The band’s last brilliant, consistent album, expanded with bonus content.
Ian Wade 2011
1999 was a rum year, really. Maybe people were too preoccupied with the world exploding at the end of it, or expecting the 365-day knees-up that Prince once teased that it might be. "I don’t appear to be partying," the public appeared to collectively say. Perhaps this preoccupation with a technological meltdown was one of the reasons that when The Charlatans released their masterpiece in that October, it didn’t go on to sell millions. The public are indeed a weird lot.
Their sixth long player, Us and Us Only was (is) one of the few Charlatans albums not connected in some way to a tragedy, mishap or an accountant ripping the band off; it’s also the first to feature keyboardist Tony Rogers as a full member. Rogers replaced Rob Collins, who was killed halfway through the making of previous LP Tellin’ Stories – and his first album with The Charlatans is one full of life, love and spirit.
Of the highlights, opener Forever snakes sexily like some kind of alluring reptile: it’s nine minutes of propulsive wonder that sets out the stall for the next 50-plus minutes. Both Impossible and I Don’t Care Where You Live are sweet, Dylan-esque love songs with hints of Memphis country soul troubadours. The swaggering A House Is Not a Home is something the Stones would probably hand over several limbs to sound like again; Senses (Angle On My Shoulder) is a dramatic bluesin’ highpoint, as is closer Watching You. Rogers manages to continue the standard that Collins had set, and expands on that in lush and luxurious ways.
This deluxe edition features an odyssey of treats, including remixes – the Jagz Kooner re-do of My Beautiful Friend featuring Bobby Gillespie on motorik drum duties is particularly astonishing – session tracks, a Later... appearance and live recordings, including numbers from the band’s Reading Festival slot of 1999. It all adds to what was already a more than fine package.
Us and Us Only was probably the last great, brilliant and fully consistent Charlatans album. It’s the sound of a band at ease in their own skins, and was a summation of everything they’d become in their first decade, along with a few hints towards what the next one would bring. As mentioned earlier, it’s a masterpiece.