We fat bastards: Carter USM, live at Brixton Academy 2011

In the past, when trying to describe the joy of live football to someone who hasn’t been to a match (or at least a big game – you know, like Peterborough fans), I’ve used the analogy of a gig (because everyone I’ve spoken to has been to one of those – if not, I probably wouldn’t be talking to them).

At a gig, you’ve got a bunch of surging, chanting, raucous fans facing the band they love; let’s say, for example, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. It’s fun and exciting, but misses a certain edge – because they’re all on the same side. What if, on the other side of the stage, there was another band competing for the right to play – and their fans over the other side, supporting them? It’s that tension that makes live football so exciting on its day.

But this has nothing to do with anything. The only reason I bring it up is because, in terms of gigs, Carter fans are the Scotland, the Newcastle, the Liverpool, or whoever people are saying has the best fans this week. Going to a Carter gig is the closest you’re going to get to that football crowd atmosphere (although honourable mention to The Macc Lads of old and of course Half Man Half Biscuit).

I’m always up for a good sing-a-long. Well, I am if its at the top of my voice in a crowd of 5,000, drunk and happy on a Saturday night. And, as ever, neither Carter themselves or their ageing, tubby fan base disappoint.

I’ve long thought now that gig capacity should be decided on total mass, rather than a simple number of people the local fireman thinks can get out in a hurry if things go tits up. Seriously, if somewhere like the Shepherds Bush Empire went woosh with the likes of The Wonderstuff in town, we’d all be buggered – not so if it had been some foppish little teen band and their skinny, pubeless hangers on.

Not that I mind of course, except for the queues at the bar. There’s a really lovely atmosphere, lots of familiar faces and the buzz you get for a band that only plays once in a Harvey’s Bristol moon. And it’s at Brixton Academy, which never seems to crowded.

While we may not be much more grown up, we’re certainly older and a little wiser now – both band and fans know what’s expected and are happy in the knowledge it’s going to be a safe bet (it’s more honest too – they don’t pretend to split up after every show, only to pop up again the following year like The Cure).

Carter were in their pomp almost 20 years ago, but still we come in the knowledge that there will be no terrible comeback album, no new members, no reworking of old favourites – we’re going to get the hits on a DAT tape plus some jokes and some swearing and some singing – plus some flashy lights. Marvellous.

Not only that, but we were treated to The Frank and Walters and The Sultans of Ping. Thankfully too they were on best ‘blast from the past’ behaviour, dolling out the ‘hits’ with godly grace. ‘After All’, ‘Where’s Me Jumper’, ‘Happy Busman’, ‘Stupid Kid’ – the perfect way to warm up for more 90s nonsense.

Personal highlight was Sultans frontman Niall saying, “I’ve got a lot of love in my spleen that I want to share with you tonight.” That and the fact he didn’t strip down to his skinny little torso for a change. No ‘Turnip Fish’ though, sadly.

As for Carter, the only real change from the norm was the lack of Jon Fat Beast introducing them to the normal torrent of abuse (apparently he’d phoned in sick) – but everyone gave the abuse anyway, which was recorded for him to enjoy anon.

I won’t bore you with a list of songs they played; if you care you’ll know what they were and if not, well, why list a bunch of titles you’ve never heard of? They have got some good ones though, for the record: ‘Twenty Four Minutes From Tulse Hill’, ‘Midnight on the Murder Mile’, ‘Bloodsport for All’, ‘Prince in a Pauper’s Grave’.

And it’s on that last song I’ll leave you. Whatever you may think of Carter USM as a band, Jim Bob as a singer, the 90s as a musical decade, Marmite as a toast topping, it’s impossible to get away from the fact that ‘Prince in a Pauper’s Grave’ is a moment of genius.

Musically subtle, but also explosive; lyrically and emotionally perfect; momentously epic and eminently singalongable – it really does have everything. Then add massive blinding light show for added goose bumps. That’s entertainment.

Prince in a Pauper’s Grave

In a bar Johnny drinks
Johnny drinks Johnny Walker
till he runs up a bill he can’t pay
He’s drinking to the memory
of a prince in a pauper’s grave

And it’s go Johnny go
where the bruises don’t show
in the churchyard where the nervous get wrecked
And turn off your wireless
for two minutes silence
Cough up and pay your respects

And go to the park
where vicars and tarts
prey for their tormented souls
By the american graffiti
from Elephant and Castle
in Ford Capri Orange
Volkswagon yellow and gold

Johnny drinks Johnny drinks
Johnny drinks Johnny Walker
cockles his muscles alive alive ‘o
smashes his bottle of unholy water
and it’s go Johnny go, go, go

Back to the churchyard
where day out day in
those original sinners
are religiously praying
And where there was muck
there’s a brass band that’s playing
playing to the memory
of a prince in a pauper’s grave

One thought on “We fat bastards: Carter USM, live at Brixton Academy 2011

  1. Pingback: Me Me Me: My eclectic Top 10 of 2011 | Go Play Listen

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