Sixteen years into their career and the Charlatans UK are roughly at the same place the Rolling Stones were at the same point in their career -- not in terms of popularity, of course (the Charlatans have never had anything approaching a hit in the U.S.), but in musical terms. Which is a roundabout way of saying that their ninth studio album, Simpatico, is the Charlatans' version of the Stones' Emotional Rescue: it's a groove-centric rock album, heavy on disco and reggae rhythms, where the overall vibe is more important than the individual songs. Not that the quintet's sense of craftsmanship has abandoned them -- the opening "Blackened Blue Eyes" is as confident, muscular, and memorable as anything from their 1997 high-water mark, Tellin' Stories -- but they've made a conscious decision to emphasize groove and group interaction on Simpatico, and the move pays off to a certain extent at least. They haven't sounded this limber or danceable since the heyday of Madchester, and they've lost many of the period affectations that date their early records; they're now a lean, sinewy rock band and nowhere is that more evident than in the relaxed, natural rhythmic interplay on this record, which is the reason why Simpatico works as a party record, or stylish background music. At close listening, it's not as compelling, which is all due to the emphasis of sound over song. While that may frustrate some listeners, Simpatico works well on its own terms and is proof that the now-veteran Charlatans UK are building a reliably entertaining body of work.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine