Survivors of Madchester

Yes, it's true: the Charlatans UK are still around—turns out the psychedelic-tinged Brit popsters weren't done in by all those illicit substances during their early '90s Madchester days.

However, despite a dozen U.K. top 20 singles and No. 1 albums, it hasn't always been an easy ride for the band. In years past, the Hammond-happy musicians soldiered through one member's temporary nervous breakdown—and the imprisonment and death of another—before being swindled by a shady accountant. Their 2004 album, Up at the Lake, didn't even see a U.S. release.

But now, fronted by lanky singer and Los Angeles resident Tim Burgess (you know, the one with Jaggeresque lips?), the Charlatans are back with the dark yet surprisingly strong Simpatico. The album's groovin' reggae-, funk- and dub-inflected tunes channel the ghosts of Bob Marley, Joe Strummer, Gram Parsons and the Specials, especially on the sleek, highly danceable "Blackened Blue Eyes," heard frequently on Indie FM 103.1.

It'd be wise for fans heading to the Charlatans' debut Orange County gig and first area appearance since Coachella 2002 to brush up on the newer stuff—half the set is devoted to it. Still, the guys have been tossing in such nuggets as "Can't Get Out of Bed," "Then," "Jesus Hairdo," hit single "The Only One I Know" and standard concert closer "Sproston Green."

Sure the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays stole some of their thunder and critical acclaim, but 16 years on, the Charlies got the last laugh—Inspiral Carpets, where are you now?

Charlatans UK and Boy Kill Boy at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583; Wed., 8:30 p.m. $20. All ages.


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