published: 13 /
Sublime comeback album of upbeat pop from former Boo Radleys’ front-man, Martin Carr
Ah, Martin Carr, it's good to have you back. In recent years, it seemed like Carr might be completely lost to music. We saw on Twitter that he was writing and recording, but it seemed like no-one was interesting in helping him get it out to the public.
You'll know Carr as the songwriter and guitar wizard in the Boo Radleys. In the early 1990s, the Beatles-obsessed Carr transformed a second-division shoegaze outfit into one of the UK's most revered experimental bands. Their 1993 album 'Giant Steps' spliced together merseybeat, psychedelica, dub, punk and trip-hop into an album that is, literally, unlike any other I've heard.
Then things got weird. Always keen on classic chart pop, Carr suddenly found Britpop exploding all around him. And as the lead track on his band's next album, Carr had a song that would become a huge, huge hit. It may have begun with the words 'Summer's Gone', but 'Wake Up Boo!' became a breakfast radio staple. I suspect, even today, the royalties from that song mean Carr will never have to do a day's work again, should he not want to. But it also proved impossible to follow up. Two further albums were widely admired by critics, but the millions who bought 'Wake Up' were not going to stick around for experimental, feedback-drenched art rock.
After breaking up the Boo Radleys, Carr (performing as 'Bravecaptain') dipped his toes in the murky waters of electronica and, then, dived right under the waves. You could call it bravely pushing his musical boundaries. Or you could call it wasting his talent. Either way, the public weren't buying it and sales were lower even than for those Boos records that didn't sell. Even the sound of 'Wake Up Boo!', still a Magic FM staple, didn't seem to be enough to maintain interest in Carr's music.
And then, suddenly, despite demos of his latest batch of songs having floated around for several years, a German label got in touch. They had recently found a new niche resurrecting the careers of forgotten English songwriters. After a few beers, Carr had signed up. 'The Breaks' is the result.
And what a welcome return it is. Carr is one of those songwriters with a seemingly instinctive knack for churning out the kind of 'classic' English pop that never seems to actually be a hit any more. If 'The Breaks' doesn't quite contain anything quite as irresistible as 'Wake Up Boo!', then for the most part you could draw a line from the songs that made up the rest of Carr's bestselling album to this one. While he can't resist the occasional flourish of distorted guitar, and a few electronic tricks flutter away in the background, this is mostly an album of glorious, melodic songwriting.
Take, ‘I Don't Think I'll Make It’. At first glance, you'd mistake it for a stereotypical apologetic love-song, but a casual reference to René Descartes makes you realise you are listening to a true master. Descartes promised to write about emotion “as if no one had written on these matters before”, and that is exactly what Carr does. Of course, Carr is far from the first middle-aged Englishman to release an album of mid-tempo guitar pop, but it doesn't matter. He does it with sincerity and style, demanding your attention (and insisting you sing along).
The Santa Fe Skyway
St Peter In Chains
Sometimes It Pours
No Money In My Pocket
I Don't Think I'll Make It
Mandy Get Your Mello On