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‘Pulmonary Oaks’ by Charlie’s Uniform – Album review

March 30, 2012

I first met Charlie’s Uniform [Dan Walder – guitar and vocals, Mat Soulsby – lead guitar, Jam Malley – bass, and Zak Woodward – drums and backing vocals] at The Watershed in Newport Pagnell, the boys’ home town, when they supported Toy Horses. The ‘headline’ act are on a bit of wave right now, having been proclaimed by many, including Stephen Fry, as being the best new indie band around. They have just completed a UK tour and played at SXSW whilst they were Stateside recording their album in Nashville. Yet as good as Toy Horses were on the night, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how Charlie’s Uniform more than held their own. Yes, they weren’t as polished, but it was only their fourth gig. What was on offer, however, was a set bursting with fine, well-crafted songs that are as catchy as barbed wire.

Charlie's Uniform
l-r: Zak, Dan, Mat & Jam

Tonight at Northampton’s Black Bottom Club, the quartet become a quintet, Zak will decamp to keyboards as a new drummer joins the line up and launch their début album, ‘Pulmonary Oaks’. It’ll be interesting how the new dynamic works because, as the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And there’s certainly nothing wrong with what Charlie’s Uniform have got going. I hope it’s an augmentation.

Listening to the album, a self-produced body of work, one can’t help but think that their judgement ought to be trusted. Each and every track is a potential single, each has its own unique, distinctive personality and each relies on its musical talent as opposed to digital effects, pedals and processors. Mat’s Wah-Wah pedal is about as high-tech as it gets. What the listener is presented with is a finished product that is as honest as an Arctic summer’s day is long . Dan’s lyrics, whilst often presented in a breakneck staccato, never get lost amidst the music and are instantly relatable, relevant and sing-a-longable. In fact, it is to the band’s great credit that they never overcrowd the songs, even when they’re at their toe-tappingly, energy-fuelled fastest.

Pulmonary Oaks is a very British album. If you preferred The Kinks to The Beach Boys, Bowie over Buckley (Tim or Jeff) or The Bluetones to Nickelback, I can pretty much guarantee that there’s something here for you. I’m not saying it’s retro; it’s not, but there are influences from all of those decades which, I believe, give the album a timeless quality whilst remaining up-to-date. Take Rich Man  for example. Now here’s the slowest track on the album, but one I cam imagine being used in a TV drama for the shot where the man is walking through the town, hills in the background, wondering whether the woman he has just had an argument with is truly the one for him whilst the audience thinks, ‘go on, you can’t walk away from this.’ It’s packed full of pathos and emotion. WasterNever Enough and Look For The Exit, would be the other three I’d have my money on if I were betting on which will become singles. Never Enough is an effervescent acid jazz/funk which, if you haven’t tapped your toes to the Britpopesque strains of Waster, will make you want to cut some rug. In 18 Carat Eyes, we have a magnificent Russian Folk meets Ska set closer, which not only draws the album to a closer, but is almost certainly going to be a live crowd pleaser.

Ultimately, there is a wit and wisdom that runs the entire length of this album from Waster through to 18 Carat Eyes that is quintessentially English. Mat’s solos are refreshingly succinct and measured and Jam and Zak combine brilliantly as the rhythm section, Zak’s drumming being expertly understated, whilst Jam is the real engine room of the band. His teacher would be extremely proud of him. I’ll let him know, he’s an old friend of mine! Light up the Montechristos and pour yourselves a large Havana Club boys, you’ve earned it.

Yes, I know it’s an odd title for an album. It’s an odd title for anything, but having been told the story, I get it. Unless you know the particular charity shop in Northampton that stocks inordinate amounts of wooden furniture, there’s little point trying to explain.

All you need to know is that Pulmonary Oaks contains no dead wood.

Look For The Exit [click to listen!]

@devilsaardvark

www.devilsaardvark.com

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From → devilsaardvark, Music

6 Comments
  1. “Newport Pagnell, the boys’ home town …… The Welshmen have just completed a UK tour”. Have they moved Newport Pagnell to Wales or did some Welshmen move to Newport Pagnell? Or am I still reeling after the result in the Bradford by-election?

    • Fair enough. Toy Horses are the Welshmen, but I have duly amended the copy to be clearer. People get confused enough by Newport Pagnell and Newport in Gwent – I don’t suppose I helped with that paragraph.
      And who’d have thought it… George Galloway, bucking the trend of the curse of Big Brother!

  2. Anonymous permalink

    The people are revolting – hee hee! Never thought I’d say good old George.
    This is a great blog…keep on keeping on….get more political!!

    • Thanks. Can I suggest you have a look at ‘Place Hope In Charity’, ‘S is for Relationships’ ‘All Together Now’ and/or ‘the Beaten Generation’?
      The people are revolting? I do hope so!
      Cheers.

  3. nice one that; “the people are revolting”. it sort of reminds me when i was teaching eap to a class mainly chinese students at loughborough university. the group were chatting, chatting, chatting in chinese and when i asked them what they were doing, one of the replied, “we’re disgusting.”

  4. I marked an essay where the student tried to convince me that a British monarch had died because a wound had become ‘sceptic’!

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