The Breaks

TR 288CD TR 288CD

We're all a bit lost inside, trying to put on a brave face and front out through the days, doing whatever it takes to make sense of the mind and body's tangled lines of communication. Martin Carr does it with music; has been for 25 years now, via a string of acclaimed records with The Boo Radleys, then his bravecaptain alias, and latterly under his own name. Hearing his new album, The Breaks, you're bound to think he's never done it any better than this, right here and now. The Breaks was recorded in January 2014, but most of its songs were written three or four years previously. Having self-released his previous album, Ye Gods and Little Fishes, Martin recorded some demos and sent them "far and wide." People seemed to like the songs but no one was offering to release them, and after a while Martin gave up and began working on different songs. Then, at the end of 2013, he got an email from Tapete, an independent record company based in Hamburg. Tapete's roster is large and varied: lots of local bands, but also some from the U.S., Scandinavia and Austria, plus, in Lloyd Cole and Bill Pritchard, a couple of hugely accomplished UK artists with deep history and maverick tendencies. Martin Carr fits that bill perfectly: a songwriter whose work is pop but not necessarily populist, and whose trajectory reveals an ambivalent relationship with conventional sensibilities. The song -- "Mainstream," of course -- features rapturous female harmony vocals and is a fuzzy-headed lachrymose wallow in the finest tradition of Harry Nilsson or Jeff Lynne, but with a down-home intimacy that makes Martin's voice feel like a confessional echo of the self-doubts we all experience. Such is the hallmark of reserves of lyrical chutzpah demonstrated amid "I Don't Think I'll Make It" wherein Carr rhymes "heart" with "Descartes." The songs are performed with equal amounts attitude, soul and empathy by Carr and a group of musicians assembled specifically for the sessions: the rhythm section features Andy Fung on drums and Corin Ashley on bass, while the piano and organ are courtesy of BAFTA award-winning composer John Rae. The latter's presence was pure kismet: he was studio manager at Cardiff's soon-to-be-demolished ITV buildings where the sessions took place. Carr has never sung his own songs better than he does here. It's a voice that both grounds and elevates The Breaks. Martin Carr is doing more than just getting by -- he's just made his best album.