A chameleon of the times, Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess has manoeuvred smooth transitions from baggy psychedelicist to pugnacious belter of Britpop crowd-pleasers to peroxide-pudding-bowled priest of esoteric influences. Which is not to say he’s superficial: his tastes are deep and wide, and both his “virtual coffee shop”, Tim Peaks, and more recent lockdown listening parties on Twitter have brought listeners together with sincere, infectious enthusiasm.
Burgess’s fifth solo album continues that mood in an optimistic celebration that draws a natural line through all his phases. Recorded at Rockfield studios, also birthplace of the Charlatans’ 1997 platinum album Tellin’ Stories, with collaborators including Grumbling Fur, Nik Colk Void and Thighpaulsandra, I Love the New Sky is neck-deep in nerdery, from the nod to the Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry in the opening jangles of Empathy for the Devil to Comme D’Habitude’s for-the-heads reference to the song that became My Way. But it wears its learning lightly, driven by hooky melodies and strong choruses: Lucky Creatures relishes its Scott Walker-ish spaciousness, stretching out in swirls of synth and string, while Sweetheart Mercury has a vamping rhythm enlivened by squelchy Moog. It’s all crowned by the confidence of I Got This, which reconciles Charlatans-esque country-soul Hammond to classy baroque-pop ba-ba-bas in a way that is unabashedly uplifting.