While Blur was busy parading around the globe to great acclaim in the '90s, showing off the Brit-pop crown and racking up tabloid headlines, the Charlatans UK were quietly amassing a stable of number-one hits and headlining gigs. Fast-forward to 2006, and it's more of the same. Although the elder statesmen just released Simpatico, their eleventh album (and first stateside release since 2001), things haven't really changed: These days, a new breed of British-based acts -- Art Brut and Arctic Monkeys, for instance -- are hogging the limelight. Regardless, the Charlatans have retained the intangibles that made them distinctive. The band's heavy vintage organ swells and perfect pop grooves are still driven by Tim Burgess's impassioned vocals and thinking-man lyrics. Ultimately, the Charlatans just try a bit harder. And who knows? Maybe one day they'll finally be recognized as the pioneers they are.
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