Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine – 1992 The Love Album

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

Carter USM released six studio albums, which I find hard to believe. The first three are arguably must-owns (though I, admittedly, do not own 30 Something, which most Carter fans adore; I did at one point but it didn’t really resonate with me).  Jim Bob wore a lengthy, stringy forelock (with close cropped hair elsewhere on his dome), which is exactly the jester-like insouciance that they imbued their best work with (Fruitbat preferred cycling caps with the bill upturned). Long live Carter USM.

What I Think of This Album

Carter basically does one thing and they will either do it well or they will do it poorly. On 1992 The Love Album, they do it very well, indeed. This is a strong album from almost start to finish, and was a UK number 1, and also gave them their only UK Top 10 hit in “The Only Living Boy in New Cross.”

“Is Wrestling Fixed?” maintains a delicate a bar-room piano figure until the beats and synths kick in and Jim Bob sneers the answer to his question “Am I un-H-A-P-P-Y?” by shouting out sarcastic queries like “Did Little Red Riding wear a hood?” and “Does the Pope wear a funny hat?” Flimsy, perhaps, but highly enjoyable.

“New Cross” is next, with an unbeatable rhythm track and a catchy rising sequencer line. I have no idea what this song is about. Unless you are British or a savant, a single lyric like “Marble Arch criminals and Clause 28’ers” will likely be lost on you at first listen (Marble Arch criminals seems to be a reference to the British royal family, and Clause 28 was a 1988 anti-LGBTQ law). What I take away most from this song – accurately or not – is the embrace given to “The gypsies, the travellers, and the thieves / The good, the bad, the ugly, and unique / The grebos, the crusties, and the goths.” And that first part of the lyric *has* to be a Cher reference, right?

“Suppose You Gave a Funeral and No One Came” begins with a sample from the film Flatliners and only gets better after that, with some meaty riffing and horn-like keyboard parts, as well as a surprisingly subdued final section. The bitter, demoralizing waltz “England” contains colorful lyrics like “I’ve been Amsterdamned and Reeperbahned / Wham bam thank you ma’amed / If the spirit’s willing / Then the telephone is cheap.”

The wonderful “Do Re Me So Far So Good” samples This is Spinal Tap and then goes on a high-octane rant about the injustices of life and the irrelevance of pop music. “Look Mum, No Hands!” is a gripping and dramatic anti-war song. More personal is the oddly vulnerable “While You Were Out,”  which still does not skimp on the beats or the guitars (or the keyboards or the sequencers).

The gentle, piano-driven “Skywest and Crooked” (also the title of a 1966 Hayley Mills movie) could almost be a country number, though one that ends with Ian Dury of “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” fame reading from the The Man of La Mancha script. Appropriately, the album ends with a cover of “The Impossible Dream” from that musical, which works better than it has any right to.

Trivia: This album was supposed to contain the single “After the Watershed,” but that song happened to quote the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” and the ensuing legal fallout meant the song was omitted. This album was undoubtedly Carter USM’s masterpiece.

The Best Thing About This Album

“The Only Living Boy in New Cross” is tuneful, danceable, and built around a Simon & Garfunkel joke.

Release Date

May, 1992

The Cover Art

I can only guess at what Carter’s intentions were here. The European Union flag as cover art, bastardized with the band’s logo in the stars, by itself comes across as nose-thumbing and self-aggrandizing. Combined with the album title, though, the message appears to be one of hope and affection. But the dedication in the liner notes to “our friends in ‘Yugoslavia’” – acknowledging the bloody ethnic conflicts taking place while the EU (and the world) stood by and watched – suggested that the band knew better than expect too much of humanity.

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