Sep 02

YOU SAD BASTARD! – Carter Reconsidered

FT/79 comments • 24,164 views

I don’t think much of the idea of ‘guilty pleasures’ but there’s guilt and there’s guilt, isn’t there? There’s guilt for something you might be doing wrong – breaking some invisible law of taste, maybe – and that guilt you can and should kick aside. But then there’s guilt for the things you have done, and that’s what I felt when I listened to Carter USM.

The USM stands for Unstoppable Sex Machine, and like everything else about them it seemed like a good idea at the time. Which was 1989 to sometime in the mid-90s – they lost their major label deal and faded from sight; they’d faded from fashion long before. But for a while they were kings – a No.1 album and Top 10 singles when ‘indie bands’ didn’t routinely achieve such things, in the music press all the time, et cetera. In their pomp they were as big as The Smiths ever were, I’d guess. They had a high profile for so long that their profile now they’re uncool is absolutely flat – they don’t even get referenced by mags who want to wink knowingly at their readers and say, hey, even we get it wrong sometimes, because with Carter the NME and other zines got it ‘wrong’ continually, for years.

Actually I’m not even sure they are uncool: I just assume it, since Carter’s still-going solo projects don’t get the slightest far-off hint of buzz. They re-united onstage earlier this year and if I hadn’t been to their website I’d never have known. If they’re not uncool they’re certainly almost forgotten. But whichever it is, there’s a question we can ask about Carter USM: why were they liked, and why aren’t they liked now?

(And there’s another, guiltier, question, too – do I like them?)

One simple answer to start with: Carter did a specific thing nobody else was doing, which made them popular, but that was all they did, so people got bored. They were two men with keyboards, a drum machine, and a guitar. The drum machine hammered out a bass-and-beats pattern; the keyboards provided a melody line and the guitar thrashed away in sympathy. The vocals were sung/shouted in an angry South London bark and it very shortly became clear that almost every Carter track – especially the singles – was issue-led or political.

Before each single’s release there would be an item on the NME news page saying what Carter would be “dealing with” this time. “Anytime Anyplace Anywhere” “dealt with” alcoholism; “Bloodsport For All” “dealt with” racism in the army; “After The Watershed” “dealt with” child abuse; and so on. Dealing with an issue involved shouting about how bad it was, in an oblique sort of way which the Carter website calls ‘blackly humourous’ and which you could still jump up and down to. To illustrate let’s take a verse from their breakthrough hit, “Sheriff Fatman”, which “dealt with” slum landlords in fairly typical style:

“Fatman’s got something to sell to the capital’s homeless
A Crossroads Motel for the no-fixed-aboders
You can live life in style! You can sleep in a closet
And if you flash him a smile he’ll take your teeth on deposit”

This summary probably makes Carter USM sound bloody awful. At the time, though, “Sheriff Fatman” was an invigorating, exciting record, and here’s where I start to feel guilty. I felt guilty for liking Carter USM so much when I was 17 and 18, and then I felt guilty for not liking them and for feeling guilty, and above all that I felt guilty about the fact that the only time I listened to them was when I got drunk with friends who still owned the records and insisted on them putting “Falling On A Bruise” on. “Falling On A Bruise” is Carter’s big end-of-record ballad from their second album. My friend and I listened to it on our last day of school one term and I think of that every time I hear it: “Some you win and some you lose, and I’ve spent my whole lifetime falling on a bruise, and if I had the chance to do it all again, I’d change EVERYTHING”. It hadn’t been a great term but it hadn’t been as bad as that, and we hadn’t spent our whole lifetimes doing very much of anything, but that was part of the point.

Why did I stop liking them? That same friend and I went round Europe in 1992. When we got back there was a new Carter single out, “The Only Living Boy In New Cross” (their best single, it seems to me now). I was disappointed with it – more of the same old stuff. I had new friends too, who didn’t like Carter. By the time I went to University I didn’t like them either or affected not to, and as usual the affectation turns into the real thing pretty quickly. And something else was happening: other political bands were getting attention and getting big, and most of those bands were using programmed rhythms too. Chumbawamba, Senser, Back To The Planet – these bands weren’t on major labels like Carter, so they seemed like they had more integrity, but they also diluted the uniqueness of Carter’s jokey-punky approach.

And when those bands went out of fashion, as quickly as they’d come in, Carter went with them. Political pop, and guitars with drum machines, were suddenly about the naffest things a band could do. Social, knowingly British, character-driven pop by snappily-dressed new groups was much cooler – you know the history, I’m sure. And what Carter did is still very unfashionable. Well, sort of. The basic formula of Carter USM is not a vast distance from the basic formula of Le Tigre, after all. But the band’s reputation isn’t what I’m interested in: what I want to ask is, did they sound good? Did the formula work?

In some ways I think it did. Very few bands have sounded as cheap as Carter, and very few have seemed less subtle. The rhythm tracks Carter used were always ultra-primitive – synth presets on sulphate – and the hooks were as brutishly to-the-point as any Top 10 trance tune. The nasty sound of the tapes and machines bled into the nasty sound of pig-handed guitar chordage, but nothing ever sounded stodgy or sluggish like so much guitar-rock of the time did. Linked to the lyrical editorialising, this meant a kind of angry, energetic thrill, like being on a one-man private demo. The ‘guilt’ was built into listening, because you knew of course that they were simplistic and crass, but you loved them that way. They made crassness a virtue.

