BRAVE CAPTAIN The Fingertip Saint Sessions Vol. 1 (Wichita)

Brave Captain is the new trademark of former Boo Radleys guitarist and songwriter Martin Carr, and this album and its swift successor "Go With Yourself" (reviewed next ish, hopefully) are the first fruits of his solo career.

"The Fingertip Saint Sessions Vol. 1" is a 10" mini-album, blessed with six tracks that run the gamut from glorious, widescreen George Martinesque psych-pop ("Raining Stones") to contemporary urban folk ("The Tragic Story"). Put together with the assistance of Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci producer Gorwel Owen, the music of Brave Captain radiates the kind of surefooted confidence that The Boo Radleys used to possess, before they sank under the weight of critical expectation and commercial indifference. String and brass arrangements entwine the melodies, bizarre instrumentation appears in the credits (e.g. voltage controlled envelope generator, accordion drones, masking tape, Indian harmonium) and the cover photo shows Carr in what is presumably his cramped home studio, crammed with records, keyboards, Mac equipment, tapes and CDs, a pointer to the chaos that has created something quite charming.

BRAVE CAPTAIN Go With Yourself (The Fingertip Saint Sessions Vol. II) (Wichita)

As the parenthetic title suggests, "Go With Yourself" is the second long player from former Boo Radley Martin Carr's Brave Captain franchise, trailing the 10" six-tracker "The Fingertip Saint Sessions Vol. I" by a matter of weeks. And, as you might imagine given such a lack of gap between the two releases "Go With Yourself" offers more of the same: Scouse whimsy, vague Beatles inflections and a battery of odd implements amongst the credits (stylophone, egg, amp noise, Sierra Maestra growling, North Walian door, the machine that goes blamblamblam, special Colombian zither, drones). SFA and Gorkys alumnus Gorwel Owen handles production duties, and Mike Watt (once a Minuteman) adds sleevenotes.

If it's possible to slide a credit card between the quality of songs on the two volumes of "Fingertip Saint Sessions" then this one comes out a gnat ahead. The two main weapons in its charming armoury are "Tell Her You Want Her", a floating cloud of 1964 Brian Wilson adolescent angst filtered through a modern-day alt-rock mindset, and the wonderful title track, a long, dewy eyed and presumably autobiographical reminiscence about leaving home for the first time. Unfortunately it's made woozier still by the drunkenly off-centre pressing on my copy. Extra points as well for namedropping Mogwai on "Where Is My Head?".

But…as guitarist and principal songwriter in The Boo Radleys Carr has set himself high standards, and unfair as it may be to compare, nothing Brave Captain has yet unearthed can hold a candle to the cream of that band's output (for me, "Giant Steps", "C'Mon Kids" and "Kingsize"). There are moments of loveliness here: give the people 40 minutes of the stuff and our trust will not have been misplaced.

Boo Radleys

Super Furry Animals/Brave Captain 53°, Preston 22 May 2005