He has been described as a songwriting genius and is a true Merseyside tunesmith, and yet former Boo Radleys head honcho Martin Carr’s profile had diminished somewhat since those heady Wake Up days. Carr’s recent output has seen him experimenting with different band names, styles, sounds and vibes. Refusing to suck the cock of the corporate man, Carr has ploughed a furrow that has seen him shut himself away in family-hood releasing the odd beauty to keep his hand in. Every release has been imbued with fascinating and rewarding experimentation, interspersed with the sort of pop classic a number of lesser talents could only dream of crafting, but it took the birth of last year’s The Breaks under the moniker of his birth name to remind the major media that we have within our midst a talent as relevant as he ever was.
BBC Radio 6 were suitably impressed to put on a rare Martin Carr show at MediaCity in Salford, and Getintothis was there to be positively dazzled. Backed by a tight Wales-based band, Carr played a set of shining pop that illuminated the Dockyard venue.
The sprightly strum of St Peter in Chains opened the set; a euphoric melange of bright vocals, handclaps, and stately guitars, it was like he had never been away.”Jesus loves you Sister Mary said/as she beat out the rhythm on the back of my head”, illustrates the way Carr has always had with words. In a similar upbeat manner, Senseless Apprentice’s riff is a catchy one belying the savage political content of the lyrics and despair at the most destructive beasts on the planet, us.
I Don’t Think I’ll Make It, crackles with the sound of vinyl and keyboards in the background whilst Carr sings a quiet majestic melody and vocal. It is a beautiful 21st Century ballad; “Text me, tweet me, summon me to your heart”, and has people in the Dockyard swaying along.
Mountain is a brooder. The band provides a subtle and understated backing and the song’s delightful instrumental breaks are almost hypnotic. Carr’s voice has become a lovely instrument, humble and an atmospheric accompaniment to his carefully crafted songs. And then he reminds us just what a fantastic electric guitarist he is straining a marvellously wicked solo from his instrument . More was to come with the wonderful Mainstream, dreamy splendour amidst heartbreaking chord changes and a broken down vocal. It is a song that barely conceals the disappointment in having to flirt with the mainstream again, having tried valiantly to subvert it for twenty years or so.
The Dead of Winter from Ye Gods (and Little Fishes) was then dusted off in all of its stomping magnificence. The chorus was followed by some stupendous guitar, all mind-warping feedback and power, as the Carr and his band really let loose, leading into the pretty perfection that is Santa Fe Skyway, in all of its Mercury Rev-ness and the rest. Shaft brass, washed down with swirling keys, string and guitar warmth, it is a fantastic song and the band do it justice tonight.
Mandy Get Your Mello On sees Carr rip the place apart with some lacerating guitar-work which is a suitable segue into the closing Lazarus, the song from the Giant Steps album that made other songwriters aware that there were so many more possibilities beyond the ordinary…and Martin Carr is still doing it today.
Catch him where and when you can.
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