Chicken soup for the soul from the ex Boo Radley guitarist.
Chris Jones 2009
To say Martin Carr is now a man out of time would be unfair. This kind of sunshine-inflected pop rock is, by its very nature, timeless. Yet when was quality ever a guarantee of success? Those of you who remember the Boo Radleys, for whom Carr wrote most of the songs as well as playing guitar will know what to expect. Always carelessly shoved in with Britpop, the Liverpudlians delivered chicken soup for the soul and, at the risk of undeselling this gem of grown-up pop, Ye Gods (And Little Fishes) is very much in that vein. It's unremittingly delightful.
There's a good slice of folk picking and Americana running through the album's first half - notably in the boom-chicka Johnny Cash-isms of Darwin's Tree or the Neil Young-styled lope of Pontcanna Stone or Goldrush '49. But in the latter he still can't resist injecting a very British orchestral swell halfway through and adding a fuzz chord coda which marks it as his very own. They are subtle touches but are the mark of someone who really knows what he's doing.
Overall Carr doesn't do alarming swerves and intrusive scare tactics, he writes mature, crafted melodies, stuffed with West Coast harmonies and staying just the right side of psychedelic. His vocals may not match the whoops of the Boo Radley's Sice, but then, to many ears that'll be a relief. Even when he's addressing the more downbeat side of life on the blue-eyed soul of Why Gotta Bring Me All This Rain (sung by his wife, Mary) or Tired and Broken and Black and Blue, they're those great, rare moments where melancholy can actually cheer you up.
While one fears that Ye Gods is destined to be a small footnote in The Boo Radleys story, it actually deserves to be the starting point of the Martin Carr story. Maybe if we all get behind him it'll be an epic tale of quality winning over style. Here's hoping...