Some people just have a knack for melody. Their records are not so much new releases as comforting embraces. I find myself sitting there waiting for weak link and failing to find it. Chorus after chorus breezes by, each as instantly appealing as the last. The Beach Boys had it, Teenage Fanclub still have it and one man who has it but is curiously overlooked is Martin Carr. He crafts gorgeously unpretentious, deeply affecting music that means rather a lot to me.
Five years on from his first outing under his own name, having traded as bravecaptain following the demise of The Boo Radleys, he returns in possession of a gloriously direct set of songs that feel instantly familiar. Naggingly insistent single ‘The Santa Fe Skyway’ immediately sets the bar high with its parping horn solo and relentless energy. It feels like a line in the sand from a man who toyed with jacking it in, but decided to come back bigger, bolder and determined to give it everything. It’s a powerful formula which results in forty minutes of some of the most heartening music you’ll hear this year. Take the lyrics to the sweetly soulful ‘Mainstream’ as the sign of an artist taking a deep breath and cracking on from the last vestiges of the pop star lifestyle: “Here I am drowning in the mainstream. I kid myself I’m happy as I am.”
The key to the success of ‘The Breaks’ is Carr’s mellifluous vocal, which wrings every drop of melody out of these songs. ‘No Money In My Pocket’ is an enchantingly delicate tune, revealing a certain fragility that offers a fine contrast with the joyous opener. In addition to all of the moments of musical majesty, there are fantastically memorable lyrics, like this from ‘Senseless Apprentice’: “Katie, on your Boris bike that you ride over the poor and the dead.” It’s not subtle but it’s bloody funny. With wit, melodies and tremendous production on his side, Martin Carr may well have delivered the finest release of his career.