This was one reason why some of Carter’s worst singles ranted not about AIDS or single mothers but about the simply dreadful state of the pop charts (present company excepted, naturally). “Do Ray Me So Far So Good” saw the only guitar band in the Top 10 sneering about the “pop music stars / with their pop music guitars” who weren’t writing songs about abused children. “Lenny And Terence” was an ugly, pointless stomp which bizarrely chose Terence Trent D’Arby as symptomatic of something rotten in the state of Gallup. You were brought suddenly down to Earth – for a band to work up the exact same froth of rage against Lenny Kravitz as against the Gulf War made both froths seem a bit silly.

Carter’s very worst single was a karaoke stab at “The Impossible Dream” which they talked up as a Christmas No.1 but which may well have scotched their career. It showed off their other defining trait – they were as sentimental a band as the 90s produced. As their fame grew, so did their feeling for their unfortunate fellow man. “The Only Living Boy…” is ostensibly about HIV paranoia but it’s soaked through with hokey affection and the bits everyone remembers are the all-embracing lists of South London lowlives – “the gypsies, the travellers, and the thieves / The good, the bad, the average, and unique”. It thunders along on a borrowed Magazine riff, but this song offers both sides a big boozy hug, shot or not. “Lean On Me I Won’t Fall Over” has a skippy piano loop and a live drummer, but otherwise it’s business as usual musically, and the lyrics are “You’ve Got A Friend” with extra needle-sharing.

In the end, though, I’m a sentimental man myself, and this is why, yes, I do like Carter USM. Especially, I’ll grant you, if I’ve had a few pints. Carter at their occasional best sit as part of a much-loved strain of pint-handed mawkishness in British rock: Rod Stewart’s “You Wear It Well”, The Pogues’ “Rainy Night In Soho”, Mott’s “Saturday Gigs” maybe. And “Falling On A Bruise”, too. These songs stick out like a sore head amongst all the other stuff I like, though that’s not why I feel guilty. I feel guilty because admitting I like Carter USM is admitting the 18-year-old me was more honest, and more open-hearted, than the me which didn’t like them through most of my twenties. They’re part of my history as a pop fan – and their story’s interesting beyond that, as an example of what happens to one-trick ponies when the rides dry up (it was listening to The Streets that got me thinking about Carter again, as it happens). I wouldn’t recommend them to you – a lot of the time they were rubbish, after all – but I won’t apologise either. And if I had the chance to do it all again? I’d change nothing.


  1. 1
    KEV EDGAR on 12 Sep 2006 #

    Great piece on Carter,

    I still like them though!!!

  2. 2
    Rivergypsy on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I’m looking for some background material and or opinions on Jon beast(often known it would seem, as the ‘fat bastard’!. Most of the comments i’ve come across aren’t particularly constructive (or remotely polite sometimes come to that!) so it’s hard to pick out the truth/sensible comments from the abuse and bullshit. Can anyone offer or point towards some halfway factual data about the fat bastard! :)



  3. 3
    dogs knob rob on 3 Nov 2006 #

    as i read this, im listening to “worry bomb”. i was interested in carter from the beggining and when i play any of their songs it takes me back to the “good old days”. i think some of the comments were a bit harsh, but overall a good review!!!

  4. 4
    Michele on 8 Dec 2006 #

    Harsh stuff here, I thought Carter were one of the most thought provoking bands of the nineties myself better than a lot of the brainless rubbish around at the time. I really liked them a lot.

  5. 5
    Arty Farty Ben on 14 Dec 2006 #

    Hi there

    Jon Beast used to be a punk promoter and fanzine writer in Exeter back in the 80s. I think I may even have played with him in his band “Gerbil squad” once. Famous for his “Go mental” song and baby’s dummy, and the immortal words “my best friend is a fridge freezer/he’s a bit cold but he’s a good geezer”

    Fondly remembered

  6. 6
    Andy P on 29 Dec 2006 #

    Carter were, and remain, a legendary band. Unfashionable they may be, but poor quality they never were.

  7. 7
    Tom on 30 Dec 2006 #

    Re-reading this for the first time since I wrote it, I really like this piece.

    I should probably also mention that I like Carter more and more each year, too. I’m sorry if this piece seems harsh on them: reading it again it’s harsher on me. A more full-hearted defence of Carter USM is required and deserved.

  8. 8
    paniczoo on 9 Jan 2007 #

    I fucking hate Lenny Kravitz, cunt.

  9. 9
    punctum on 10 Jan 2007 #

    Surprised that there’s no mention of Carter as the indie B-side of the Pet Shop Boys (down to their cover of “Rent” which was, er, an indie B-side). There’s just one bottle of Parazone separating “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere” from “It’s A Sin.”

  10. 10
    Ben e Boy on 22 Jan 2007 #

    As a 21-year old who wasn’t into music at the age of

  11. 11
    Ben e Boy on 22 Jan 2007 #

    (oops, broken html)

    As a 21-year old who was under 10 when Carter were around, I’ve just been getting into them for the last ~12 months. I’m tryng to learn more about what each of their songs is about. Maybe the bubble will burst for me eventually, too, and I’ll look back on this phase Carter fandom questionably. Who knows?

  12. 12
    Pete on 22 Jan 2007 #

    None of their songs are about druqs, that much I can assure you. But if any are obscure, i am sure we can help you with particular obscure references!

