Martin Carr has been making interesting, boundary-pushing music for years. As the main songwriter in The Boo Radleys, under the moniker of Bravecaptain and as a solo artist, Carr has been responsible for an impressive catalogue of songs and is widely respected for walking his own artistic path. However, if “The Breaks” feels like a comeback, it’s not just because it is his first album release in five years, it is because it comes across like a wholesale embrace of the crafted indie-pop instincts which made The Boo Radleys’ best work so fine. The experience and musical nous Carr has accumulated over the years are very much in evidence here. Martin has combined intelligent, witty lyrics with a sublime range of melodies, harmonies and balanced, yet inspired, instrumentation for an experience thoroughly pleasing to the ear and has also managed to avoid treading ground which would be deemed too familiar for discerning musical minds. Importantly, “The Breaks” also has an invigorating spark and energy to it; although mature and accomplished, this album still has a twinkle in its eye.
Although this is a very pleasing album from start to finish, there are more than a few highlights. Opening track “The Santa Fe Skyway”, for example, has an instant pop punch and floats on a haze of summery harmonies and tasteful brass punctuation. “St. Peter In Chains” is an up-tempo tale of an oppressive religious upbringing (““Jesus loves you” Sister Mary said/as she beat out the rhythm on the back of my head/love with the ruler or the hand or the cane”) and “Mainstream” a beautifully poignant and honest composition, made even more so by how high the weary vocals are in the mix, as well as the sublimely understated choral and brass accompaniment to the chorus. The terrific “Senseless Apprentice” is a barely disguised knife to the jugular of Katie Hopkins, a particularly odious person who frequently extols the virtues of selfishness. It would have won me over on the lyrics alone (“Your greedy eyes and your mouth for rent/your grabbing hands and your desperate scent”) but it’s also a rather superb track, musically, with some excellent guitar work and inventive bursts of vocal harmonies.
The gently acoustic “No Money In My Pocket” contains more lyrical gems (“But Jesus was a leftie/so they nailed him to a tree/you don’t get on the wrong side of the business community”) and bears a few similarities to the compositional style of Eels’ Mark Everett. “I Don’t Think I’ll Make It” is utterly charming, with the kind of laid-back, easy, rolling characteristic of one of Richard Hawley’s “Coles Corner” pieces. It finishes with the title track, a soothing, folk-influenced piece which radiates internal tranquillity whilst the world crashes on all around you. All-in-all, “The Breaks” is an exceptionally likeable and enjoyable album. Admittedly, there are a few moments where a particular phrase, guitar-line or style may remind you of other songs and artists, but the inventiveness, originality and fresh ideas Martin brings to this album are undeniable. People who have previously enjoyed Martin’s work and, especially, those who admired his knack for a melody during his stewardship of The Boo Radleys really should get themselves a copy… it’s Carr’s comeback, you know. Apparently.
Martin Carr’s new solo album, “The Breaks”, is available now on Tapete Records from all good online retailers and record shops.
Andy Sweeney, 30th September, 2014.