THE CHARLATANS with STARSAILOR at the Kool Haus (1 Jarvis), Friday (January 25). $22. 416-870-8000.
Even though Tim Burgess told everyone who would listen about his love for 60s soul and the Curtis Mayfield sound in particular, many long-time fans of the Charlatans were taken aback by Wonderland (Universal), the group's latest album.
Many in their brew-hoisting fan club were puzzled not only by the Charlatans' shift away from the anthemic sweep of Manchester-bent Britpop toward groove-oriented song constructs, but even more by Burgess suddenly using his voice in a very unusual way.
There's nothing terribly revolutionary about singing falsetto -- Mick Jagger does it, and Lambchop's Kurt Wagner is always reaching for notes well beyond his comfort level -- yet Burgess's daliance with the upper register made people very uncomfortable.
"It's only people in England who are freaking out about that," chuckles Burgess from his Los Angeles pad. "And I knew they would, because with this record they no longer know where to place us.
"We're not Britpop any more. We don't have the Manchester sound and we sure aren't indie rock. People have had to work a bit harder to figure out where we're coming from.
"But the people who own Curtis Mayfield records probably dig the fact that some fuckin' white kid from Manchester has been inspired to the point of emulation -- not imitation. If Curtis were around today, I think he'd be honoured to hear me struggle."
The interest in soul music isn't just a passing fancy for the Charlatans, insists moonlighting DJ Burgess, who plans to spin his fave 7-inch raves before Starsailor hit the stage at the Kool Haus Friday. The Wonderland album is only the beginning.
"We made a discovery while making this record. We've hit on something we're good at, and I don't believe we can turn our backs on it now.
"Everything's coming together since we started playing the new stuff live. The passion's there, everyone's got their head together and we're all on the same trip. We just need to continue in this direction to see where it leads us."
How about a collaboration with Lambchop idea man Kurt Wagner?
"Kurt and I have hung out a few times now, and we get on really well -- we're quite similar in a lot of ways.
"When we last met in Manchester, we had this plan to do something together where he would write the lyrics, I'd sing them and Mark (Charlatans guitarist Mark Collins) would play guitar, although I don't know if anything will come of it.
"But if Kurt's still interested, I would definitely go down to Nashville. We've done the L.A. thing, so I suppose Nashville's next, isn't it?"firstname.lastname@example.org