Burgeoning double album sees The Charlatans frontman explore a huge range of styles and moods, proving his thirst for creativity knows no bounds
As we have noted on many occasions, lockdown has been difficult for anyone of a creative bent. Yet if you want an example of how it has been put to the best possible use, Tim Burgess is surely the artist to choose. His thirst for creativity knows no bounds, with several books under his wing, continued engagements with The Charlatans and the daily Twitter Listening Parties, one of the pandemic’s genuine success stories.
All this without mentioning his burgeoning solo career, supplemented here by a massive double album. There are 22 tracks on Typical Music, and it is to his enormous credit that even at an hour and a half the music is still full to bursting with ideas by the end. As he plots its course, Burgess explores a huge range of styles and moods, taking the listener on a rollercoaster before setting them down in a heap at the end.
All this is good, mind – for there is a wholly positive undercurrent to this work. The opening pair, Here Comes The Weekend and Curiosity, immediately establish the uplifting mood. The former is rich in possibility, in spite of how “there’s so much to do”, while the latter charms with childlike phrases and an infuriatingly catchy hook.
The musical influences come from far and wide, and while it’s tempting to play ‘hunt the source’ the best thing to do is sit back and enjoy the huge range of styles Burgess navigates with apparent ease. Safe to say that if you are a fan of Sparks, Todd Rundgren or BeBop Deluxe – to mention just a few names – there will be a great deal for you here.
Burgess gives considerable credit to the companions in this odyssey. They are largely unchanged from the previous album, with Thighpaulsandra and Daniel O’Sullivan let loose on all kinds of acoustic and electronic trickery, bolstered by excellent contributions from vocalists Rose Keeler and Sandra Marvin, saxophonist Sam Gendel, the strings of Echo Collective (wonderful on A Quartet To Eight) and finishing touches from Dave Fridmann. Nitin Sawhney, too, makes a guest appearance on the wonderful epilogue What’s Meant For You, Won’t Pass By You.
What really impresses here is that the level of inspiration never dips, a profound sense of urgency that says this album simply had to be made. Burgess sings with great feeling of life experiences recent and remembered. Flamingo is a touching example, reflecting on a past relationship with his father but also the present with his young son. After This offers a way forward, proclaiming “there’s a future after this” over a backdrop of warm harmonies. It mines an optimism also favoured by Magic Rising, whose dense interplay feels like two songs at once.
Centre Of Me leaves a lasting and loving impression, its couplet “the centre of me is a symphony of you” repeated as a mantra before the song accelerates to its end. In the same way Typical Music itself is also constantly on the move, rushing through colourful harmonies like a fast train whizzing through a station, before crashing into the buffers at the end.
The deepest impact, however, is made by When I See You, the album’s longest track. Here the album’s psychedelia is beautifully shaded by shimmering guitars, and the repeated mantra leaves the listener in a euphoric, romantic haze. Burgess wrote it for an unknown object of his affections, and it is a fitting present.
There is too much going on for Typical Music to reveal all of its treasures in one listen – and even then you might find you enjoy it more with a self-imposed break in the middle. Yet this is a hugely enjoyable set of songs, re-evaluating any preconceptions about Tim Burgess and what his ‘typical music’ might be. Here is an artist enjoying the music more than ever, able to explore and experiment while making the listener smile and dream. It may be nearly 35 years since The Charlatans signed to Beggars Banquet, but for sheer scope and invention, Tim Burgess knows no bounds.