Joined: 30 Apr 2003
|Posted: Thu Jan 22, 2004 08:19 Post subject: nice article about AFM and Martin.
|Sorry if you've already read this before.
Advertisements For Myself
For the unfamiliar, Bravecaptain is the solo project of the great Martin Carr, reclusive genius behind Britpop gods, the Boo Radleys. The Boo’s rightly sold bucket-loads in the mid-Nineties, using their degree from the School of Classic Pop Songcraft, Sweeping Arrangements And Big Hooks to support Carr’s deeply personal musings about his motivation troubles, love and excessive drug use, often revealed under bitter critiques of politics and corporate misbehavior. They were, for lack of a better descriptor, Oasis With a Brain. Sadly, watching the band flame out during the making of their underrated swansong, Kingsize, was not unlike the rush of watching the genius older brother you idolize lounge around the house, getting it together just long enough to disappoint you when he ends up back on the couch a few days later.
Following a period of chemically-enhanced downtime, however, Carr resurfaced as Brave Captain in 2000 with two sporadically-brilliant releases, The Fingertips Sessions Volumes I and II, showcasing Carr’s wispy voice and a more slightly homespun version of the songwriter’s trademark psych-pop. Now, returning as the more succinctly-named “Bravecaptain,” Advertisements For Myself (named after a Norman Mailer novel) finds Carr swerving wildly between the fruits of his extensive pop smarts and his love of Kid 606-inspired IDM freakouts, the latter of which are generally consigned to brief instrumentals a la the Human League’s recent Secrets.
With the UK-only Advertisements, Boo fans will again take comfort in Carr’s songwriting and pop sensibility, which show no signs of seepage. Though sadly not including “Corporation Man,” the irresistible Noam Chomsky-inspired single released a little over a year ago, Advertisements has at least five songs on that rank up there with anything from Kingsize; whether it’s the mp3 single “Rod’s Got One” or the epic sweep of “The Weight That You Have Found,” Carr’s melodies are strong and sure. And it would seem that Carr has lost little of the spirit that inspired Kingsize’s anti-corporate undercurrent: he's as freewheelingly left-wing as ever, with song titles like "The Blair Bush Project," "Mobilize" and "Stand Up and Fight," the latter delivered over a violent, fuzz-toned nightmare.
Yet still there’s something mildly frustrating about Advertisements. Yes, Carr’s vocals are sometimes strained and almost always a little weak and quivery. Yes, the squelchy instrumentals are more pad than rad. But it’s more than that.
Since his return, Carr has taken a completely different tack than that with his former group, releasing several limited edition EP’s and singles of low-fi electronic orch-pop, largely performed alone with the help of a few friends. The results have been enjoyable and rewarding, though no one would mistake a Bravecaptain record for a major label release. Which, of course, is part of their charm.
But in his quest to become completely a self-sufficient musicmaking unit in control of his own destiny, Carr has essentially abandoned the very marketplace that gave the Boo Radleys a certain verve. Absent the pop chart ambitions and big budget production values that enhanced the Boo’s music, little self-performed and self-released records simply seem, well, small by comparison. He's sacrificed his relevancy, which in and of itself isn't necessarily a problem; but to date Carr remains more compelling when he's confronting and challenging from within the system, as opposed to merely tossing bombs from the outside.
Perhaps the transformation from chart-busting genius to Pop Unabomber—a role he excels at on Advertisements—was inevitable. Few artists may have fashioned a bonafide pop career expressly out of a lack of inspiration and indecision the way Carr did with the Boo Radleys. Even fewer used that career to credibly throw a wrench into the works of the corporate machine from whence they came. But while he enjoyed the attention that comes with having a number one single, a talent like Carr clearly chafed at the constrained expectations of a pop star. And if interviews are to be believed, leaving that lifestyle behind may have saved his life.
Good for him, but only less so for us. Advertisements For Myself remains a fascinating listen, if an undeniable one. The genius big brother just seems content to make his records from the couch. So it goes, I guess. But it’s a shame we won’t be seeing him on MTV or Top of the Pops anytime soon.
Reviewed by: Matthew Weiner
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01