  13. 13
    Andy on 26 Jan 2007 #

    Well I love Carter and I’m not ashamed to say it! I think it’s because I understood a lot of their more significant music. One of the reasons that they were not so fashionable or more popular is that they released what seemed like hundreds of albums and singles and b-sides etc etc which really diluted the absolute quality of output to the broader public. This was, however, a bonus for the die-hard fan as we got to listen to absolutely everything that Les and Jim wrote – however most bands will just release a handfull of albums and pick the cream – Carter gave you the works, warts and all! You could make 3 albums of quality music which would stick to carter’s morals but at the same time be commercially accessable – the only problem is that they spead these songs over a decade and over 10 albums…

  14. 14
    sst on 21 Feb 2007 #

    A few points (especially to young ones):

    As you get older you don’t listen to the same music ALL the time. It would be like eating your favourite food every day. So you take time out from your favourite stuff and re-visit it, this makes it more enjoyable. I took time out from carter in the late 90s until about 3 years back and on re-visiting I find the songs which made you sing and jump around still have the same power.

    Also carter fell out of favour for many reasons. First the death of students in the real “young one” sense. Student life is nothing like it was due to grants, the fact not everyone became a student (not that everyone should not if they want to, but do they want to? a different discussion but you get the point.) Second the NME was determined to find a new sound and binned carter et al. They tried new wave of new wave and other pish but then came oasis and their bland anthems which the kids and their dads loved. It was loved by old fart hacks as you did not need to jump up and down like indie or grunge and reminded them of their 60s records. Oasis in turn single-handedly destroyed indie labels and music as the majors bought the labels to try and get another oasis then when the profit was not there shut them down. Finally the kids of 95+ while eating their oasis dirge and swaying to the drone had suffered a loss of feeling. Feeling angry, caring & shouting all gone, it was all about the self (see oasis -> travis -> coldplay -> snow patrol). So it remained for 10 years and only now do any acts sing about their surroundings and shout about it. It is no surprise that people believed carter wrote the arctic monkeys songs when that rumour went out is it.

  15. 15
    Gibby on 26 Feb 2007 #

    Im a 17 year old college student who happened to get hooked on Carter USM by pure chance after I heard someone making a reference to “Sherrif Fatman”. I was instantly hooked. Apart from “Born On The 5th of November” and “Lenny and Terrence”, every single they released was superb. I also think some of their later stuff is vastly underrated, and if they hadnt split up “Citizens Band” and “Sunshine” could easily have been released as singles.

    Some of their lyrics are just brilliant though. “Ive never gone cold turkey in a shed in Alberquirky……”

  16. 16
    Pete on 26 Feb 2007 #

    The Lenny & Terrance problem though is still the greatest barrier for me completely letting Carter back into my life.

  17. 17
    Thom on 1 Mar 2007 #

    I never understood anyone not loving Carter! At the time i also loved PWEI but Carter were my band…..

    Therir lyrics always made you think, the tunes were as bouncy as you could get and the blokes themselves the most unassuming, self depricating types you could meet.

    It was at a time when NME built up a band and built them up and built them up and suddenly decided to crush them, i think that had a lot to do with their sudden lack of credibility.

    What kind of band would have their 3rd album go straight into the chart at number one and then want to call the 4th album ‘Commercial Fucking Suicide’?

    I AM biased and i don’t care. Carter, great band always were!!!!!!

  18. 18
    J Kelly on 19 Mar 2007 #

    I somehow heard Sheriff Fatman in CA in 89 I think. I was able to buy the ‘single’ at Tower on cassette as you could do back then. But I never heard another thing they did. I seems funny to think that their history can leave someone feeling guilty. It makes them sound like Vanilla Ice, but I get what you’re saying.

    I for one have never heard a song like Sheriff Fatman before or since. I think it is a totally original sound. It popped into my head the other night watching ECW pro wrestling as I thought what a great character “Sheriff Fatman would be for a wrestler. The entrance music would never get old… and boy wouldn’t you love to hate him!

  19. 19
    Gary N on 5 Apr 2007 #

    Carter are ACE!!!

    I saw them at the Zodiac in Oxford in the very late 90’s or 00’s… first time I had seen them, and I bounced all night (very easy on the upstairs, wooden floor of the Zodiac)… Fantastic..!

    I finally got hold of Worry Bomb and I now play it as loud as I my wife will let me – and I bop about too when she isn’t looking…

    Gotta go do some singing/shouting into the mike – without any guilt at all!

    Signed… a senile deliquent

  20. 20
    baldylum on 25 Apr 2007 #

    I followed Carter over the 90’s and i have got to say. They were the godfathers of brit pop. Never mind oasis and the roses. These two guys when they were on their game were fantastic. I once had a drunken night at the Queens hall in Edinburgh with fruitbat, Jimbob and Wez (the part time drummer)which was one of the best laughs that I have ever had. I for one will be at the final gigs in October at the Barras and Brixton.


  21. 21
    jkforde on 28 Apr 2007 #

    CUSM’s SFM was THE anthem during the early 1990s because it rocks (I still love it) and it has an intelligent lyrics, which can’t be said for 80% of the vacuous shite since!

    …..British rock: …. The Pogues’ “Rainy Night In Soho”….., er bty, The Pogues are Irish, not British…Shane would use some words if he was referred to as anything other than Irish!

  22. 22
    barborini on 7 May 2007 #

    I felt alone for oh so many years couse in italy not so many people knew Carter (nobody in my town, I guess)
    i liked them so much and they meant so much for me. They were great.

  23. 23
    scott on 9 May 2007 #

    i’m 24 but i distinctly remember carter been in my life from an early age, my older brother and father were and still are huge fans, scratch that, maybe not anymore. over the course of the last 5/6 years have fallen in love with em. carter still live on

  24. 24
    Birdy on 19 May 2007 #

    My name is Birdy and I am a recovering Carterholic. I haven’t listened to Carter for at least 8 years now, but I still get cravings every now and then.
    At the time I was a complete Carter fan, bordering on obsession for a good 4 or 5 years. I’ve moved on since then, but I look back quite proudly, feeling that Carter were a step above all the other tepid, ineffectual music that my friends listened to at the time.
    I don’t care if they are ‘cool’ any more, their honesty, cynicism and issue led anthems influenced me at a certain time and place as I grew up and are part of the fabric of who I am now (cynical git).
    Without wanting to sound like an old bastard, at least we had bands like Carter – what the hell have kids got now? Justin Timberlake? McFly?

