the witchwood, nothing much more than a tin hut built out the back of a pub, huddles in the dark. a few misguided souls stud the place like stains on a carpet. after half a lifetime (about fifteen minutes) martin carr and derrero scamper onto the stage trying not to look self conscious. martin is going for the eager young schoolteacher look tonight; sporting cricket jumper, wire-rimmed specs and new, tidy hairdo. derrero aspire considerably to sullen grunge. but oh - there are times when the stars stand still, how songs can still the universe is a staggering alchemy deftly meted out by this young meister. you don't get to be lead guitar in a band like the boo radleys for ten years for nothing. the amassed firepower is awesome and carr deals it out with the merest flick of a wrist. i wonder whether he senses the collective jaw dropping in the room when he elects to treat an electric guitar as such.

it's a standard thing to rate martin carr's way with a tune but i can't find an alternate view. really this was the teeniest of sets...okay, they play eight songs, but they're concise, close-structured; not a moment of waste, an inch of slack. yet in this fleeting time there's that calm child-like delight carr recognises in the world, such an old-fashioned quality, so far from the zeitgeist. it dawns on me that martin might be the antithesis of thom yorke. a sort of antiparticle. if they met, would they both evaporate in a puff of mutual pink mist?

there's such a range in what martin's writing: slants of regret, a trough of gloom - and musically? sparse, open voice-and-acoustic passages turning effortlessly into instrumental roars. there are, at times, six of them on that tiny stage. martin singing and variously playing tambourine, acoustic guitar or one of a couple of electrics. derrero supplying a singing drummer, a bassist, one "guitar, vocals, tambourine-and-maraccas" bloke, one girl on keyboards…and then there's ian doing more than duty on saxes (the sax-shaped one and the oboe-shaped one which my spies tell me could be soprano sax). one of the reasons (maybe the reason) i love little new starting bands so much is because they come across such interesting corners. they write songs with rhythms that are all wrong, structures that are unexpected, chuck in everything they know all at once, unafraid to use it up, teeter unashamedly on the edge of chaos. mostly, they fall off the edge or learn how to play like grown-ups.

martin carr may just be one of those children who's managed not to grow up. who's got years of expertise and experience under his belt which means skill, sureness of touch, tools he can use but who loves skittering about on the edge, writing outrageous colliding rhythms, fucking about with stupid sounds, raising satan or quelling him just whenever he damn well pleases. i have to make special mention in this context of a fantastic chaotic sax solo that tumbled like a shot pheasant above a densely layered, staunch rythmic base. a warm and awe-inspiring occasion. a sheer privilege and joy. may he go on, this bravecaptain, to many more.

incidentally, when i collared him later and said it looked easy, he said: "it is easy! sice (former boo radleys singer) came to see us the other night and said the same. it was so hard, for both of us, in the boo rads. i don't know why. it was so hard. now it is easy". i hope you too get to see him having it easy. life doesn't have to be hard. not all of it.

martin carr seems to be a man from the age of reason, a man of emotional response that is balanced, one response counterbalanced one by another and therefore finally a man at peace at peace with himself, with his nature, with his world. not the flatness of boredom or insensitivity but of sadness checked by joy, loneliness counteracted by friendship, goodbyes meeting hellos, of rain and sunshine, dark and light, gloom and glow. ever acute, his lyrics write of his - of everyone's - most direct and intimate ways of being in the world: of loving, leaving, of letting go. married to a facility with melody, undiminished fascination with sonic mucking about and general concern for the well being of his fellows and you have (at the very least) a good night out.

review by wendy cook (for misfit city)

if you have any reviews, photos or setlists from previous bravecaptain live shows, please email them to