The Charlatans: Some Friendly (1990)

After spending my mid-80s college years immersed primarily in jangly-guitar US bands, the new bands I discovered during my law school years were primarily UK-based, a lot of early Britpop and shoegaze.  One of my favorites from that era were the Charlatans (or the Charlatans UK, as they were initially tagged in the States, to distinguish them from the 60s San Francisco band of the same name, though at some point along the line the UK was dropped).

Their 1990 debut was probably second only to the Stone Roses' debut on my shortlist of new faves.  Like the Roses, they offered a poppy, mildly-psychedelic sound, a retro vibe over a modern dance beat; but unlike the Roses, their main selling point was a prominent organ throughout the music, giving a slight garage band feel to many of the tracks.

About half the songs were pretty killer.  The big single at the time was "The Only One I Know," which, despite some flak for borrowing the riff from Deep Purple's "Hush," was unusually distinctive, the rousing organ hook (however derivative) unlike anything else at the time.  It holds up today as one of the most essential tracks of the era.  But that was just one among many.  The similar-sounding opening track, "You're Not Very Well," had a nice bass groove under its organ-driven psych; "White Shirt" was pure melodic pop, a sweetly engaging tune, probably the most Roses-sounding; "Then" was a moody piece of light funk, another great bassline with a catchy hook in the chorus; and closing track "Sproston Green" was a rousing, upbeat anthem with shades of the "Sister Ray"/"Roadrunner" hook.

Alas, as the band itself has conceded, a few of the tracks were filler, some sameness setting in about midway; and while the persistent organ sound set them apart from their more guitar-oriented peers, it gets a little grating at points -- I kinda wish they'd cranked up the guitar and bass here and there.  But the high points more than offset the duller bits.

And unlike most of their peers, the Charlatans have stuck around for the long haul, consistently releasing decent albums in the years since; some are at least as good as the debut (i.e. follow-up Between 10th and 11th saw the band's songwriting mature, while 1995's self-titled album has a poppier, Oasis-like vibe, only better than a lot of Oasis' work).

Here's the video for "The Only One I Know":
Here's "Sproston Green":
...and here's "Then":