  25. 25
    fivelongdays on 2 Jun 2007 #

    I’m 25, and I’m inordinately fond of Carter. I even like “Lenny and Terence”, so there.

    Incidentally, me and a mate were going to set up the world’s first Carter USM tribute band. Plus, “Let’s Get Tattoos” certainly influenced Andrew WK’s “Party Hard”, which has to go in their favour.

  26. 26
    Howard Rowntree on 4 Jun 2007 #

    Carter we’re one of those bands people either loved or hated. It’s interesting to note that the music industry seems to have completely forgetten about them and yet they were probably one of the most important bands of the 90’s. And just to show how importnat they we’re their Brixton reunion show sold out within days.

  27. 27
    dani on 10 Jun 2007 #

    Carter USM is part of my life, it’s still a very important part of me. They are my idols and I still listen to them quite often. I’m from Spain and I also felt alone by the time they were so famous, as no one else in my hometown knew them.

    I wish I could understand better English as I don’t get the meaning of so many songs… but the music, no matter if the author of this essay says it’s just all the same, I think it’s really different from anything else I can find in other groups.

    And, still, I think the latest songs from the two members once they split up, some of them are worth it, especially the Jimbob ones.

  28. 28
    Murdoch on 11 Jun 2007 #

    Carter the Unspeakable Shit Machine, as they were known round my way, were more fucking horrible than the first world war. Stupid fucking hair, cycling clothing (Who fucking DOESN’T look like a twat in THAT?) and songs to make one murderous with rage. I cite in evidence the following: Their inept drum programming – clattery lumpen “beats” built by people who couldn’t dance for people who couldn’t dance – made all their songs sound like a drill square at busy time for drill squares, only with some whiny nasal Sarf Lahndan dole-bludger moaning about some shit that’s got fuck all to do with him, because he’s afucking POP STAR, thrown to the fore over the relentless sound of stomping, which if I remember correctly, was just about all Carter fans could do when overwhelmed with a desire to “dance”. Carter’s ghastly pun-ridden lyrics, which the witless cunts who bought this shite claimed were “witty” and/or “ironic”, are enough to make anyone with any fondness whatever for wit and irony choke on their Squeeze records.

    Lemme get back to their “image”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but having a manky hippy squatter’s “interesting” hairdo is only a good thing if you’re a manky hippy squatter, which in itself is only a good thing if you want me to come and whack your feckless brains out with a car door, y’bastard. And the cycling shorts and t-shirts!!! Honest to Christ, if there was ever a clothing choice better designed to make some aging scrawny hair criminal (who used to be in the shittest of all shit indie bands – Jamie Wednesday) look even more of a cunt than his hairdon’t and back-to-front cap already did, then I want to know about it.

    These arseholes should have been drowned at birth instead of subjecting me and other right-thinking music fascists to their faux-proletarian blethering and hideous tastlesness.

    One more thing – I hate the fact that Mega City Four still get lumped in with crap like Carter. Genuinely witty and caring people and bands like MC4 don’t come along every day of the week, whereas you can walk into any student bar in the western world and hear some middle-class twonk twatting a guitar in the most grindingly dull way imaginable while spraying poorly considered puns and hapless low-grade wordplay at his mates and their girlfriends from the stage. Do yourselves a favour, kids. If you see one of them, spoil their evening before they spoil yours.

    Oh, and next time you’re at a mate’s house and he brings out his big sister’s Carter cds and says “You might not have heard this, but it’s really good – it’s from the 90s”, punch him in the throat, shove the Carter cds up his nose and then leave, safe in the knowledge that you’ve narrowly avoided a lifetime’s friendship with an unconscionable arsehole.

  29. 29
    CarsmileSteve on 11 Jun 2007 #

    man, he was doing so well until the Megas reference as well…

    i assume that the poster is Howlin’ Mad Murdoch

  30. 30
    Murdoch on 11 Jun 2007 #

    Assume away. You’ll be wrong, though.

    I, on the other hand, will be right about MC4. ;)

  31. 31
    Howard Rowntree on 12 Jun 2007 #

    Well there’s one person who won’t be going to the reunion gig then. Nice to see so many open minded people in England. I always think the worst opinion you could possibly have of a band is indifferance!!!

  32. 32
    Admin on 12 Jun 2007 #

    i know of at least 2 commenters here who will be going tho.

  33. 33
    Murdoch on 13 Jun 2007 #

    Unfortunately for me, I saw Crapper the Unlistenable Suck Machine at the Four 4 Wiz gig in March. They were as horrible and porridgey then as they ever were, although they seem to have given up on their ill-advised expermiental hair action. I forgot to say – despite my scattergunning of insults at Carter fans (they REALLY can’t dance) – that it’s my responsibility as a grumpy but fairminded old fuck to acknowledge goodness when it rears its all-too-shy pretty little head, so here goes: you will not meet kinder, more open-minded, community-spirited, supportive, intelligent and tolerant people than Carter fans. The same was true 15 years ago. How Carter ever got these people on side when Sugar gigs were full of the most annoying chin-stroking “appreciators” of music is beyond me, but there you go.

