Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hats off to... Inspiral Carpets

So uncool they were cool as fuck, the recently-reformed - with new material and tours promised - Inspiral Carpets are one of the best bands this superhunk has ever seen live.
They were cracking value all round - brilliant t-shirts, 'cool as milk' milk bottles, supremely entertaining interviews (including referring to themselves as 'the new young govnors' while digging at the Happy Mondays for guest editing Penthouse, or something) and leaping to the aid of a lad in Coventry charged in 1990 under the 1981 Indecent Displays Act for wearing a 'Cool As Fuck' T-shirt. They made some ace records too.
I first got in to them when Trainsurfing came out on the group's own Cow label. It's still my favourite record. Four ace tunes (Butterfly, Causeway, You Can't Take the Truth, Greek Wedding Song), a nice thick slab of vinyl and a bright blue and yellow sleeve. All for about £3. 
My group recorded a demo at Out of the Blue in Manchester, at least partly because Trainsurfing was recorded there. No Nick Garside that day, Adam Lesser I think it was. Nice lad.
The tunes were all fast and catchy, with fairly economic bass and guitar lifted by Clint Boon's keyboards, Craig Gill's machine-gun drumming, and Stephen Holt's vocals. Added to this, they looked like a gang of lads who go the match, which is important to an 18-year-old lad who goes the match.
From there I went backwards and got the Dung 4 cassette - with patronage from the likes of Joe Royle and Cyril Smith ('friends, not my scene') - and a tape of the Plane Crash EP (home taping is killing music). 
And that was all they released with Holt and original bass player David Swift, who both left (Holt at least on good terms - I can't find any reference to Swift.) and formed the Rainkings. They released two brilliant EPs on Playtime records - soon to be re-released according to @StephenEHolt on the popular website Twitter.  
But I digress, Holt and Swift were replaced by Tom Hingley and Martyn Walsh and the next single out was Joe, another cracker with fine work elsewhere on the disc (Directing Traffic, Commercial Mix and Commercial Reign). 
Hingley's the better singer but I always preferred Holt. He just sounded more 'normal'. He can hold a tune, no danger there, but his voice really suited those earlier garage-sounding releases. It was heads down, no messing around fast tuneful stuff.
I first saw them live at the Hacienda in 1989, I think when Move grazed the charts. The place was heaving and they were brilliant (supported by the not-bad-at-all Bridewell Taxis) with a mad slide show and the five of them cramped on the Hacienda stage. They were clearly not going to be playing a place that small next time round.
When the first LP, Life, was released on Mute they'd already made the charts with This is How it Feels, and toured the album at bigger gaffs. I saw them at the Royal Court in Liverpool and they were mustard.  
The second album Beast Inside was a less 'immediate' affair as Clint Boon mentions in an interview on John Robb's website
I remember Boon telling (I think) Pete Mitchell on (I think) his ace Piccadilly Radio Saturday aftternoon show that the album represented where they were at the time it was made. But Caravan, and its b-side with religious overtones Skidoo are both crackers.
They continued banging out singles, highlights included the Island Head EP, Dragging me Down, Saturn 5 and I Want You (with Mark E Smith of t'Fall - if you haven't read Renegade, you're failing yourself) and two more albums, Revenge of the Goldfish, and Devil Hopping (named after producer Pascal Gabriel's pronunciation of the word "developing".)  
Errant apostrophe alert
And that was largely it, they split up without my realising it in the mid-90s before re-emerging in 2003 with the Cool As compilation, which is ace. If you've not got any of their stuff you could do worse than start there.
The Inspirals never quite had the same caché as their peers but I could never understand why. The Stone Roses first album is great but it sounds dated now, and the Happy Mondays released some real gash along with the good stuff. The Inspirals just carried on releasing consistently good pop music - nothing too clever, but who wants that?
A few questions though:
Why did they change the lyrics in This is How it Feels from the Peel Session version for the album version? 
Why did David Swift leave, was it amicable, and what's he up to now?
Did Twitter have any role to play in Holt getting back with the group?
Should I tell Mrs Biff I've got a derby ticket or should I just go anyway then insist I told her, thus planting memory-loss seeds for future schemes?

(I've pinched all the above pics off various blogs so if anyone's distraught by this I'll happily take them down.)

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