The Charlatans’ third release, 1994’s Up To Our Hips, is an overlooked gem of an album. Coming out as Britpop started reigning the music charts, the songs on Up To Our Hips weren’t exactly sure where they belonged in the mid-90s scene. The Charlatans were known for their baggy, Manchester style. It was more about danceable jams than indie guitar pop hits. Still, Up To Our Hips features some great ’90s pop songs.
It kicks off with what might be my favorite Charlatans song, “Come In Number 21.” This track is lead by Rob Collins’ use of the organ giving it a dreamy feel. However, this is still the type of tune that I’d love to hear on the dance floor at a packed indie club. “Come In Number 21” sounds retro but still surprisingly fresh in 2013.
Obviously, the Charlatans biggest dance floor hit is “The Only One I Know” from 1990’s Some Friendly. However, I’ve always considered it a crime that Up To Our Hips’ “I Never Want An Easy Life If Me and He Were Ever To Get There” hasn’t achieved the same status. Admittedly that title is a bit of a mouthful but it’s one hell of a great indie dance song. It combines the organ riffs with guitar licks and a baggy beat. The next track, “Can’t Get Out of Bed,” is less baggy and far more akin to the Britpop anthems of the day. The Charlatans explore two different musical styles on this album. Some would say this is the mark of a confused band trying to find its way in the current musical landscape; I say it showcases the group’s versatility.
As the album continues, we vacillate between the baggy Charlatans and the poppy Charlatans. “Autograph” is a laid-back tune while “Jesus Hairdo” kicks things up a notch with its infectious guitar riffs.
The album ends with “Inside-Looking Out,” another bright spot often overlooked in the band’s back catalog. It’s one of those sexy songs that builds upon itself. Clocking in at just over five minutes, “Inside-Looking Out” takes us on a sonic journey. By the song’s end, we’re in a full out Charlatans jam with keyboards and Tim Burgess’ vocals leading the way. Bold statement warning: this is the way that you truly end an album.
If you don’t already own it, Up To Our Hips can usually be found for less than $5 (or £5) in the discount bin at your local record store. Be sure to pick up a copy. You won’t be disappointed.