A pop generation ago, Manchester, England, produced a crop of bands whose churning dance rock and puree of influences both modern (hip-hop) and ancient (60s classic rockers) combined to create an intense and seemingly portentous branch of pop music. Among these were the Charlatans (the "UK" is a legal nicety in the U.S.), who were more grounded than the drugged-out Happy Mondays, more focused than the more acclaimed Stone Roses. Their fame in England was immediate, but some boys from Seattle got in the way of worldwide domination, and most things British were quickly forgotten. Now there's a new wave of Brit bands getting attention, and the Charlatans are back in style again. Their new self-titled album, their fourth, displays many of its predecessors' weaknesses: utterly banal lyrics, a tendency toward album filler. But in their own way the Charlatans are more substantive than most: they boast a deep, groovy bass; a swirling danceability; sweaty, steamy beats. And most of all there are those influences, particularly the early ones, which the Charlatans brandish proudly. It can be a game: hey, there's that Deep Purple riff, the "Feeling Alright" groove, the chord progression from "Something in the Air," the piano from "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and as for that snatch of chorus, it's, wait a minute, oh yes: "Torn and Frayed" from Exile on Main St. Nothing important or meaningful, you understand, just that good mid-level rock everyone complains there's not enough of these days. Menswear are a cheerful British pop outfit whose youth (late teens, early 20s) provides both a selling point and an excuse for their debut record's adolescent compositions. Wednesday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tom Sheehan.