In times when music fans are spoiled for choice longevity is something rock bands are finding harder than ever to attain. As the 1990s has seen listeners grow increasingly fickle in their tastes, sustaining a decade-long interest, not to say popularity and chart-topping sales, takes more than gusto and persistence. Among those who have managed to pull off the feat, however, are the Charlatans. A decade has elapsed since the day they set out on a trek for musical recognition, blazing a trail through the ever-changing musical landscape. Not that the band is too perturbed about being senior citizens in the fast-changing world of pop music. 'It doesn't feel like 10 years - it feels like a long weekend at the moment,' said Martin Blunt, speaking from Cologne in Germany. 'We never had a master plan. It did not feel like an anniversary at all - we still feel fresh and new and we've still got the passion and the hunger to do better than what we did before. I think it [the main concern] is not to turn the band into something complacent.' In the middle of a sold-out European tour, Blunt was understandably blase about such retrospective notions. When asked how the quintet - or the majority of them, details of which we will go into later - succeeded in sticking together for so long he jibed: 'With safety pins, probably.' Of course he has good reason to be gleeful about the band's staying power. When the line-up first arrived on the scene in 1990, they were branded as peripheral no-hopers jumping on the 'Madchester' bandwagon - an indie-dance vehicle kick-started by names such as the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays. Since then the Roses collapsed and the Mondays fell apart and returned as a parody of themselves. The Charlatans, meanwhile, are revelling in their sixth No 1 album of the decade. But the going has not always been easy for the Charlatans. The usual rock 'n' roll maladies are nothing compared to the drug charges, prison sentences and fraudulent accountants that have plagued the group. The turning point for the band was two years ago when founding member and keyboardist Rob Collins - who had served time for his part in a robbery - was killed in a car accident. His death came during sessions for Tellin' Stories, an album that would secure the group's place as one of the top British bands. 'It felt like we were going to produce something heavyweight for a change,' Blunt recalled. 'At the end of the recording it did feel like we'd done something fantastic - but then we lost one of our members. It's either go away, hibernate and dwell or actually say 'no, let's do it'.' Just days after Collins' funeral, the band delivered a sparkling performance at Knebworth and impressed even their fiercest critics with their dogged determination. Rather than cause them to collapse, the tragic accident toughened up the band. Tony Rogers joined the four remaining musicians - Blunt, vocalist Tim Burgess, guitarist Mark Collins and drummer Jon Brookes - to make it a five-piece band again. With a greatest-hits retrospective under their belt and a change of label - they are signed up with a major label after 10 years at indie stalwarts Beggars' Banquet - they have delivered yet another masterpiece, Us And Us Only. But in true Charlatans fashion, the band had to first face a potentially disastrous scenario: vocalist Burgess' decision to move to Los Angeles, where his girlfriend (now wife) works. 'The telephone costs are more expensive, that's all - and it's just that a lot of the lyrics were written at 35,000 feet,' Blunt said. But jokes aside, he said there were some advantages to Burgess' decision to move. 'When Tim's here, we actually get things done because he only has a certain amount of time - so this album is the quickest we've done: it only took us four months to record and mix,' he said. 'It's a good thing we do not all live in the same area, because when we do get together it's like 'yeah, what have you been up to?' or 'what records are you listening to?' Tim moving there just keeps it exciting. And to put a perspective to it - I live nearest to our studio, but Tim can get there on time and I'm always more than an hour late.' Us And Us Only is the band's triumphant return to the ring. Brimming with tight pop gems, it reflects the Charlatans' numerous influences - from Bob Dylan to Pink Floyd - and incorporates their trademark sounds. Upbeat numbers, such as Impossible and I Don't Care Where You Live, brush shoulders with mystic tracks such as Senses and My Beautiful Friend. The jewel in the record's crown is Forever, a seven-minute symphony of sounds in which a persistent organ and looped drums do battle with Blunt's funky bass lines and Burgess' crisp vocals. 'The climate in Britain at the moment is very much pop music with the emphasis on a lot of throwaway music - and we knew by releasing Forever we were not going to make it to the radio,' Blunt said. 'But it was our statement - we wanted to go on with that but we wanted to do something and assert ourselves.'