A well thought out selection that showcases the full range of their material.
Nick Reynolds 2007
England: it’s rubbish, innit? Carter USM sound like England. The sound of football chants, nursery rhymes and bad puns. Their landscape is urban: grimy bedsits and abortion clinics, young offenders drunk down the pub, petty theft on litter strewn streets.
For about five years from 1987 Jim Bob and Fruitbat clawed their way up the ladder then called 'indie' from Rough Trade to Chrysalis to EMI and even scored a number one album. Carter were the Pet Shop Boys on the dole, replacing Neil Tennant’s West End elegance with South London grime and sarcasm, and sleek electronic pop with cheap synthesizers, punk guitars, a Roland drum machine, and primitive samples. They even covered the Pets Shop Boys “Rent” turning it into a scream of overdriven anguish.
This double CD pulls together their best songs. I was expecting two CDs to be far too much, but this is a well thought out selection that showcases the full range of their material. The drum machine sounds dated and the guitars mushy in places, but the quality of the songwriting shines through.
The righteous anger of “Bloodsport For All” a song attacking racist bullying in the army still has the power to stir the blood. “England”’s hurdy gurdy and sordid sex could have come from Brecht’s Beggar’s Opera. The delicate yearning pulse of “And God Created Brixton” IS the Pet Shop Boys, only with Billy Bragg on vocals. The stark passionate melodrama of “A Prince in A Pauper’s Grave” is crying out to be covered by some dark diva.
It’s only twenty years ago but it seems like light years away. Today’s 'alternative' music is too slick, too shiny, too designed. What we need is a Carter USM musical. Take the best songs here, orchestrate them and turn them into a show. A show about shattered dreams and ruined lives, a show as bleak as Chicago but with a London accent.