Martin Carr - Ye Gods (and Little Fishes)
Let's go back to 1993, to the days when the readers of NME were intellectual enough to come up with their own 'best of' lists. Well they voted Giant Steps by The Boo Radleys to be album of the year, rather shrewdly ahead of the band becoming an all too fleeting bright light on the Creation ship, riding the rising tide of Britpop. The man with the pen back then was Martin Carr who, upon the demise of the band around the turn of the century, adopted the moniker of Bravecaptain. Those familiar with his work over the past decade will know that he has been proficient in recording a sizeable number of EPs and albums, none of which really entered the radar for very long. To be fair, the writing was as good as ever, if only less commercially orientated. Where he did stumble, in my book, was by trying to infuse some electronica, maybe in order to stay in vogue, but for me it didn't really gel. So here we are approaching another decade and the man has just turned 40 - time for a taking of stock perhaps!
Ye Gods (and Little Fishes) is a hugely pretentious title, it has to be said, but it betrays the fact that the material herein is anything but. It's back to the roots, with some enchanting melodies and heartfelt vocalising against a stripped down musical backdrop, leaning on folk at times but generally just uncomplicated pop music. Briefly rewinding again to The Boo Radleys realm and I was never a huge fan, but did latch onto the slower numbers, songs like From The Bench At Belvedere and Ride The Tiger were excellent songs and as good as anything they did. Well it's pleasing to report that this solo package is much along those lines. Carr's vocals are lucid and smooth and so it's surprising to note that he sang very little with The Boo Radleys. It maybe lacks a little originality but, on this outing at least, there's a neat coalition between that style and the simple musical arrangements.
The set opens with The Dead Of Winter, a bouncy number thrusted up by a pumping brass section and represents the album's most commercial song, although Orpheus Lament is similarly presented. But it's on the slower numbers where there's a richer sound, albeit uncomplicated in structure. On Darwin's Tree subtle keyboards embrace an infectious song, with more than a hint of Americana to it; then Pontcanna Stone, which is a serene piece with a lazy atmospheric blues vibe to it where he muses “feel the cold choppy waters surround me as I lie on this long naked morning”. Then there's the rich acoustic layerings on Tired And Broke And Black And Blue and the sheer beauty of Why You Gotta Bring Me All This Rain?, where vocal duties go to the Mrs, Mary Wytcherly, who puts in a more than able performance.
There is a dated feel to it and, even without knowledge of Carr's history, the general aura is very nineties but has a quintessential feel that somehow doesn't age. I guess it's unlikely to gain any more attention for him than his Bravecaptain outings did, but there remains a verdant quality in terms of both material and performance and deserves both attention and recognition.