PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Martin Carr: The Breaks

Photo: Mary Wycherle

The ex-Boo Radley finally gives us his sophomore solo album. And while it's pretty good, we can only hope that Martin Carr will someday reconnect with his musically reckless self.


Martin Carr

The Breaks

Label: Tapete
US Release Date: 2014-09-26
UK Release Date: 2014-09-26
Amazon
iTunes

"A theme running through my work is not fitting in," admits singer/songwriter Martin Carr. It's odd that he feels that way because during a few moments in his career, Carr fit right in with his surroundings just fine. There's a song on his new album named "Mainstream", for crying out loud. When his old band the Boo Radleys were shifting gears from shoegaze to Britpop, the rest of the UK seemed to be doing the same thing. The band found mass success then lost it in the span of three magical albums – Giant Steps, Wake Up! and C'Mon Kids. After the Boo Radleys came apart, Carr took to being a one-man band called Brave Captain. As an entire world of amateur musicians were discovering how to record themselves on laptops and release their music through DIY channels, Martin Carr had perfected his own home recording approach and eventually retired the Brave Captain name. But even though he was slightly ahead of the no studio/(almost) no label curve of musical tinkerers back in 2000, Carr's broader musical approach was one that was getting lost in pop music's turn-of-the-century identity crisis. He self-released his first proper solo album Ye Gods and Little Fishes in 2009 and waited for the world to come knocking. Luckily the German label Tapete liked the demos for The Breaks enough to take a crack at its release.

It was around this time of Ye Gods that Carr made peace with the pop/radio friendly side of his musical personality and dove back into the sunny sounds that made the Boo Radleys a household name in the UK. Even after a five-year pause, The Breaks picks right up on what Ye Gods was suggesting: that Martin Carr still had a Wake Up! inside of him should he choose to let it out. The Breaksis almost dangerous in its Britpop approach since Carr's PR team is touting it as one of Carr's greatest albums. That's quite a claim to make, even if Giants Steps was the only album to his credit. So, is this truly his greatest achievement? Even before I heard a note of The Breaks, I knew there would be no simple answer to a question like that.

First, let's start with what's missing. The dense experimental layers of Brave Captain are not here. The restless studio hermit that secretly hoped there could be room for some hip-hop and free jazz in the mix is on sabbatical. Sice Rowbottom is not here to sing his ass off and there are no fuzzed-out guitars getting cranked to 11. The songs are straightforward, showing none of the bizarre U-turns that Carr would lead his former band through in the early days. Now that you've mentally removed those elements, think of the Boos final hour Kingsize, only with a good night's rest behind it, and you're getting closer.

The Breaks kicks the door open to let the sun in with "The Santa Fe Skyway", a jubilant keyboard and horn-driven number that sighs "Mary Jane / What a way to waste the day." The sun is out, it's 1995, and UK's greatest bands hate each other all over again! At least it feels that way. Those good vibes go for "St. Peter in Chains", which is quite the lyrical downer: "'Jesus loves us,' Sister Mary said / As she beat out the rhythm on the back of my head." The number is Britpop 'a' rockin' enough, but the chorus could have used a little more than just singing the song's title four times in sweet overdubbed harmonies.

After that, the album takes a somber but never depressing turn. "I tell myself / I'm happy as I am" sings Carr on "Mainstream", though you get the impression that he doesn't really mind the self deception. The warm '60s British invasion brass certainly helps. "Mountains" and "Senseless Apprentice" could both pass for lost Boo Radleys songs, though from different eras (for "Mountains", think of Wake Up!'s more mellow moments). Musically, Carr sounds comfortable, almost complacent. Lyrically, he can still be heavy-handed. For instance, "No Money in My Pocket" features with couplet early on: "If Jesus ran our chip shop all our fish would be free / But Jesus was a lefty / So they nailed him to a tree / You don't get on the wrong side of the business community." God, what happened to this guy back in the '90s? Fortunately, Carr walks back into less forced territory with the easy going almost-do-wop "I Don't Think I'll Make It": "Call me / Text me, tweet me, summon me to your heart." You just have to get used to the fact that he rhymes "heart" with "Descartes". But what comes next makes it all worthwhile: "I'll make every mistake there is."

The Breaks is a good little album, worthwhile even. But is it Martin Carr's best? I'm going to go ahead and say that it's not because it's just too mannered. Carr's finest moments doesn't have anything to do with the edge of youth or the futile discussion of "relevance", they happened when he just let his freak flag fly. That goes for the deafening guitars of the Boo Radleys just as well as the overly ambitious experiments of Brave Captain. The Breaks is just a pretty good pop album.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Television

'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Nudges Out Conscience in Our Time of Crises

Avatar shows us that to fight for only the people we know, for simply the things that affect us personally, is neither brave nor heroic, nor particularly useful.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.