The dance and hip-hop textures on the Charlatans U.K.'s 2001 album, Wonderland, fade to the back on the surprisingly subdued Up at the Lake, the Charlatans' eighth studio album. On Wonderland, the band sounded like it still wanted to change the world (or, at the very least, the world's dancefloors), but Up at the Lake sounds like its title suggests: a retreat and a retrenchment. The classic-rock coloring that dominated discs like the band's self-titled release and Tellin' Stories are back, combined with some previously unheard brief flirtations with classic folk. There's a defined sense that this is the beginning of a new chapter for the band, and that Up at the Lake is their first work as "mature" artists. It makes sense, since the Britpop torch had been passed on from the Charlies and their peers to the next generation (the Futureheads, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, the Coral, Franz Ferdinand, etc.) by 2004. What's here instead is the boozy barroom shuffle of "Bona Fide Treasure," British trad rock in the title track, and just a touch of the band's post-Madchester tendencies on "Feel the Pressure." Up at the Lake is a relaxed and assured record, the work of craftsmen who know how to produce something solid and consistent. As such, there isn't much of a spark, but anyone who's bothered to follow the Charlatans U.K. this long (which hasn't been easy, since Up at the Lake was denied a U.S. release) won't be disappointed.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Damas