The new Martin Carr album, New Shapes Of Life, dropped yesterday on Tapete Records, and I'm here to relay how wonderful it is. It's so wonderful, in fact, that I sorta of regret not getting out in front of this one by a few days, given that I've had this and been enjoying for a week.
For it is, truly, the best thing Martin Carr's been associated since Kingsize, the final Boo Radleys album that dropped in 1998. Now, that's not to knock Martin's subsequent work as Brave Captain but, rather, to indicate to a reader how much stuff like the title cut here, and the surging single of "Damocles", sound like peak Giant Steps-era Boos tracks. Similarly, the thoroughly lush "The Main Man" echoes tracks like "Song From the Blueroom" where an aching, Sixties-influenced melody was the star of things. Elsewhere, "Future Reflections" sees Carr expand that Boos formula a bit as the cut expands outward like Ray Davies re-writing a Brian Wilson number. Similarly, Martin sounds more assured in handling these sweeping compositions, like "A Mess of Everything", for instance, where a listener can, obviously, track some easy reference points even while conceding the emotionally powerful and catchy pop tune on display.
And that seems to be why New Shapes Of Life is such a wonderful record. As an embrace by Martin Carr of all those things that were flitting around the edges of some Boos records, it's an artistic statement that has resulted in a damn good listening experience. Personally, I always loved the Boo Radleys more once they started to expand their sound beyond that first shoegaze-y bit of business. That said, their stylistic shifts album-to-album were a bit jarring, even if the results were usually great. And the reason that they were great was down to the songwriting of Martin Carr, here given room to flower and blossom in a manner that should please fans of Giant Steps and Kingsize, especially. Still, New Shapes Of Life is a genuine progression of Carr's craft, lest anyone think he's resting on past laurels like some former Creation Records label-mates seem to be doing. What's on offer here is, frankly, some of the best, loveliest and most affecting British indie-pop one is likely to here in 2017.
[Photo: Mary Wycherley]