August 07, 2002

Cath Carroll "England Made Me"

Does anyone remember those Good Old Days of the late 1980s, when "beauty" and "intelligence" in independent music were not mutually exclusive? When music was actually INTELLIGENT and not VAPID. Cath Carroll's a figure of British music journalism, having been a writer of note for such magazines as New Musical express, as well as leader of the short-lived but cult-loved Factory C-86 era band Miaow. Of course, American indie kids would know her as the subject of Mark Robinson's affection (obsession?) on Unrest's last album, Perfect Teeth. Not only is there a love song to her called "Cath Carroll," but after listening to England Made Me, you could make a case that Carroll would probably not be unjustified in being a little nervous of this fellow who, seemingly, references her record throughout his record. Of course, his appreciation led to his label Teenbeat releasing two Cath Carroll singles and an album. Oh, and there's also a rumor about that this record was what caused the death of Factory Records, what with the expensive budget that was spent on it, the recording sessions in Brazil, the photo sessions with Robert Mapplethorpe, with little return.

To be fair to Robinson, England Made Me is an album worthy of obsession. It's also an album of dark deception, because you'd also be correct in thinking that it's straightforward dance-music. Adult Contemporary is a term that would normally be a pejorative, but not in England Made Me's case. Sure, I've danced around while writing this review, but Carroll's a siren-song singer of the highest magnitude, and I would honestly have to say that I'm convinced. Her voice is the unlikely combination of Bryan Ferry and Sade, and while such a description may seem awfully winsome, it's pretty accurate.

Why this album didn't take off for Factory is a bit of a puzzle. It flows rather nicely, from dancepop ("Moves Like You," "Send Me Over" to flamenco-guitar bossanova ballads ("Unforgettable") and even a Steve Albini-led carnivalesque number, "Train You're On." There's nothing odd or weird or anything that Everything But The Girl wouldn't have done going on here; it's simply pop. England Made Me is a rainy-day afternoon pop-lite affair that is really rather enjoyable. This reissue includes several single sides that really don't vary from the album's formula. England Made Me leads off Carroll's return, as she has a new album forthcoming, and here's hoping that she won't get lost in the shuffle this time around, and maybe, just maybe, she might inspire an Unrest reunion!

--Joseph Kyle

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