    Enjoy the reunion gigs, but remember this, aging pop thirtysomethings – Jesus loves the Stooges and is at best ambivalent about Carter, although I’m fairly certain that given the choice between Carter and nails through hands, he’d say “Gimme that hammer, mate. I’ll do the job meself.”

  34. 34
    sst on 23 Jun 2007 #

    well your opinion is just a rant – makes me think they stole your wife (i am assuming you are a man) – if you don’t like them that is ok. but i never met 2 more honest down to earth blokes in a band. they never claimed to be the best, they never claimed to be cool, they were never fashionable. they laughed at themselves and even appeared in a sketch on newman and badiel about people with comic faces. i think they deserve more respect even if you don’t like the music they tried and succeeded for a good few years.

    (yes i am proud to dance to the music that nobody likes.)

  35. 35
    Greg on 7 Jul 2007 #

    They were the best band ever. They only had one gig in my country in 1995 to which nobody went, so they never came again – and when I heard about the reunion gig and started saving for my airplane ticket it had already sold out. So enjoy, those of you who could get tickets.

  36. 36
    Lucyp on 18 Jul 2007 #

    I am so happy to find fellow Carter USM fans. I was a massive Carter fan back in the day and i still listen to them now every so often.
    Falling On A Bruise was a great song which i liked so much i named my blog after it.
    I would say Worry Bomb was probably their greatest album which is a damn shame they had fallen from grace by then, The Only Looney Left In Town deserved better.

  37. 37
    Thorsten M. on 22 Aug 2007 #

    I have always loved Carter USM. As a German fan it was pretty hard to get their singles, albums or even merchandise. Carter were more than just music: they were a lifestyle, the feelings of a whole generation. And, of course, they were brilliant musicians.

    I’ve spent hours translating their lyrics into proper German, asking friends whose fathers served in the Rhine Army what certain puns COULD mean. I actually don’t know how many concerts I have seen. It were a whole lot – at least for Teutonic Carter maniac.

    What saddens me most, is that Tom’s ugly rant willingly forgets about Jim’s wonderful voice, Les’ poignant arrangements and their breathtaking live shows.

    I used to be a dedicated fan and I still am.

    Unfortunately I won’t have the chance to see one of their shows this autumn, what makes me feel sad.


    Thorsten xxx

  38. 38
    bluemonday on 22 Aug 2007 #

    carter were never cool but they were *amazing*. i cant wait for the brixton live show later this year, it is going to be so good!

    i feel a bit sorry for them for the fact they have been erased from musical history. at the time though they were massive.

  39. 39
    z_zadar on 29 Aug 2007 #

    Carter USM are one the few band I idologize. Yes, they may be simple and the lyrics may be shouting-political-issues, but that’s punkish. They are punk band, with beautiful pop-hard-core-punk image.
    I’ll never forgive myself for not going on that Dom Sportova, Zagreb concert, and I was in town at the moment.

    They may be erased from musical history, but it is legendary in some twisted way.

  40. 40
    magic mushroom on 1 Sep 2007 #

    get over it. enjoy the irony and naffness of the whole thing. dig out your steeleys and beg, borrow or steal a ticket to the gigs in glasgow and london and yell for 24 minutes or surfing usm for the chance to relive what it was like when you were eighteen!!!

  41. 41
    Rob Townsend on 23 Sep 2007 #

    This is a good piece about a band that really dissected the indie world.

    It inspired me to write an essay myself. Copy and paste this:


    Feedback is welcomed.

  42. 42
    james on 23 Sep 2007 #

    I discovered Carter about 12 years ago and really got off on them. After a spell away I now listen to them and The New York Dolls mostly while driving – Carter’s Dome Sportova and their Live in Concert 1991-94 compilations belt out all the great songs, along with the NYD’s Return of the New York Dolls: Live From Royal Festival Hall, 2004.(A great album)
    There is something about all that anger and rage that I find so captivating,enjoyable and therapeutic yet there is a sensitivity behind it all that is somehow very moving.

  43. 43
    Alan on 26 Sep 2007 #

    someone on the guardian blog (Which successful bands haven’t been influential) has a ticket for the upcoming show perhaps. This just showed up on Digg too! And: Warning! Extremely long comments full of people talking absolute cock. Moderate use of the word “influence” and some graphic examples of cockfarming.

    also also also, the Comics Britannia thing on BBC FOUR the other day, the episode on the 80s, covering 2000AD and Deadline, kept using the same Deadline cover – yep the Carter one as seen on Rob T’s post linked in the above comment.

    dead on arrival, the carter revival.

  44. 44
    Mark2026 on 27 Oct 2007 #

    I did, and still do love ’em
    Do it fruitbat!

  45. 45
    bottomley m.d. on 11 Nov 2007 #

    murdoch, in the words of john cooper clark,can’t hear you mate, yr mouths full of sh*t!! lol.

  46. 46
    david on 13 Nov 2007 #

    I read the review with great interest. Because this is the first person who i have ever met, who ‘went off’ carter. As time goes on, certain friends of mine listen to Carter less and less frequently, but certainly when the music comes out together it is much loved and always as it always has been.
    I only read the first 15-20 comments and noted that no one else ever really had enough of Carter, so now i am wondering if this review is really representing a minority of one!

    It’s no surprise to me that they sold out brixton gig in quick time with little PR and being lucky enough to get one of the tickets, I can assure you that it was one hell of a gig.

  47. 47
    ross a. ferrone on 4 Jan 2008 #

    An interesting viewpoint but remember this.Carter didnt do a Pulp & double ticket prices the minute they had a no.1 album,they respected their loyal fanbase,kept the price down & toured regularly.You also neglected to mention their many great album tracks-‘spoilsports personality’ a particular favourite of mine.Having seen them 8 times I never witnessed a poor show,they were all nothing short of brilliant.I just hope they surprise us all & do a Shed7 & announce a Greatest Hits Tour in 2008.Oh & ‘Rubbish’ was one of their finest singles-never should that word be used to describe this band!

