part 1 of 1
after the boos have gone
around the turn of the last decade, martin carr left
his job with the land registry to fit house alarms in
his native merseyside. within five years, his group,
the boo radleys, would outgrow their late-80s us/uk
noisepop influences (dinosaur jr, my bloody valentine),
sign to creation records and release nme's best album
of 1993 (the double lp, giant steps). and carr would
contrive 1995's top 10 hit wake up boo! - which was,
along with pulp's common people, blur's parklife, supergrass's
alright and oasis's live forever, one of the signature
sounds of mid-90s swinging london.
the subsequent five years were equally memorable. he
split up with his long-term girlfriend rebecca, with
whom he lived in preston, lancashire. despite critical
and commercial rewards, he became dissatisfied and disillusioned.
when he finally relocated to london, his drink and drug
intake increased, and his health suffered. first, there
was the terrible burning sensation in his testicles
that was an infected prostate caused by an excess of
alcohol; then, on the eve of his 30th birthday, after
what he describes as "years of smoking, taking
crappy speed, eating shit and drinking sherry",
carr learned that he had worn away the lining of his
a confirmed hypochondriac, carr was
mortified when a gastroscopy - micro-surgery that involves
a tiny camera, with the patient awake during the operation
- was proposed. "it was like watching yourself
on telly," he recalls with a smile, amid the bohemian
splendour of the flat he shares with his french wife,
hildy, situated in a quiet street off the archway road
in north london.
he was equally unimpressed by his
new regime: no more dairy products; worse, no more toxic
substances, especially the illegal variety. he'd been
taking lsd since his teenage years in wallasey, and
his appetite for the mind-altering chemical hardly abated
once the boo radleys began playing live all over the
world. "i can never do anything in moderation,"
he confesses, risking stomach pains with tonight's fourth
bottle of beer, recalling the band's first american
dates in 1992, when he dropped a tab outside a "redneck
bar in boise, idaho", just for the hell of it.
like many of his favourite musicians
- brian wilson, john lennon, alex chilton of the box
tops/big star - carr left his band to pursue a vision.
he is fatally attracted to the idea of the tortured
artist. or, at least, he used to be. "i'd have
loved to have gone mad at one point," he admits
with a grin. "i thought it would have been pretty
cool. now i just find it sad. yes, it's attractive,
but in 10 years' time i'd really rather have made some
more great records than be wandering around archway
his idiosyncratic vision has a name:
bravecaptain. eighteen months after splitting the group
he formed with schoolfriends simon "sice"
rowbottom (vocals) and tim brown (bass), carr as bravecaptain will release two records on wichita: a six-track
mini-lp called the fingertip saint sessions vol 1, and
an album, go with yourself.
unlike blur guitarist graham coxon's
recent solo project, the golden d, these recordings
are not mere opportunities for carr to indulge himself
before returning to the security of his group. "if
he doesn't enjoy being in blur, why doesn't he leave?"
asks carr, who remembers with sad, sweet precision the
moment he and his friends decided to call it quits.
"me and sice drove to liverpool to tell the other
two, but they weren't in, so we went to sice's mum's
house for sandwiches, just like we did when we were
kids." according to carr, tim brown, whose instrumental
and studio expertise has been acknowledged, is back
working for the civil service, rob cieka is a drummer-for-hire
in manchester, while sice is living in oxfordshire with
his wife - formerly the boos' tour manager - and child.
two words stick in the mind from carr's recollection
of the boos' final sunny winter day: "awful"
and "beautiful". he won't be going back.
for carr, the future is bravecaptain.
recorded in anglesey, north wales, with carr on vocals
and gorky's zygotic mynci engineer gorwel owen at the
studio controls and sharing instrumental duties, the
15 songs that comprise the two bravecaptain releases
offer a lo-fi version of the melodic yet challenging
music carr wrote for the boo radleys' five longplayers."sweet
melancholy for the masses," he laughingly refers
to his new music. it is as deceptively pleasant as that
of his previous band - the exuberant wake up boo! was
actually about disintegration and death, while a track
from c'mon kids (1996) lifted its title from the buddhist
maxim, everything is sorrow.
sadness seems to shadow his every
move. for all the alcoholic bravado and druggy dementia
of the boos' peak years,what remains of their success
is a sense of "is that all there is?" even
hearing stevie wonder hum the refrain to wake up boo!
in the corridors of elstree's top of the pops studios
failed to make the experience any less "horrible".
as carr admitted to a journalist at the time, "people
expect us to be this big party band, going, 'where's
the drink? where's the drugs?' and we're saying, 'we
want to go home'."
they were the most forlorn of their
contemporaries, but there were good times. which cost
them, particularly carr, who would split his songwriting
royalties 50-50 with sice, brown and drummer rob cieka,
then spend the money "on records" - vinyl
albums by sly stone, todd rundgren, ornette coleman
and hundreds of others litter his lounge, bathroom and
tiny office-cum-studio - "and drugs".
how much went on drugs, exactly? "quite
a lot. i have no idea." tens of thousands? "i
never had that much. but it was more than i ever dreamed
of." he could have earned six-figure sums, had
he allowed wake up boo! to be used to advertise a breakfast
cereal, a washing powder - "anything to do with
getting up in the morning." carr wasn't interested.
"i could never do it," he says. "you
would get the money, spend it, and then for the rest
of your life you would be known as the bloke who did
the music for the cornflakes ad."
he wants to be remembered for more
than providing ad-fodder, especially as, in his view,
so few of his peers are penning tomorrow's classics
today. "there are radiohead bands everywhere,"
he complains. even oasis, "the one band i've ever
been jealous of", have lost it. who does he consider
as competition - thom yorke? richard ashcroft? "no.
people who take gambles and don't worry about maintaining
their fanbase." such as primal scream's bobby gillespie
- for martin, "an inspiration".
carr may be as uncomfortable as ever
with the prospect of performing in front of "a
tv studio full of kids dressed as strawberries",
but he is still in the market for some grown-up disruption.
"i'm not cool or good-looking, i'm awkward,"
he admits with a sigh, looking forwards about seven
years, "but i do quite like the idea of being a
grumpy 39-year-old making records."