Charlatans UK take original route with pleasing results

July 10, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Mention the Manchester sound to most new music fans, and what springs to mind is a mix of Stones-style psychedelic rock and insistent, rave-ready rhythm tracks. Certainly, that's the sound associated with some of the city's most popular rock acts, groups like Happy Mondays, the Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets. Moreover, given the preponderance of Manchester-influenced acts elsewhere in Britain -- think of the Soup Dragons, the Farm, James -- it's easy for fans on this side of the Atlantic to assume that all Manchester bands sound the same.

Except, that is, for the Charlatans UK.

Listen to the Mancunian quintet's second and latest album, "Between 10th and 11th," and the music you will hear seems utterly unruffled by the winds of fashion. Although it's plain the Charlatans have drawn from dance music and psychedelia, it's equally obvious that the group has taken its influences in a wholly original direction, one which steadfastly avoids trendiness cliche.

How the group got to this point is hard to say. Ask singer Tim Burgess, and he seems flummoxed by the question. "I don't know what to say, really," he says, laughing over the phone from a tour stop in Pittsburgh. "I don't know what we did, but it felt right at the time.

"I suppose we've just got vivid imaginations."

Maybe so, but it also helps that the group had the freedom to act on that imagination. Most young groups (and none of the Charlatans are older than 24) are usually watched fairly closely when they go in to record an album, lest they end up wasting their time and the company's money. But somehow, the Charlatans wound up being left to their own devices.

"Our A&R person and the other people who are supposed to guide you [through making an album] just left us completely on our own," Burgess says. "Sometimes you need a bit of help, but we didn't have any. And we didn't have anyone trying to guide us into any particular area or anyone to actually help us understand how to record a record, with the exception of our producer, Flood."

Luckily, Flood provided all the guidance the group needed. "If you really want a certain sound from your own instrument, and no one's getting it for you, it can be frustrating," Burgess says of the recording process. "I think what Flood did for us was made it a lot easier for us to actually be able to translate what we get in the rehearsal room onto record. I think it was a bit telepathic; he knew what we wanted, just by our conversations."

That's why Burgess believes that "Between 10th and 11th" is such an improvement on "Some Friendly," its predecessor. "Live, 'Some Friendly' was amazing," he says. "But on the record, I thought it sounded a little bit limp."

Overall, though, Burgess and his bandmates are happier on tour than in the studio. "It's like you can relax a little bit once your record's done," he says.

Charlatans UK

When: Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; part of HFS-tival

Where: Prince George's Equestrian Center, Upper Marlboro.

Tickets: $6 in advance, $7 day of show

Call: (301) 952-4740.

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