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CARTER USM / Jimbob / Abujaparov - London 21 Sept 2001   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Thursday, 14 October 2004

Cast your mind back ten years. Everyone had big shorts and crap straggly hair. Crusties were everywhere, vainly trying to avoid getting jobs. Every shop closed at 5.30. The only thing that was on late night TV was "Jobhunters Teletext" and crap French movies. Night buses still ran. The Internet only existed in the movies. The Spice Girls were just a glint in Geri Halliwell's eye, and Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, Hairmetal, Carter, Neds Atomic Dustbin, The Wonder Stuff, and Guns N Roses ruled the world. It was a bit crap.

The only thing that was good about it is that in that time, corporate music hadn't managed to completely castrate any idea of "alternative" music. Nirvana were the worst thing that could happen to alternative music. Overnight all the old rock dinosaurs were cutting their hair and wearing crap jumpers, packing away spandex, and record labels suddenly realised that they could make loads of money by signing bands that were pretending to be the disaffected, poor, fed up youth looking for an alternative to conformity.

Nirvana were the worst thing that ever happened - they sold indie & alternative out to the mainstream, and they didn't even mean to do it. Before then, if you were the cover of the NME it was a really big deal. It was important. It meant something. If you were in the top 40 you were the exception, and not just the rule. These days its just another avenue of promotion.

And Carter USM were caught up in the middle of it. Before Nirvana they were the band that people who liked Pop Will Eat Itself and the Neds went to see. After the summer of "Sheriff Fatman" everyone went to see this cheeky bunch of cockerney likely lads. Trouble was, then, as now, some of the fans were the worst thing about them - fat, sweaty beered up blokes who wanted to jump up and down and thought that "Anytime Anyplace Anywhere" was poetry of the highest order. Ten years later they've crawled out of the woodwork, older, balder, with muscle turned to fat to jump around and push people over.

In fact it isn't even a Carter gig - but a trio of bands (featuring ex-Carter blokes) that team up for a Carter style encore at the end. First up are The Invisibles - who remind me of a kind of not very good take on Gallon Drunk. Sorry. Next up are Abdoujaparov - Fruitbat's new band playing a somewhat dated but nonetheless enjoyable set of retro-punk-confetti. Listening to this its fairly obvious where Carter got their guitars from - if you liked the rampant punka style Carter songs, you'll like Abdoujaparov.

Then JimBob's Super Stereoworld (featuring at least two former members of Carter). Like Abdoujaparov, you can take the man out of Carter but not the Carter out of the man. Their set is basically a variant on the cheesy, melodic drum-machine led side of Carter (nearest relative : "England" from the 1992 album, or "After The Watershed"). Listening to their well received set the impression I get is in fact that if you had this stuff sung by 5 twenty somethings (three blokes - one gay - and blonde & brunette birds) it would be plastered all over CD:UK and TOTP.

Stuff like "Bonkers In The Nut," "Could U Be The 1 I Waited 4", and "Mobile Disco" have the kind of pop sensibility and cheese factor that makes it both stupid pop music and marginal twee indie. The fact that both Abdoujaparov and Jim Bobs new CD's are primarily internet only releases makes me a bit sad. Especially when the Emperor's New Clothes are all over the front of the NME - being no more than unimaginative teenagers raised on their dad's Rolling Stones & The Beatles compilations.

Finally then for the Carter reunion. Even though it's really just Jim's Super Stereoworld, Fruitbat, and Carters old drummer. It's about here all the fat old baldies who've been sat in the bar run downstairs and push people over - cheers. And whilst the shortish, eight song set is all a bit retro (isn't every band ever reforming these days?) it's also a reminder of both the best and worst points about Carter. Worst points : fat sweaty "fans" jumping up and down, pushing people over, punching people and crowdsurfing. You can pull off crowdsurfing at 25, but not 35. Please. The other low point are those cheap' n' cheesy horns that are all over some of Carter's finest moments.

High points: Well, the sheer adrenalin rush of songs like "Surfin USM" and the long under-rated wordplay of Jim Bob- lyrics that sound like Phillip Larkin if we was working at The Sun's Pun Department. There's a thrill in seeing the band again and, somewhat uniquely, since Jim & Fruitbat have been friends for about 25 years, it's fairly clear that Carter USM are a gang that won't split up so much as just not play in public. They've also chosen an interesting way to go about this sort-of-reunion : supporting themselves and their current bands as going concerns. It's better than just going for the Big Kill of playing several nights at Brixton and cashing in their chips forever.

But looking at the looks on their faces, I get this weird feeling they'll be doing it again


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