Bouncing between being a bawdy baggy icon and a dungaree wearing Britpop star, The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess has transitioned through yet another public persona with his fifth solo album, I Love the New Sky.
In an uplifting collection of songs, the bowl-cut boasting artist appears to have regressed to a high-school nerd in a music room, with the piano stuck on ‘synth’ mode. After organising Twitter listening parties and creating a “virtual coffee shop” named Tim Peaks, it is no wonder that his newest work blends synth, piano and strings (emphasis on the synth) to form an electrically charged album with naturalistic flair.
Paying homage to prominent musicians in British culture, the album has a number of humorous references that punch you in the face. Echoing ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ by The Cure, Burgess playfully sets the tone of the songs to follow with his opening guitar strums, in a tune titled ‘Empathy for the Devil’. Even this title references other British heroes, mirroring ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by The Rolling Stones. Four striking piano chords at the opening of ‘Sweet Old Sorry Me’ whimsically reflect Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets’ for a short moment, leaving listeners second-guessing themselves when the song turns into Burgess’ own.
Despite trading his peroxide-blonde look for a more natural one, the iconic frontman’s previous music style is thankfully not lost alongside it. In a soundscape that glides through the phases of Tim Burgess’ career, this collection is out to satisfy his loyal fans whilst maintaining the artist’s signature unpredictability from one song to another.
‘Comme d’habitude’ appears to be highlighting the style of ‘White’ from his 2012 album, Oh No I Love You, with a softer melody and unedited piano. The swirls of synth and simple percussion are suddenly interrupted by a plucky bridge, featuring a number of peculiar elf-like backing vocals, building on his old style, and adding new twists.
While ‘The Warhol Me’ is eccentrically fuelled by a youthful synth, including a repetitive high pitched siren that whirls around as Burgess describes a day in the life of Andy Warhol, ‘I Got This’ ardently calls back to the familiar hay day of the Charlatans, fusing a prominent lead guitar with tempered piano and a positive message. ‘Oh my Corazon’, a fan favourite from his 2003 collection I Believe, clearly has influenced album closer ‘Laurie’, with signature strums of guitar, a low bass and a hell of a lot of reverb on the vocals.
Despite paying homage to his independent career and The Charlatans through a scrapbook of styles, with I Love the New Sky Burgess has developed an unquestionably fresh collection. The unpredictable album reflects youth, optimism and imagination in a positive assortment of humorous songs which are perfect for our current climate.
Words by Harriet Fisk