Charlatans UK – Simpatico (Sanctuary Records)

After seventeen years together, The Charlatans are fighting to stay relevant. To put it bluntly, the hits dried up a long time ago, their audience is shrinking and their last album, Up At The Lake, wasn’t even released in America.

However, The Charlatans have always done well in the face of adversity: When Brit-pop overtook the Madchester scene, the band simply changed with the times. When Keyboardist Rob Collins was killed in an auto accident, they hired Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy and came up with Tellin’ Stories, their best album. The band’s fighting spirit has always been a strength, which is why Simpatico is such a disappointment.

Opening track “Blackened Blue Eyes” has that classic Charlatans swagger and sound – dance beats, rock guitars, and Tim Burgess trademark scowl – and could have appeared on any of the band’s releases, dating back to 1990’s Some Friendly. If only the rest of the album were this strong. “NYC (No Need To Stop)” is an embarrassing party-electro song wherein Tim Burgess raps. He’s a better rapper than Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, but I don’t think Nas is losing any sleep over him. Several other tracks (“For Your Entertainment”, “When The Lights Go Out In London” and “City of The Dead”) showcase an obsession with reggae – another genre the band has no business tackling, and the results are bloodless and boring. Even when they’re operating on familiar territory with a song like “Muddy Ground”, they fail to ignite anything but the dimmest of sparks. Perhaps it’s time to throw in the towel.