the sound of wichita
stand up and fight
the blair bush project live @ the old skool
corporation man
rod's got one
fucking sunday
better living through reckless experimentation

okay, so the occasion may have been my 21st birthday, but after an evening with martin carr and a few of his pals from boobytrap, it felt more like christmas. or rather, all my christmases rolled into one. the whole night was certainly something of a religious experience, from my slow pilgrimage from london to the gig itself - the point is even a converted church for heaven's sake.

of course, it could have turned out so differently. rarely have i seen a place as deserted on a saturday night as was cardiff bay at six o'clock but, hey, i guess everyone was inside watching the england match, right? wrong - after wandering around in the rain for half an hour, my girlfriend and i still hadn't managed to find anywhere to watch the game and were facing a trip to some irish bar in the city centre where we were assured they showed 'foreign football'. but then came my first visitation of the night, a lanky, messy haired, bespectacled welsh wizard by the name of matthew evans, a former member of the church of murry the hump. guiding us to a pub across the road, we discovered not only the football, but also the cheapest alcohol i've found in a long time. stood at the bar was the angelic euros childs, the genius behind gorkys zygotic mynci. sat in the corner, meanwhile, was the leader himself, martin carr. maybe football really is more than a matter of life and death; i thought i'd died and gone to heaven.

and then there was the gig, kicked off by a triumphant set by the keys. fronted by the aforementioned evans, one of the few frontmen left in music who could probably not only spell the word 'charisma' but also even tell you what it means, they were always going to be special. for those in any doubt, the songs made doubly certain, a uniquely charming blend of acoustic guitars, sharp hooks and wit. rather like murry the hump, in fact. but i guess evans is just one of those frontmen - like michael stipe or jarvis cocker, no matter how much he and his bands try and innovate, his dominant character ensures they never really sound any different. and, sadly, since no one really got murry the hump, the public's really not going to bother with the keys either. when however many people have gone out and bought that bloody ketchup song, perhaps there is no god after all.

nothing el goodo do really convinces otherwise. sure, the influences are all present and correct - big star (from whom they take their name), teenage fanclub, mogwai, six by seven et al - and when combined properly the results can be spiritual. sadly not here, though, as the band chug their way through a set in which they live up to their name, but nothing more.

living up to his name is something martin carr, on the other hand, has made something of a life-long mission. after years spent mostly hiding away with the reclusive boo radleys, he unleashed bravecaptain, giving reign to his wild courage and skewed leadership. his last major release, the better living through reckless experimentation ep, seemed a definitive example of this, better than anything done under the bravecaptain moniker thus far and, perhaps not coincidentally, certainly more recklessly experimental. but now, after almost eighteen months, advertisements for myself has finally arrived, taking carr on bigger, bolder journeys than ever before. and if the results seem initially a little confusing on record, in a live context the songs are shown to be worth their weight in gold.

somewhat surprisingly, martin never took his guitar from his side. there was not a laptop in sight. yet from the opening 'the sound of wichita' through to a final, flourishing 'better living…', carr and his band not only reproduced but added to the recorded versions of each of the nine tracks played. they never put a foot wrong. well, maybe once when 'mobilise' began with martin playing in a different key to the others - but by then everyone, including the band, was having too much fun to care. and, thankfully, that included the captain himself, a rejuvenated character from his last appearance as the embarrassingly over-qualified support to lowgold. indeed, no one seemed sadder than carr himself when the regrettably short set came to an end after just over half an hour. but then again, no one seemed happier when he was mobbed by a dozen or so disciples afterwards.

his followers may currently be small in number, but whole religions have been founded on less. if these supporters keep on in their unwavering faith, and carr himself continues to perform such miracles, the cult of bravecaptain can take on the world. even if he doesn't win, you can rest assured he'll stand up and give a great fight.

review by martin sainsbury

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