Turn That Noise Down - Carter USM

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1992 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan remembers her love for 1992: The Love Album...

This was actually the album that got me into listening to indie punk legends Carter - or, to give them their full title Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, normally abbreviated to Carter USM but most folk just called them Carter when talking about them cos you knew who they meant [Yes, one of the band was called Carter, the guitarist Les “Fruitbat” Carter - Ed]. As usual, I bought the album because I was obsessed with one particular song I heard on Top of the Pops, which happens to be the final track, and I immediately fell in love with all the rest on the way.

To be honest, I’d forgotten how much I really do love this album. Honestly there’s not a bad track on here. It just makes me so happy, it’s complex but boppy, and I love the fact that the first track’s intro is the final track’s outro so you can just keep listening to the whole thing on a loop forever. Talking of that first song, called, ironically, 1993, the gentle intro soon gives way to an instrumental track that wouldn’t be out of place in an action film soundtrack as it successively builds the strings and arpeggios in a very Bond-like way till it reaches… well, the next song. That one is gloriously titled Is Wrestling Fixed and is a very simple trundly, plinky piano underneath incredibly clever poetic lyrics like:

“the doctor’s diagnosis,
was multiple sclerosis,
an open and shut hopeless 
fucking case.”

Yes there’s a lot of swearing on the album - it’s a punk band, what do you expect? - and it all builds up to a superbly anthemic singalong chorus. Just wonderful. Talking of wonderful, track 3 is the other REALLY well-known song from their chart heyday, The Only Living Boy in New Cross which, I realised the other day, I still know all the words to! This absolute stormer is followed by probably the heaviest sounding song on the album Suppose You Gave a Funeral and Nobody Came - this is no bad thing as the lyrics are still really clever [when you can make them out - Ed] and the thrash guitar is superbly cut with a superbly operatic keyboard and pop drums… it’s difficult to describe, you’ll have to listen to it. Halfway in the album is marked by the song England, a punky song in waltz time that sounds like it’s played on the accordion…. yes really. Again, the quirky turns of phrase in the [stunningly bleak if you think about it - Ed] lyrics make me smile so much:

“I was born under a wandering star
In the second council house of Virgo
Forcibly removed from the belly of my ma
And raised on milk and Pernod”

and it’s just a real joy to listen to it.

The second half of the album kicks of with Do Re Me So Far So Good and it’s reminiscent of solid 70s rock and roll punk that has me singing along [again - Ed]. Next up, on the original album that I have, is Look Mum, No Hands but it looks like the remastered version from 2012 that I found on Amazon has snuck in the controversial After the Watershed here; controversial because it caused a court-case by “borrowing” significantly from The Rolling Stones classic Ruby Tuesday without permission, so it was left off the original pressing. Anyway, Look Mum starts with a circus-y drumroll and has incredibly dark and serious poetry for lyrics that transposes the “daring young man” into someone maimed by a bomb - “look, mum, no hands” takes on a chilling alternate meaning. It’s incredible writing. Folky strings over a frantic pop beat underlies yet more brilliant bleakness in the first verse of While You Were Out before the guitar kicks everything up a gear and gets wonderfully angry. Skywest and Crooked is the penultimate song and is suitably epic in its fanfare start that means you’re really wrong-footed by the almost a capella verse, soft, sad and lyrical. The epic soon builds back though, in a very cinematic way - you can almost see the band appearing out of a trapdoor in the stage (I know what I mean [I’m glad somebody does - Ed]). The stunning poetic monologue at the end of the song, by the legend that is Ian Dury, sets said stage perfectly for the final song on the album, and the one that I have to thank for starting my love affair with Carter’s Love Album.

It’s actually a cover of a song from the musical that Ian Dury’s monologue, written by Dale Wasserman, in the previous track is taken from; a musical that has always made my heart soar and my eyes fill with tears in equal measure. That musical is Man of La Mancha and the song is The Impossible Dream.

Image - Amazon

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