Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, a socially aware DIY rock duo from south London who had 4 high 10 albums (together with a No 1) and 12 high 40 singles over a 10-year profession, performed greater than 800 gigs, headlined Glastonbury and had been sued by the Rolling Stones, don’t exist.
That will likely be empirically true after this Saturday’s immediately sold-out gig at London’s 5,000-capacity Brixton Academy, Carter’s farewell after an illustrious eight-year reunion. But it’s true in a broader sense, too. When BBC4 subsequent retells the historical past of rock’n’roll and the story reaches the Nineties, after namechecking Madchester it’ll, with weary predictability, hymn grunge after which transfer straight on to Britpop. If you’re fortunate, it would handle a short shoegazing montage.
But one thing simply as momentous occurred in the early 90s that refuses to suit neatly into this narrative. And this motion is exemplified by Carter USM, a band I maintain near my bosom, have adopted since 1989 and whose ultimate exhibits fill me – and 1000’s of others – with a sure generational disappointment.
(Their supervisor tells me 10,000 folks utilized for the 200 tickets made accessible for Carter’s recent BBC 6 Music session, “the most requested occasion in Maida Vale studios’ historical past”.)
The unbiased sector loved salad days in the 80s, when Rough Trade launched the Smiths, Creation set the beforehand caustic Jesus and Mary Chain on an analogous trajectory to the charts and the KLF offered one million copies of Doctorin’ the Tardis on KLF Communications. The institutionally uncool main labels started signing something that seemed different, usually utilizing boutique label imprints as camouflage. The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, the Darling Buds, the Wedding Present, the House of Love, Kingmaker, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Cud discovered themselves on labels like RCA, Epic, Polydor, Phonogram and A&M. All it took was a buzz in the inkies and an indie chart Top 10. I don’t think about a single one of these signings ever recouped their advance, however they’d lots of enjoyable and offered lots of merchandise.
Carter USM had been typical of the “T-shirt bands” of that epoch: witty, wily and embraced with obsessive devotion by younger, gig-going followers. Jim “Jim Bob” Morrison and Leslie “Fruitbat” Carter went from Rough Trade to Chrysalis in 1992. They had been unlikely pop stars, who poked enjoyable at their very own comparatively ripe outdated age with their second album 30 Something. Jim’s fringe resembled a entrance ponytail, Fruitbat wore biking gear; neither favoured lengthy trousers. They produced a powerpop racket with a punk-rock electrical guitar, a rasping voice, a drum machine and backing tapes. Jim’s lyrical puns had been sufficient to make a Sun headline author retire: 24 Hours from Tulse Hill, 101 Damnations, The Only Living Boy in New Cross, Do Re Me So Far So Good. But mainstream stardom made them cross. Fruitbat rugby-tackled Philip Schofield after a misunderstood amp-toppling finale to After the Watershed at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, reside on TV.
A cub reporter at the NME in the late 80s, I didn’t uncover them (Steve Lamacq did), however I hopped aboard the bandwagon early on and surfed Carter’s wave to the stars, writing their first cowl story, hitching a journey of their Transit to a post-Velvet Revolution Czech Republic, experiencing them reside in New York, the place they supported the briefly Midas-like EMF and, post-split, hiring Jim to carry out the theme tune to my first Radio 4 sitcom. We stay on one another’s Christmas card lists, and their annual reunion exhibits have been a fixture in my diary since 2007.
But my fervour to see them inducted into the halls of rock historical past is not only private. They symbolize one thing retro however important a few specific, commercially antagonistic period in pop, when different acts didn’t need to do offers with shampoo or trend homes to get heard. With the report business in freefall and music technically free, it’s touring that brings house the bacon. The T-shirt bands knew that just about 30-something years in the past.
I requested Jim what his defining Carter reminiscence could be, and he referred me again to the afternoon of the first reunion gig at Glasgow Barrowlands. “As I walked round the venue I felt invincible. I get the similar feeling at the very finish of a Carter gig when it’s inconceivable to not be overcome by all the love in the room. This yr I would keep there till somebody drags me off. Like James Brown.”