Radiohead have really turned the world on its head with their pay-as-you-like concept for their latest album. So in an effort to go one better, the Charlatans have released an album for free, with no expectation of a donation.
My initial thoughts were that the band were silly to have chosen this path – their fan base is older and thus wealthier, so why not just release it via the traditional route? Their fans would still want to buy the album. But that wasn’t enough for the Charlatans boys, they wanted to get their album heard by more people. To be fair to the lads, the way they have been marketed by their previous record label was pretty dire. Good record after good record (and some not so good ones too) failed to have any impact in the charts and on the radio.
But with You Cross My Path, this hasn’t turned out to be the case. The band had over 30,000 downloads in the first week alone, not surprising considering that this is the best free album that one can legally get for free (and that includes the hugely overrated In Rainbows). And (I’m whispering now), it is probably the best album that the Charlatans have produced since Tellin’ Stories.
Yes you read that right. The band have made a belter of an album. From opening track ‘Oh! Vanity’ and the first notes of the swirling organ, one is immediately drawn in. Gone is the dark, brooding cocaine inspired overtones of Wonderland, the classic rock sound of Down by the Lake, and the dub-influenced Simpatico, to be replaced by classic Charlatans with a hint of New Order. This is the Charlatans for the Klaxons generation. And damn good it sounds too.
‘Bad Days’ was described by Burgess as being a song about his rehabilitation after the booze and the drugs and may also be about those days where you just don’t want to get out of bed. ‘Mis-takes’ is perhaps their most radio-friendly song in an age – let’s hope the band have some sense to unleash this over the airwaves. Single ‘You Cross My Path’ is up-beat Charlatans with a driving beat, New-Orderesque synths and a catchy chorus. It works as well as it did, when it was first made available for free download via Xfm.
Other highlights include ‘Missing Beats of a Generation’ with it’s racy and almost funky music driving the song forward while the lyrics continue in the sombre, dark tone which oozes throughout the album. This should be exceptional live. While the final track, appropriately titled, ‘This is the End’ looks like it could become the drunken sing-a-long song at their concerts.
This is one of the most accomplished and rounded Charlatans albums in over ten years. The song choices are well made, it is well produced and without wanting to dismiss previous efforts, the style of music played suits them well. The next question must be, how can the band make money from this? They certainly deserve to. A luxury vinyl edition will be released in due course, but until then the best bet to support this band is in going to see them play these brilliant songs live.