite being over five minutes long the song doesn’t let up for a second and is probably the best song on the album. After the album seemed to be hitting its sweet spot Well I Wonder brings it all back down-to-earth with an average song that really just fails to stand out at all. While Oh! tries to do something different it becomes painfully obvious why the band generally try not to, despite a strong first half the song seems to fall apart when the band try to make it stand out from their more usual stuff. The album ends with the Brian Eno wannabe track You Can Swim, as a fan of Brian Eno I do appreciate the washed out ambiance of the song, the most impressive thing about the song is the fact that the band manage to refrain from turning the ending into a big wall of sound explosion, the song sounds subdued the whole way through and really is one of those cases where the song being restrained really helps it stay interesting. There’s a hidden track tacked on at the end of the album which is really just the weirdest thing on the whole album, it doesn’t close the album as well as You Can Swim but it’s interesting enough that you will definitely pay attention when it starts playing a couple of minutes after the album ends.

Overall, Who We Touch can’t be called a bad album as really it’s a pretty decent album. The band manage to never really sound too samey music thanks to a range of styles however all the different styles do sound pretty generic. The highs of the album while not being amazing are a collection of great pop-rock-britpop songs, while the lows are mostly just boring. The Charlatans are a good band, technically you really can’t complain about what they do, they play well, the vocals are good, the lyrics are okay; while Who We Touch is not a unique album, if you’re a fan of the band then you’ll most likely really enjoy the album; if you’re not give it a go, at the very least it’ll give you a few songs to add to your regular shuffle, just don’t go in expecting anything to blow you away.


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