Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine - Kentish Town Forum / Brixton Academy London
I spent a lot of my late teens and 20's hitch-hiking up and down the UK watching gigs. My country-wide jaunts helped me take in shows from post punk, punkabilly, grebo and rock bands throughout the 80s. By the end of the decade my attention had switched to pop punk groups so travelled up and down the M6 viewing the likes of Mega City Four, Senseless Things, Snuff and the subject of this review - Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine.
I can't remember the first time I watched Carter live. I'm sure they had released their first album at that point but 30 Something was still a bit away. I know one of my first Carter shows was in a small "discotheque" in Carlisle with the 'Things in support. It was an odd affair as it wasn't an Indie venue as it was frequented by white shirted men, beered up and angry after England had been booted out of some important football event earlier that evening. As I'm Scottish I tried to keep a low profile that night as there was a considerable air of tension in the venue. I managed to escape unharmed, spending a couple of hours in Carlisle services before getting a lift home, but returning to watch Jim Bob and Fruitbat on numerous occasions, with a far friendlier atmosphere at each gig!
By the time fourth album Post Historic Monsters rolled out my interest in the duo had slightly waned so lost touch with what the pair was up to as the years went on. My interest was peaked again with the reformation news back in 2007 but I stupidly ended up missing the live shows the pair played. When I read that Carter were performing again this year I made a note to do my best to see them at their London dates. Unfortunately I was too late to organise entrance to the band's Brixton Academy show but managed to head along to their date at Kentish Town Forum the night before.
Both Carter gigs were special events with the duo performing two albums in full each evening, with Brixton producing 30 Something and 101 Damnations and The Forum offering 1992 The Love Album and Post Historic Monsters. The Brixton show's content was more my Carter era but I knew I'd have fun down the Forum none the less.
There was a real sense of event in the packed venue with myriad Carter t-shirts sported by their 30/40 something owners, both old and new. The merch stall seemed to be doing a roaring trade, with shirts purchased and stuck straight on (always a no-no in my gig going book!).
The lights dimmed and roars of "You fat bastard" filled the room, reaching to a fever pitch when Carter took to the stage, blasting off with Monsters "The Music That Nobody Likes" after the album's short intro. Jim Bob's cry of "Good evening Town And Country Club" after the song took me back as I hadn't heard the venue called that for a few years!
Jim Bob and Fruitbat were positioned either end of the large stage, with a light show that would put Jean Michelle Jarre to shame helping to fill the large gap between the pair. After my three song stint in the photo pit I retired to the back of the venue, taking in the action from a distance. The Forum crowd were really energetic throughout the building, with groups of fans shouting, jumping up and down and singing along to each of the Monsters tracks as they were wheeled out in album order.
I'm not as familiar with Monsters as the other three albums presented over the weekend but still found myself enjoying the first half of the set, with "Travis" and "Lean On Me I Won't Fall Over" stand outs.
The duo left the stage for a brief moment after the final track of the album, returning with a vengeance for 1992 The Love Album's excellent instrumental opener "1993", a track that seemed to reinvigorate the audience, sending scores of them flooding down the front. Carter upped the ante when "The Only Living Boy In New Cross" appeared, generating the biggest response of the night from the crowd.
I had weaved my way down to the front by this point, ending up in a spot in the second row down the left hand side and I was really enjoying being close to the action again. Eventually the album and set proper drew to a close with the final two tracks "Skywest and Crooked" and Man of La Mancha's "The Impossible Dream". It was a bit of a downbeat ending to a gig but it was fairly obvious that the pair would be back to lift our spirits again.
As both albums had been played in their entirety I was unsure what we were going to receive encore wise. It would either be some Carter faves not from the era covered or extra tracks from the period on offer.
Well, it was B side time, a decision that would normally illicit groans from an audience but Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine are renowned for the excellent taste in cover versions, giving us the chance to hear the duo's renditions of The Smiths "Panic", The Jam's "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" and The Inspiral Carpets "This is How it Feels" live again.
The evening ended with "Feels" A side - "After the Watershed", sending the crowd into the night with its "Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, come home silly cow" chorus ringing in their ears.
I'd had a blast at the Forum so was disappointed that I'd be missing the Brixton bash, wishing I had the chance to be there rather than watching the twins under pressure for another week!
As luck would have it my Fairy Godmother appeared in the form of an email that had me jumping on a P4, taking the trip to Brixton Academy!
The venue had an even larger selection of vintage Carter T's on display and was chock-a- block with expectant fans by the time the original Fat Bastard Jon Fat Beast took to the stage to introduce the duo, sporting a nice line in bubblewrap!
30 Something was up first this time round, with instrumental set opener "Surfin' USM" producing the first in a line of never ending crowd surfers. The set brought back a few memories for me, with the Joe Strummer opening to "Shoppers Paradise" bringing to mind an intimate gig at Dundee's Bar Chevrolet for some reason!
"Bloodsport for All" was probably my 30 Something highlight. I had left the Brixton photo pit by that point and was making my way back down to the front after a visit to the bar and was confronted by almost every single audience member singing along on my journey!
Carter were on great form throughout the set, even raising the bar compared to the previous evening. Jim Bob complained of suffering a cold for a few days before performing "Falling on a Bruise" but no one seemed to notice or even care as the Academy resonated with the crowd accompanying him throughout the song anyway.
The first half ended with "The Final Comedown", the band disappearing for a moment, taking the stage again alongside children's choir Liberia for 101 Damnations opener "The Road to Domestos". As they were a rowdy bunch, one and all, the children had the audience minding their language for a few minutes as they had to watch the normally colorful abuse directed at the duo throughout the set on the off chance it offended the young folks ears!
Damnations is my favorite Carter album so it was a real treat to hear "Everytime a Church Bell Rings", "24 Minutes from Tulse Hill" and "Sheriff Fatman" live again. Jim Bob even managed to throw a bit of the Sex Pistols into the mix, ending "Fatman" with a little bit of "Liar".
The set eventually ground to a halt with "GI blues". Though yet again downbeat it was fairly triumphant with the "Look away" section producing a bombastic climax.
They returned to the stage to encore, with my favorite Carter track "Rubbish" out of the starting gates first. "Re-Educating Rita" and "RSPCE" followed, with set ending proper on two glorious cover versions - Soft Cell's "Bedsitter" and the Pet Shop Boys "Rent".
I had a great time at both shows, with the Brixton date delivering something even more special. The duo obviously still have a lot of faithful fans out there in the world, with several traveling from abroad to take in the gigs. There was talk of the duo not performing as Carter for another 5 years but I'm sure the urge to reel out the hits again in front of huge audiences will bring them back to the London stage sooner than later.
In the meantime both chaps have solo careers to keep them busy. If you want more info on what the pair are doing the best place to find out is the Carter Website.