The line on The Charlatans typically always has something to do with “consistency”, “dependability” and “adaptability”. It’s a line that’s not untrue, though, and while those words can read as euphemisms for uninspired, Tim Burgess and company have proudly worn them as well-deserved calling cards.
With that in mind, The Charlatans has refined one helluva status quo for themselves, and one would be hard pressed to necessarily expect more than that for a band beyond its silver anniversary. To be sure, that much is the case for at least half of Different Days, where the band churns out sturdy and dependable dance-inflected trad rock. In light of founding member Jon Brookes’s untimely passing in 2013, the band has depended on a certain level of outside contributions, and Different Days features its share of heavyweights.
Superstar features typically signal a dearth of homegrown inspiration and raise warning flags, yet Johnny Marr’s appearance on three tracks is hardly noticeable save for the unsurprising fact that he chips in exclusively on the album’s straight-laced first half. The Paul Weller co-write closer, “Spinning Out”, can’t conceal the unmistakable Weller backing vocal any more than anything could, yet again, it’s as subtle an appearance as it could be.
Where Different Days flexes its creative muscles are once its simply “dependable” and “consistent” first half gets out of the way and the band casts its stylistic net wider. “There Will Be Chances” is driven by a folksy, fingerpicked guitar lick, “Over Again” relies Balearic house influences while “The Same House” motors along on an Italo piano riff. Aside from specifics, Different Days, like its predecessor, Modern Nature, proves Burgess once again dogged in his ability to pop back up after being knocked down. He knows the band’s strengths, he knows just how far to reach beyond them, and he personally remains in just as fine of voice as he has in the past three decades.
At this point, The Charlatans are hard pressed to win any new fans really, no matter what they commit to tape. But Different Days does illustrate the band’s perpetual qualities and, in its second half at least, proves they’re at their best when coaxing in their adaptability as much as possible. Hardly earth-shifting, there’s little to scoff at on Different Days but, most importantly, plenty to smile about.