  48. 48
    Jef Proudfoot on 22 Mar 2008 #

    Murdoch is a Schofield. I love ’em to bits but didn’t automatically like everything they did. Never keen on L & T. Loved the gig at Wimbledom Library. Like (most of) their new stuff too.

  49. 49
    and everybody elses Mark G on 22 May 2008 #

    I was on the phone to a friend when Amber (then three) waved a cassette I’d bought in Thailand (a legit EMI one! hey, the legit ones are £2, why buy dodgy pirates for £1? anyroad..) “Straw Donkey – The singles” and wanted to hear it. So I said “um, I’m not sure it’s what you expect” but put it on anyway, and the kids (i.e. including Alice, then 15 months) went totally dance crazy nuts over “Only living boy”, “Glam Rock Cops” and all points between.

    I had to tell my friend “It’s not all like this you know” but actually, from that point on it was.

    I did get “Worry Bomb” but it’s not right. That cassette is the bomb, not “WB” with it’s free live album (or maybe the live albums worth revisiting? ach)

  50. 50
    Gibby on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Any band that attempts to t**t Philip Schofield are instant legends, no matter what you think of their music!!!

  51. 51
    Jason the Unrepentant on 14 Sep 2008 #

    And I quite liked Carter.
    Still do.
    I must be sad.

  52. 52
    Charlotte on 6 Nov 2008 #

    to be quite honest i am not a 1st generation carter fan, ive been listening to them since i was born, best friends with their daughters, their brothers best friends with my father and they are the nicest blokes i have ever met, very down to earth in tune and amaingly witty. I am 16, i love carter usm, im so glad they did a reunion because i got a chance to see them (in years i remember).

    straw donkey is an amzing album and im so happy they have a reunion on the 22nd day of november the day that they shot kennedy lol…

    if you dont appriciate them then your missing a screw they wrote about issues that their generated wanted to hear about. They may be forgotten but how many people idolise punk rock for their messages, well this is early 90’s idilic message rock

    god love it i know i do
    cant wait to jump about at the gig

  53. 53
    Bernie Reeves on 10 Nov 2008 #

    i love Carter but i was 1 when 101 Damnations came out and i only got into them a couple of years ago when my thirty-something brother lent me one of his CDs.

    i’m going to see them Nov ’08 at Brixton but was wondering are there any Carter fans below the age of 21?

  54. 54
    simon on 24 Nov 2008 #

    yes m8 my daughter’s 8 and i took her to the brixton show on 22nd nov. Had to go in the circle though. some crazy lady tried to get her to dance but shyness prevailled and possibly bewilderment. Went to the front for sheriff fatman (her favourite) and she was amazed at the crowd in the stalls, reverse stage diving. she liked emf too although she said smash were a bit loud. she wants to go again….after we’ve been downtown to get tatoos…

  55. 55
    Alexandros Kotsis on 11 Feb 2009 #

    I’m from Greece, 32. i was not even 18 when they gave a gig in Athens, back in February 1995… less that 500 people in the venue… i still rememberthe final song – ENGLAND -. Jim Bob’s voice made my hair rise… i have their complete discography.

    in 1997 i went to England to study thinkging: “cool, i will get the chance to see carter again”. poor me! they split just a bit later! i discovered that not too many people knew them in England, at least in Staffs uni were i studied… they were forgotten… i almost forgot them too. but every now and then i was picking up my vinyls and cds in order to listen to their songs and remember the good old days…

    now, this year, i will have the chance to see them again… in november. i will travel to London just for that… no way i miss it!

  56. 56
    Sean A on 18 Feb 2009 #

    My intro to Carter USM was on the radio in Arizona (no, not Gutterpressville). It was “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere”. It got a fair amount of play, but so did a lot of English singles at that time. I liked it (and still do), but in the end, I only ever bought 30 Something and 1992/The Love Album (whatever it’s called). I like both and have recommended them to select friends without reservation. I will continue to do so because I can do with a little Carter in my life every now and then. I enjoyed their wordplays and depressing lyrics. Who cares what they wore – no one won style points back then.

  57. 57
    Hazeley on 17 Apr 2009 #

    Greatest band ever and the gigs the last 2 years have been unbelievable. 2 more in London this Autumn – they’re going to play every track from the the first 4 albums.
    Wasn’t sure about the solo material at first but it’s really grown on me. Some of the tracks on JimBob’s ‘A Humpty Dumpty Thing’ are superb.

  58. 58
    Robert Steed on 16 Nov 2009 #

    I’m not going to read this article – I’ve seen enough to know not to. “I wouldn’t recommend them to you – a lot of the time they were rubbish” sums up this person’s lack of clue! Very little of the time were they rubbish. Carter USM were the band that changed my life, and were rare unique genius. I don’t care what anyone else thinks or says!

