You Cross My Path
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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
Beginning with “Oh! Vanity,” with a rhythmic groove that mines Booker T. and the MG’s classic “Time is Tight” for its backdrop, this is definitely the sound of the Charlatans coming back to rightfully claim their spot in the history of Britpop. The driving nature of the song, coupled with Tim Burgess’s assured and righteous vocal delivery, just jumps straight off the starting line and doesn’t ever look back. When things shift into the second track, “Bad Days,” the band reaches into its past to its more keyboard-laden grooves yet successfully updates them for modern times. This is tasteful, sharp pop that begs to be heard. The organs of yore are gone, only to be replaced by tastier synth hooks and a beat that could be construed as one for the dance floors, but stands up just as well in a rock arrangement.
“Mis-takes” may just be the best song on the album, with its dramatic overtones, slightly compressed vocals that burst out at the right moments, and tightly-knit instruments that form a gigantic whole. This is what a well-oiled, long-running band sounds like when they’re firing on all cylinders. After this stunner, the Charlatans turn around and embrace tastes of the New Wave ‘80s for “The Misbegotten,” a track that manages to not sound like a cheap pastiche but a serious tribute. Definitely some good stuff here.
If there’s any lull to the first half of this album, it’s “A Day for Letting Go.” After four dynamic tunes in a row, this somewhat short ditty feels like generic Charlatans, but this is not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s merely what the band sounds like when they’re not pushing themselves as much. Nothing offensive, just nothing to really notice. Yet the title track following this tune makes up for the lapse in energy as it picks up the pace once again with its slightly Velvet Underground-like rhythm guitars, the return of the organ, and some pretty piano notes sprinkled on top.
The patented Charlatans organ comes into full bloom for the exciting “Missing Beats (of a Generation,” where once again things sound fresh and updated for today. The energy here is palpable. No, perhaps this is the best song on the album. Damn, it’s hard to pick when there’s so many. Unfortunately “My Name Is Despair” is not one of those in contention. The song musically sounds like its title. To that effect, the band succeeds. It’s just a bit of a letdown after the previous two tracks. However, “Bird” does much better in the drama department. It’s effective without being overwrought. Three cheers for economy!
You Cross My Path closes with “This Is the End,” a nifty bit of pop drone featuring the dusty old organ and some nice vocals. One hundred percent approved for fans -- a super album with only a couple missteps. Who could ask for more from some fine old stalwarts? What’s more, this “deluxe edition” features an entire second disc filled with live takes (five of this album’s songs, plus “Margin of Sanity” and “Acid in the Sea”) and two music videos (“Oh! Vanity” and “You Cross My Path”). All in all, this is a very nice package for the fan as well as the new listener. It’s nice to hear the Charlatans making such a strong comeback (indeed, this album was originally released online free to the masses and was a rousing success). Hopefully they’ll be around for another 10 years, and making music this good.