When listening to Black Carrot, a band of Midlands-based Krautrockers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Captain Beefheart had upped sticks and gone to live in Market Harborough. The bizarre and brilliantly random title also contributes to the feeling that this album may only be little more than a Trout Mask Replica replica. Thankfully, the sonic pile-up of influences and styles that constitute Milking Scarabs For Dough maintain a typically British air of distinctive eccentricity and invention.
The album’s press release seems to list an entire paragraph of genres indicating its stubborn refusal to be pigeonholed in any one place. To list them all would be a redundant exercise since it’s clear that this album is an exercise in multiple genre bending. It’s a kaleidoscopic experience; different listeners will spot different things with each different playback. Not all of the album works, but you’d have to applaud what’s going on.
The album is a crazed and sometimes nightmarish journey laced with “Mummy, that man’s scaring me!” vocals throughout. To be more precise the vocals veer between Beefheart, Tom Waits, Dr John, Mark E Smith and Peter Gabriel at the drop of a hat, and with an air of interchangeably bubbling menace throughout.
No-one Sings Songs For Guilty Men opens the album in unnerving style and at a brooding pace before the discordant Cardboard Soup kicks in for a slice of surrealist fun. After a while it starts to become clear that things are not being taken as seriously as first expected, and this sense of humour goes a long way to win us over; the track Onomatopoeia explains the linguistic concept through song and it sounds almost as if David Lynch has been placed in charge of an episode of Sesame Street. In addition, The One That Got Away feels like an ’80s Robert Palmer track gone pleasingly wrong, and Magnets is an Elizabethan pile of genius gibberish.
In order to reassure everybody of their intent, there are some more serious tracks to savour. The Hush Hour sees the album at its most sombre and conventional. Blackmail is also worth singling out as being an example of everyone firing on all cylinders on this, their third album together.
With such an amount of invention and experimentation, it’s no surprise to find not all of the album succeeds, but its pace is its saving grace; the way it leaps and moves around all over the place while maintaining a sense of flow prevents it from turning into the dog’s dinner it could easily have been.
Experimental art rock is a difficult genre to like and Black Carrot still seem to have a limited appeal, but those who savour something off the beaten track are sure to enjoy what’s on offer. If it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s certainly an intriguing brew.