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Five of the best: The Charlatans

As the veteran indie icons prepare for another summer of festivals, Jamie Bowman picks some of The Charlatans' best tunes from their 25 year career

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 21st Mar 2016

It's 28 years now since The Charlatans formed in the West Midlands around core trio of bassist Martin Blunt, keyboardist Rob Collins and drummer Jon Brooks. The recruitment of singer Tim Burgess in 1989 proved crucial, the band then surfing the rising Madchester wave thanks to a hasty relocation to Cheshire and a sound that was as influenced by acid house as it was sixties psychedelia. The hits quickly followed with Burgess' pouting lips and bowl cut hairdo proving an iconic image of the baggy boom.

Since then there have been ups and down a-plenty with Collins dying in a car crash in 1996 and Brooks succumbing to brain cancer in 2013. But as their 12th studio album, 2015's Modern Nature proved, The Charlatans can still cut it. As a live band they remain a thrilling proposition and this summer will see them take to the stage at various festivals including Kendal Calling and Scotland's Electric Fields.

With that in mind we thought we'd take a trip back down the decades and pick out five of their very best tunes.

'The Only One I Know' (1990)

The Charlatans crash landed into the UK top ten in May 1990 with their second single the evergreen 'The Only One I know'. It's still probably the band's best known song with it's classic baggy drum beat and Collins' cheeky keyboard from Deep Purple's Hush making it a perennial indie disco favourite. It even survived a funk style cover version from Robbie Williams and Mark Ronson which is still too painful to think about. 

'Sproston Green' (1990)

Every indie band around this time needed an epic set closer and The Charlatans' were no different with the trance-like 'Sproston Green' which was named after an area close to Burgess' Northwich home. Powered along in one long groove driven by swirling Hammond chords and stabbing guitars, the song is till the traditional climax to very Charlatans gig and long may it remain so.   

'Jesus Hairdo' (1994)

After riding out the grunge years, The Charlatans suddenly seemed relevant again with the Brit Pop sound of the top ten Up To Our Hips album which spawned the singles 'Can't Get Out Of Bed', 'I Never Want an Easy Life if Me and He Were Ever to Get There' and 'Jesus Hairdo'. We've plumped for the latter with it's great video featuring Burgess cavorting with the US and UK flags painted to his torso.

'Just When You're Thinking Things Over' (1995)

The Charlatans properly arrived at the Brit Pop party when their fourth self-titled album went to the top of the charts around the same time Blur and Oasis were battling it out in the singles chart.

Regarded by many as the band's best album, it was the last to feature Collins' distinctive keyboard sound which was to the fore on the wonderful Rolling Stones-inspired 'Just When You're Thinking Things Over'. The overt Stones influence was rammed home by the video which aped the classic Performance film starring Mick Jagger. 

'Talking in Tones' (2015)

A more reflective, less hedonistic Charlatans began to emerge following the death of Brooks with the wistful 'Talking Tones' typical of the new sombre mood around the band. 2015 album Modern Nature was warmly received by critics and fans and 25 years on from their debut Some Friendly the band were back as good as ever.

The Charlatans play both Kendal Calling and Electric Fields this summer.

Like this? Read Five of the Best: The Cure.