Throughout the 1990s, Martin Carr was songwriter and guitarist with British indie rock pioneers of sound, The Boo Radleys. Hitting the capital from their Wirral roots, The Boos were shoehorned early on into the shoegazing genre, with Carr’s My Bloody Valentine/Sonic Youth inspired overdriven-psyche-guitar washes and egg-headed, besuited vocalist Sice’s plaintive croon frequently justifying the tag.
In 1993 the band surpassed themselves, with Carr penning essentially album of the year in Giant Steps. This was a tour-de-force, melding anthemic horns, Spiritualised-style extended freakouts (before anyone had even heard of Jason Pierce), with elements of Bitches Brew style avant-jazz and splashes of dub and hip hop. This sound collision occurred under Carr’s watchful pop nous, never allowing things to veer too far into the self indulgent or unlistenably experimental. The tunes were never too far behind the occasional scree.
Next was a move to ensure that ‘we could get on Top Of The Pops and I wouldn’t have to go back to working in an office’, in “Wake Up! Boo.” This track, and its parent album Wake Up were ubiquitous in the mid-nineties Britpop halcyon days, its joyful, summer tones blaring out of every car stereo or shop speaker, seemingly, sometimes irritatingly, endlessly. Carr has mixed feelings about it now, feeling that Boo is the reason not enough people take his previous and subsequent work sufficiently seriously.
A couple of years later, after either stubbornly or astutely refusing to replicate Boo’s success, The Boo Radleys were no more – Sice went off to ‘look at brains for a living,’ and Carr absconded to Cardiff to work on a family and his new bravecaptain solo project. Bravecaptain delved deeply into dub, electronic and nu-folk, over a handful of albums which Carr is similarly ambivalent about these days.
After experiments with Bandcamp and other comparatively minor projects, he had nearly given up on his own commercial songwriting, at least in the solo sense, when German label Tapete wondered if he had anything in the tanks. His response was this year’s The Breaks, a bold, shimmering shower of joy, a confident return to The Byrds-meets-Steely Dan-meets-Sonic Youth of yore. “The Santa Fe Highway,” bringing to mind Prince jamming with The Flaming Lips, four minutes of US inspired guitar pop heaven – complete with video of Martin popping out of a homemade box, taking a give-a-shit-stroll, eventually to be reunited with his progeny (his emergence from the cardboard box/doll’s house at the start of the clip possibly references mid-period Boo Radleys hit, “What’s In The Box”).
Born in Scotland and raised in Merseyside, Carr’s outlook on life reflects the no-nonsense-attitude mixed with wide-eyed-romanticism which those locales suggest. Alex Chilton’s Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, and John Lennon resonate in his slightly inflected voice, gentle yet scathingly observant at the same time. Carr’s in-built optimism and humility have always been slightly at odds with his potentially cloud-scraping talent – preferring to leave the media gobs***ery to peers Richard Ashcroft or Liam Gallagher. It’s frankly because Carr’s ego is secure in itself, and the kind of attention some stars crave has never been particularly necessary for him – particularly not if it eclipses the music – because it’s only within in the music he makes that Carr’s public persona has any interest in existing.
From Thurso in Scotland, via the north east of England, down to London, and finding peace in south Wales; through The Boo Radleys, bravecaptain, playing shows with Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys, Ye Gods and Little Fishes through to The Breaks, Martin Carr is an inspiring figure in how to handle your art within all the slings and arrows slung by life and the man, how to dodge them and keep your integrity intact - all behind a wry, knowing smile and beneath a perennially curly golden lion’s mane. Here’s looking forward to more Breaks, in whatever shape or form they may come.
By Sean Bw Parker