(Castle von Buhler, 1999)
Charlene might well have been my favorite of the Boston bands around the turn of the century. They seemed to appear regularly as openers on prestigious bills, typically turning out the most satisfying musical portion of the evening, and I used to happily pay full admission to a club just to hear their abbreviated set (though oddly enough, I don’t think I ever saw them headline). The group also released a string of fantastic records – three 7”s and an album – between 1999 and 2002 before going into semi-hibernation; there have only been scattered mini-tours and a handful of new MySpace mp3s in the years since. Howzabout a new record, fellers?
“Taking a Dive” is their first single, and it’s a good introduction to the band’s sound: Dreamy, hazy guitarscapes with a strong melodic sense… somewhere between Flying Saucer Attack and “Big Day Coming” Yo La Tengo. Minimal tom thumps underpin the A-side’s wintry, echoing guitars, with what sounds like a mellotron flute-effect blowing through at the end; if Spiritualized was less grandiose and more resourceful, they’d have been making tasteful, delicate songs like this. Similarly, “Blackout” is a perfect drug-damaged lullaby that slowly builds to a modestly-majestic drum-heavy climax before fading away again. Excellent, excellent stuff. All of it! Charlene would develop a stronger rhythmic sense and get slightly more pop/rock-oriented on subsequent records (not, however, at the expensive of their psychedelic leanings), but this lovely, spaced-out bit of dreamrock is a fully-formed debut that shows they always knew pretty much exactly what they wanted to do as a band. No awkward fumbling about for these guys; it was all quality all the time from the get-go.