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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 21:56 GMT
CD Review: The Charlatans
The Charlatans - Us And Us Only (Universal)

By the BBC's Nigel Packer

With a sound pitched somewhere between the Stones and Dylan, The Charlatans are no strangers to walking with dinosaurs.

Sure enough the giants of rock's Jurassic era once more cast their shadows over new album Us And Us Only, but as usual Tim Burgess and Co rise above the level of fossilised retro to produce an album brimming with life.

The killer hooklines and epic structure should prove more than enough to maintain the band's place among the Indie elite.

Retro hero: Tim Burgess consolidates his indie stronghold
And if they're never going to be lauded as the most original band on the planet, at least they're smart enough to follow the golden rule that if you're going to borrow from the past - borrow the best.

Exile On Main Street and Blonde On Blonde are the chief influences, and The Charlatans make an admirable job of recreating the dishevelled bar-room sound so beloved of their heroes.

Senses is a dusty-heeled stomper based around a mighty slide guitar riff, which eventually melts into the plaintive coda Angel On My Shoulder - complete with lazy acoustic strumming and fractured mouth organ.

The playful Impossible, meanwhile, shows just how far Burgess has developed as both lyricist and singer since the slightly self-conscious days of the early 90s.

If the majority of the album is loaded with a sense of history, however, there are one or two surprises which show a willingness to tamper with tradition and experiment with new ideas.

Most ear-catching of all is Good Witch-Bad Witch, featuring an eerie glockenspiel and ominous double bass overlaid with a distorted rant from Burgess.

Strangely hypnotic, it marks a total break from the past and is guaranteed to catch everyone off guard.

Whether it heralds an entirely new direction for the band remains to be seen, but it's a definite sign of evolution.

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