  59. 59
    Andy Mac on 21 Nov 2009 #

    Cracking best band in the world but I’m glad they only get together for the odd reunion now… I think ‘I blame the Government’ was a bit of a nail in the coffin, still a decent album but certainly not Carter at their best. So, as gutted as I was at the time with Carter’s curtain finally coming down, I couldn’t imagine my current CD collection without the genius of Jim’s Super Stereoworld (which is loved by everyone that I’ve ever played it to) and all the incredible material that Jim Bob has released as a solo artist…

    Carter still gets played a lot in my house and there is loads of it to get through but what gets me these days is looking forward to hearing new material from Jim Bob and listening to his numerous albums that are already out there waiting to be heard by the masses, the man’s a legend and deserves to be selling Brixton out on his solo shows… If you haven’t heard the album Angelstrike then go out and find it and play it LOUD, it is incredible, as are all his other albums

    Long Live Jim Bob cause I wouldn’t fancy learning to live in a world without him (excuse the pun!!). When you listen to the stuff on the radio at the minute from the ‘indie’ scene I can’t compare anything to the quality that Jim Bob constantly puts out… Don’t get me wrong, there is good music at the minute, just not on the radio and it really gets to me which is why I’m writing this, I just need to get it off my chest in the hope that I don’t get so annoyed in work anymore listening to Radio 1 though I doubt it… maybe its time to give in and learn to love Snow Patrol and Coldplay

    Maybe Not….

  60. 60
    LiSA b on 5 Dec 2009 #

    GET over it att all! :live your live as YOU SEE IT! Believe me, I’ve had a tramatic head injuria ( brain, actualy). Live your life as YOU want it, not as others say it SHOULD be!!
    :Love you all!
    -Magic ( I won’t tellyou whu that’s my nickna,name…use your imaginatin! “-()

  61. 61
    Mad dog on 11 Nov 2011 #

    MURDOCH YR A FANNY u ain’t got a clue here’s 10p go buy 1 FUD BOY Grrrrrrrrrrr

  62. 62
    Pablo Quema on 15 Dec 2012 #

    Tom, if you rate punk bands on the basis of how cool and fashionable they are, you’re always going to miss the point. Carter were lo-fi and angry because they were a punk band, and they stuck with the mindset and technology they started out with – they were very honest and level-headed, despite several years of highly distracting fame and fortune. I’m glad you acknowledge that they did sound good, for all their trashiness (I like the trashiness, personally), but I’m nonplussed that you criticise them for being relentlessly political, and then criticise them for writing a song about how much they disliked Kravitz & D’Arby. Bit of a double standard there mate.

    As for the main thrust of your piece – Carter didn’t disappear to the people who genuinely appreciated them, they only disappeared to people like you who hide musical tastes for fear of being deemed uncool; people who listen to music because it’s fashionable, not because they enjoy it. People who feel guilty about enjoying a certain type of music bore me intensely. Musical taste isn’t about what other people think, it’s about what gives you a kick, and guilt should never enter your mind. The word you want here isn’t ‘guilty’, it’s ’embarrassed’ – you became embarrassed to like Carter when they stopped being flavour of the month, because you were more bothered about other people’s perception of your musical taste than you were about actually enjoying music itself. What I get from this piece is that you don’t like Carter any more because you’re a hipster, and your perception of musical quality is based on popularity first and foremost.

    I suggest you have another listen to 101 Damnations, forget about your haircut for a while, and accept that two untrained South London lads did remarkably groovy things with a couple of guitars, a drum machine and a sampler. Alternatively, you could count up the ‘for’ and ‘against’ in the comments on here, and realise that Carter are in fact still popular amongst people who care…

  63. 63
    Alan not logged in on 15 Dec 2012 #


  64. 64
    Angeljuice on 16 May 2013 #

    Loved Carter, still do, always will. Love Jimbobs work too, ‘Goffam’ is a favorite of mine. To be honest, I don’t think they ever wanted mega-fame, just as happy making a living doing what they love. Really down to earth, nice people.
    Their lyrics, puns and wordplay are very unique, and you could take any song in their catalogue and find real lyrical gems.

    “There’s a free pair of flares with every hip-replacement, just take the stairs to the bargain basement!” a metaphor for modern life if you ask me.

  65. 65
    Thomas on 31 Jul 2013 #

    Well, it was November 1st, 1993 in Dortmund. I was 22 ýears old and wanted to go into the Disco Musiczirkus in Dortmund, Germany.

    Before the regular Disconight began, there still was a concert from a band I’ve never heard from. I was a little bit to early this evening, so I’ve heared the last 3 songs which were played by the band … and I was electrified by this amazing sound.

    I looked at the tour posters and have seen that this great band was “Carter USM”. This was a key moment for me and from this day on I’m a fan of them.

    I’ve seen them 1995 3 times in Germany and had some nice conversations with them backstage after the shows.

    I LOVE Jimbob and Fruitbad for that what they gave me with their music.

  66. 66
    Keene on 15 Aug 2013 #

    Such a jaded article about Carter. I got lucky (not quite lucky enough), and became a fan when 30 Something was out (before 1992 The Love Album). I was instantly hooked – they had crazily perfect lyrics, two guitars and a drum machine.

    The first Carter gig I went to was at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, and oh my god – that was crazy (Love Album Tour). They played all the big songs from all albums (and several that were only bsides), and just rocked that place. I was right in the front center, and I can honestly say that I came out of that gig covered in more beer and lager than sweat – and I danced wildly for 2 hours straight. That was the Friday night show, and I went to the Saturday night show (same venue) too. I took a change of tshirt for that one, and it was just as great as the 1st.

    So, retrospectively, how do I feel about them? When I listen to the music, it brings a tear to my eye, recalling the finer moments in life with Carter as my soundtrack. Wish I could have gone to the reunion shows, but I’m in a whole different country now, and didnt find out in time. Would I go back and do it all again? Hell, yes. Not even a question. When I think about the music, I remember it fondly. My kids also went wild to it when I played some of the songs for them (also young).

    In all, I went to see them about 12-15 times, the best was the first couple of times in Glasgow. They always rocked out the venues. Best gigs ever.

