08 February 2006

Overlooked Albums from the 90's - #18

1992: The Love Album by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine

Is this album shite? Is Carter USM nothing more than a couple of hacks making children's music for adults? Is it really "overlooked" given that it debuted at #1 on the UK charts the week it came out? Isn't this more what's WRONG with 90's music than what was right about it? These are tough questions all, and this is the fine line that EAR FARM walks in compiling this series. We'll get into a bit of what I personally think about this record, as well as some sample tracks, in a bit; but first, the answers to those pressing questions. In order, they are: no, maybe, yes, and NO.

First of all, 1992: The Love Album is one of my personal favorite albums of the 90's. I used to listen to it ALL the damn time. I picked it up because a friend at the time told me that Carter USM was "like 900 times better than EMF" and his "cousin who lived in England told him so." Awesome. And, for whatever it's worth, right he was. This shit was everything my young mind needed: dancey, catchy, electro-pop songs with a flair for over-drama and pop-culture references. Dance dance thrash and sing!

The album opens with an instrumental which is then echoed in the closing cover of "The Impossible Dream". In between these songs are eight songs about wrestling and loneliness and England (and the like) all within a 36 minute span. This record is definitely a good old fashioned, unapologetic, "wham bam thank you ma'am". That's what I love about it. It's cheesy and trashy - it's fun and awesome to sing along to. People who I've talked to about this band want to make fun of me about the fact that I still listen to them, as if they're some kind of Baha Men or something, but I don't get mad at these people. These people are simply fools who don't know any better. Really, Carter USM is more like They Might Be Giants if they stopped after making Flood. That's right, and I think it's about time Carter USM gets the minimal amount of respect/recognition they are due! Okay, actually I'm just heading off any potential people showing up here and saying "what the crap are you talking about?!"

In summary, I love this album. I know every word and sing along like I'm sitting around a campfire. For a while, I couldn't decide whether or not to include it in my feature here but listening to it this past week convinced me that I should. The fact that the most-times crap site AllMusic said the following just kind of worked out very well with my own opinion:

"The European Union flag providing the cover and title refers to the then-groundbreaking fusion of governments and policies in the continent, but Carter's appropriately sharp dedication -- "to our friends in 'Yugoslavia'," as that conflict spiralled out of control -- shows where the album's questioning mindset was aimed. While lead single "The Only Living Boy in New Cross" was a bit anthemic-Carter-by-numbers, the brilliant, Spinal Tap-sampling pop roar of "Do Re Me, So Far So Good" and a closing cover of the Man of La Mancha standard "The Impossible Dream" both were deserved standouts. Equally cutting and affecting tracks cropped up throughout -- "England" is a brilliant example, portraying a totally gutted country through the eyes of someone on the losing end of things. Accompanied by traditional, folky instrumentation, it's a calm but pointed vivisection of a place practically not worth it anymore. Perhaps the sleeper cut is "While You Were Out," which underneath all the references to being burned as a witch for playing punk rock or the like is a heartfelt call from one person to another, just to get back in touch."
This album is a time capsule from 1992. When I first re-visited it a few years ago it brought a rush of memories and feelings back to me, both because of how much I listened to it back then and because it just SOUNDS like 1992. What a brilliant choice for an album name then, eh?

(it's not exactly easy to find in stores so you might want to try Amazon or EBay)

Listen:
  • "Is Wrestling Fixed"
  • "The Only Living Boy In New Cross"
  • "Do Re Me, So Far So Good"

Previous Overlooked Albums from the 90's:
#1 - Saturnalia by The Wedding Present
#2 - The Inevitable by Squirrel Nut Zippers
#3 - This is Our Music by Galaxie 500
#4 - Dusk by The The
#5 - Fantasma by Cornelius
#6 - New Wave by The Auteurs
#7 - I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman
#8 - Futureworld by Trans Am
#9 - Harmacy by Sebadoh
#10 - Cure For Pain by Morphine
#11 - God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
#12 - Seven by James
#13 - Why Do Birds Sing? by Violent Femmes
#14 - Blank-Wave Arcade by The Faint
#15 - Dog Man Star by Suede
#16 - Beatsongs by The Blue Aeroplanes
#17 - Don't Try This At Home by Billy Bragg

if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list

Another site does their own "Overlooked of the 90's":
Top 30 'Other' Albums of the '90s