‘Selbstdarsteller’ Sean Bw Parker casts his critical aspirations and observations over the following releases this week: Martin Carr ‘s (returning from a number of alter-ego monikers with a new solo LP in his own name) The Breaks; J.P. Whipple‘s well-traveled Americana Thinking Of You…Staring At The Powers songbook; and the Bell Gardens subtly underplayed opus Slow Dawn For Lost Conclusions.
Martin Carr ‘The Breaks’ (Tapete Records) Released 29th September 2014.
There is almost something – get this – Prince-like about The Santa Fe Skyway on Martin Carr’s new The Breaks album…well, Prince fronting The Flaming Lips. It’s lovely, expansive and urban, the sound of a dusk night-drive through Chicago-via-Cardiff.
The ex-Boo Radleys guitarist and songwriter has returned with a full pop sound, sunny as Midlake, wry as Morrissey – but with a ‘Wake Up! Boo’ sized heart and sound of newly re-found fun.
For the unaware, Martin Carr was something of an alternative indie rock god in the early to mid nineties, through his steering of The Boo Radleys through a clutch of acclaimed albums – including Wake Up and seminal Giant Steps (featuring one of the tracks of the decade, ‘Lazarus’). After the Boo’s split he went on to more experimental/folk project Bravecaptain, until now stepping out into the light, while under his trademark curly mane, solo.
In 2014, Carr sounds like a happy, acquiescent, rather Zen fellow. On ‘Mainstream’, he accepts the bittersweet nature of compromised creativity – whilst acknowledging that however bitter the message, it can always be delivered in a wrong-footingly sweet way. With ‘Mountains’, we are in fully self-assured Simon & Garfunkel/Crowded House territory – a compliment – Carr ratcheting up the songwriting jack to full charm.
If contemporary Wayne Coyne had a little more real soul and a little less commercial ambition, he would turn in something as lovely, reflective whilst still experimental as ‘Sometimes It Pours’ – fireside, rainy British music at its best. He’s back into Boo’s/Morrissey territory for ‘Senseless Apprentice’ – a ‘drive time pop rocker’ if ever I heard one –, mixing dark observations with sunny vibes, Carr ably turns himself into a 21st century one-man Steely Dan.
‘Jesus was a lefty, so they nailed him to a tree – you don’t get on the wrong side of the business community’: An effective anti-capitalism lament on ‘No Money In My Pocket’, explaining non-mawkishly the current 1% problems, and internet-based challenges for all artists. The angelic voices behind the ‘maybe we’ll find heaven’ chorus are something transportive, too. The track (ideal Christmas single, were Carr inclined towards something so crass) culminates in a hail-scree of shoegaze guitar.
‘I Don’t Think I’ll Make It’ is another rolling lullaby type creature, with great Air-like synths rebounding in a circular formation, everywhere. This ditty is a number one in an ideal world, MC’s pop songwriting gifts at full throttle – who knows, maybe the UK public will betray some good taste one of these days. On the short title track, Martin resignedly, casually opines ‘fuck it’ – (‘if the breaks don’t come, we’ll just get by without them’), and its yet another gentle, soothing ode to play the listener out.
Whether there is a full-circle nature to The Breaks, twenty years after Britpop’s heyday or not, songwriting pile-driver Martin Carr proves he has enough sun, love, gentle ambition and big-heartedness to go round for everyone. We say: welcome back to the Radio – god do we need you.
Catch Sean’s recent interview with Martin HERE…
J.P. Whipple ‘Thinking Of You…Staring At The Power Lines’ Originally released back in July 2014.
His name might bring to mind Saturday afternoons trudging down Brighton Pier licking a cornetto, but the voice is pure Tom Waits/Mark Lanegan, at times drudged up from an even deeper swamp.
Banjos, Moog organs and whisky-sodden voices abound in Whipple’s tales of low life, street and bog walking Americana, best heard on the rather fun ‘Dumpster Dan’, exploiting those are-they-true, are-they-false Waitsisms to full, bar room sing-a-long effect.
It can get a little one-trick-pony predictable at times – but when Mr Whipple’s not being down low, he’s touching beautiful melancholy – such as on closer ‘She Finds’, where he treads delicately but affectingly into Wilco/Mercury Rev/Sparklehorse territory.
Bell Gardens ‘Slow Dawn For Lost Conclusions’ (Rocket Girl) Released 27th October 2014.
How are you feeling? What’s on your mind? What are you doing right now?
No, it’s not Mark Zuckerberg’s alter ego here, it’s Bell Gardens lovely album, putting the back of your head in its lap and stroking you to sleep.
You may think that a name like Slow Dawn For Lost Conclusions portends to a band that take themselves very seriously, and to be honest it sounds like you’re right. BG are craftspeople, sculpting sound, a very big sound, and leaving nothing to chance.
This sound is a comforting, lush field stretching between The Beta Band and Elbow, with the perfectionism of Pink Floyd but without the ‘scroting’ guitar solos. There isn’t any palpable ego on display, but a tangible desire for equality and gentility, from the (somewhat chintzy) album cover to album highlight ‘She Does’.
The album is one long feeling, and there are no major divergences – if you liked The Cure’s Disintegration or The Verve’s Urban Hymns, but found them, either too moan-y, pompous or grandiose, SDFLC is very much for you.