    I wish that some of the haters could have avoided the ‘its cool / its not cool’ crap, because even if Carter sang about political events and issues of the time, it didnt matter, what matters is how it made you feel, how you could just dance without caring, sing along as loud as you could, and live that moment – truly live that moment. I had so many of those, and wouldnt surrender them for anything.

  67. 67
    Simon on 6 Nov 2014 #

    Wow… this is a horrible and cynical article. Cant believe this is linked form their Wikipage. Carter were never trying to be cool… they were a 90’s punk band, doing things completely different and in their own way. They are truly individual… and unmistakable in their sound. They could have easily put together a more credible band/image for themselves but they chose a different path. Despite the fact that the music press have sadly written them out of music history, they were far more successful than many of the other ‘cool’ bands of the time and had a lot more substance about them. How many true indie bands achieved a number 1 album in a time where record sales were highly contested, had several appearances on Top of the pops and punched Phil Schofield on live TV. They had something truly unique to say to say that was in no way embarrassing if you care about substance over style.

    The fact the writer is spending so much effort weighing things up and considering whether carter are worthy of being like by them is pretty sad.

  68. 68
    Mark G on 6 Nov 2014 #

    Wow Simon, did you even understand the article? And your memory is failing you, they didn’t punch Philip Schofield, they rugby tackled him. The fact that the writer is spending so much effort weighing things up means he’s considering them, not blindly shouting “YOU FAT BASTARD” at bus stops at fat people, in tribute.

  69. 69
    Tom on 6 Nov 2014 #

    I am not surprised Carter fans tend not to like this (very old!) piece, which is a bit glib in places – their lyrics are better than I admitted, and I should have written the bit about “Only Living Boy”‘s open-heartedness to sound less sneery.

    But I think most people have That Band they were into when they were 17 who seem a bit awkward in later life, and Carter happened to be mine. Most of the article is being deliberately less flattering to its writer than to the band.

    (They ARE an interesting proposition, too – resolutely unrevived even now and SO big at the time. I’m really looking forward to Marcello’s TPL take on 1992)

  70. 70
    Andrew Farrell on 6 Nov 2014 #

    They’re unrevived in part because they won’t go away! There’s another “final ever” gig in Brixton the week after next.

  71. 71
    Martin on 25 Nov 2014 #

    I don`t share the view of the person writing about his view on Carter, you either like their music or you don`t. I`m not interested if a band are fashionable or not i`m not that shallow. These so called journalists just seem to like the sound of their own words when read back to them. I always took Carter for what they were which was great kick ass rock & roll band who were a great live band. At the end of the day i had 80 odd great nights out seeing them. That`s all that matters to me ! Lighten up & stop reading so much into them, if you want to do that then do it on Radiohead or the like, who take themselves very seriously.

  72. 72
    Tom on 25 Nov 2014 #

    The articles on this site poking fun at Radiohead have utterly failed to get 70 comments, which makes me think Carter’s fans do take them a TEENY bit seriously.

  73. 73
    Martin on 26 Nov 2014 #

    I am a Radiohead fan !

  74. 74
    JakartaUSM on 14 Aug 2015 #

    I got into Carter late through arguably their hardest album to get into – Post Historic Monsters. Went backwards through the catalogue and forward to seeing them on Salisbury on The World without Dave tour. My comment then, from a position of loving them, is how is Jim Bob not given the same sort of credit for his lyrics, and the rhythm of the delivery that Alex Turner is for the Arctics. For me Turner is sublime in his word play, but my thought when I heard the Arctics first (Fav worst nightmare), was Carter was doing this 15 years ago. Jimbob wrote about issues, Turner about day to day life…

  75. 75
    Phil on 14 Aug 2015 #

    The difference is that Radiohead fans know that nobody else takes Radiohead seriously, and they (we) don’t care – it’s all part of life’s rich, dark, miserable pageant, and also quite funny in a way that you just have to get, I can’t really explain it.

  76. 76
    Tommy Mack on 14 Aug 2015 #

    Isn’t it more that Radiohead fans can dismiss unbelievers as too simplistic or impatient to get it while Carter fans suspect on some level that they might be the silly ones. (FWIW I love selected songs by both groups without really considering myself a Fan, capital F of either)

  77. 77
    Simo on 29 Jul 2018 #

    Yeah the author of this article is a bit confused. I dont think Jim and fruity were trying to be anything, but what they were is excellent.

  78. 78
    weej on 25 Oct 2018 #

    Back in 2002 Carter’s formula may have been the antithesis of everything popular and/or getting critical respect, but here in 2018 I reckon the zeitgeist has somehow managed to make its way back towards them. First we had the Sleaford Mods bringing back the whole “shouting about issues over a drum machine” thing, and now the biggest new band of the year are Idles, whose lyrics read exactly like something a woke Jimbob would write in 2018.


    Still don’t think this is likely to lead to a Carter revival, but who knows?

  79. 79
    Nick Heath on 22 Oct 2019 #

    An interesting read. I stumbled across Carter just after 101 Damnations came out. I think someone said they were like Faith No More. I suppose the only similarity was that they had energy. Seeing Carter live was amazing, the whole crowd was WITH them. I did my one and only stage dive with Carter. They went stratospheric when 30 Something came and I tried to explain to my friends where i worked (HMV Trocadero in London) how huge they were.
    Then they did the Bloodsport For All gig at HMV Oxford Circus and the place was TRASHED. You couldn’t ignore them.
    I felt the same as the author about 1992 The Love Album, and to be honest I still do. Those first two albums were amazing. But after that the joke and the energy wore off a bit. And I moved on to jungle dance music anyway.

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