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Up At The Lake by The Charlatans

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Reviewed on 21st May 2004.


Up At The Lake

By The Charlatans

The first song on this album is the title track. It rocks and stomps, demanding volume. Burgess blends his natural voice, with the falsetto style he adopted on the 'Wonderland' album. This track is not what you might expect from the Charlatans, but how do you know what to expect from them? The disco funk of 'Wonderland' was a far cry from the melody of 'Us & Us Only' and the Dylan influenced, Hammond organ infused story telling that began it all.

With the second track - Feel the Pressure - we are back on familiar territory. This has disco funk and distorted electric guitar, marching band drum beat, with the falsetto voice sneaking in. This could be a song from 'Wonderland' - slightly cheesy, but in a feel good way, it certainly has a swagger about it. It breaks down into Dylan-esque story telling then back into the funk jam that is the basis for this song.

This is an album of love songs and ballads, which is fair enough. Until the end of track five I was thinking 'I would expect this kind of music on 'Sounds of The Sixties'-Brian Matthews, Radio 2, Saturday mornings, which my dad listens to. The band has got a bit older, mellowed in their maturity, developed a vintage sound, but - have they lost something?

Track six - High Up Your Tree - seems like it could be a turning point. From here, there is a Beatles and a Beach Boys - Pet Sounds influence. The music has a similar feel to songs from Wonderland, with the vocals in 'Tellin' Stories' style - Burgess' voice hasn't changed, and definite improvement in range is obvious. The production on this song is note worthy - Hammond organ is subtly used, complimented with a great rolling bass sound.

There's a great bit of lead and keyboard at work at the end of this song, reminiscent of The Doors, for a moment anyway.

With 'Blue For You' I expected a ballad. I got blues rock and Madchester. More like what I expect from the Charlatans. Strings are blended with wah lead (which I love passionately). The Hammond works in varying degrees of excellence bringing it all into a nursery rhyme arpeggio breakdown with great vocal harmonies, and what I imagine would be a great build up for a live jam at the end. Promising.

'Loving You is Easy' is the stand out track for me. Sung by Tony Rogers (piano/ keyboard/ organ player) it harks back to the style of George Harrison, and there is something of that in Rogers' voice. This is pleasantly complimented by lead work. It's a piano based track with layers of bass, guitar and vocals creating a - great depth of sound.

The backing vocals, sound like McCartney sang them. Lead guitar destroys the Beatles part of the sound, although, the piano has the last word. Tony Rogers = star musician, and not a bad singer!

I find it saddening that, on an album of twelve songs, there are only three tracks which truly stand out. The rest of the albums seems middle of the road plus, there are tracks to avoid; As I Watch You In Disbelief - T he description of this one is in the title. There are only very subtle clues that this is The Charlatans in Burgess' voice and certain musical attributes, but anything good is shrouded by the fact it sounds like Status Quo, which I do not believe is a good thing.

There are some great elements in these songs, but it doesn't quite gel, especially not as an album. The album doesn't even end on a high - Dead Love - the final track - is very pessimistic. I'm disappointed.



All replies to this article. Log in to post a reply.

On 22nd May 2004 at 18:55 Anonymous 2402 wrote...

Just thought I'd say this is a very good and informing review


On 25th May 2004 at 13:07 Anonymous 154 wrote...

I agree with most of the points you've raised in the review. Compared to Us and Us Only and Wonderland, the album is very disappointing. Doesn't have any real standout songs, and as an album it lacks cohesion.



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