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Inspiral Carpets

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Inspiral Carpets

The Inspiral Carpets are one of those great English singles bands. Up there with Madness or the Kinks or The Buzzcocks those effortless purveyors of a machine gun rush of fine three minute statements. In the late eighties and early nineties The Inspiral Carpets hit the chart far more consistently than their fellow Madchester travellers the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses.

The greatest pop music always comes from the least likely places and the Inspiral’s roots in Oldham and east Manchester serve them well. They were from the same streets as the bulk of the nu pop generation and they instinctively understood which way the wind as blowing.

Hardly bandwagon jumpers they were playing their psychedelic punk pop in the mid eighties way before anyone was putting the 'Mad' into Manchester. They had the trippy light show, the short snappy songs and the frazzled fringes of prime time garage gonzoids. Their early shows (double headers with the Spacemen 3 etc) were attended by a tough looking scrum of post skinhead Perry boys who were decking themselves out on paisley shirts- it was a psychedelic revival but attended by a much more streetwise gang of ruffians than the sixties original. Maybe that was because The Inspirals were always a punk rock band at heart and cranked the energy level accordingly.

The motley crew with founder Graham Lambert-a familiar face from the early eighties Peel band music scene and a hyperactive kid drummer called Craig Gill-had been gigging the Manchester circuit when mop topped rehearsal room owner Clint Boon wheeled his organ out into the Inspiral's rehearsal room.

Clint Boon seemed to know every fucker in town- he's already been in bands with Mani, auditioned Ian Brown as a vocalist in a pre Inspiral project and was a shameless pop fanatic whose ambition was to be “as big as Elvis”. Clint's keyboards gave the band a different edge, they made the jump from being a local band to being a pop band, it was the icing on the cake.

Early demos like Waiting For Ours and Songs Of Shallow Intensity showed the Inspirals sound ready formed. In 1987 their debut 'Garage Full Of Lowers' flexi disc was released as a giveaway with local fanzine Debris.

In 1988 their first single proper 'Planecrash' EP on Playtime Records. Showcased their garage pop perfectly and saw them hit the Peel Festive 50 number 11 slot with the legendary DJ's favourite cut of the year Keep The Circle Around. They looked to be the first band to break from the new look late eighties Manchester scene. Pundits excitedly whispered that they could be as big as the Wedding Present, like a John Peel band that actually sold records.

It was the last release with Stephen Holt singing and David Swift on bass. Stephen Holt left on good terms to be replaced by Oxford refugee Tom Hingley.

Tom's smooth voice and clean cut pop star looks was, along with newly arrived, uncompromising bass player Martyn Walsh-poached from local political hardcore funksters the Next Step-the last pieces of the jigsaw to be hammered into place.

It seemed the band were going to be a big underground band at that point but it was going to get far more doolally than that. Always the astute business heads the band started their own label Cow Records for their second proper release- the Trainsurfing EP which consolidated them on the indie circuit.

Acid House seemed to be everywhere- everyone go psychedelic even if they didn't like the dance craze and guitar bands who were a little bit woozy and had light shows were storming it. The Roses and The Mondays became a pop sensation and the Inspirals were the final cornerstone in the triumphant Manc trio who were The sound of young Britain in 1989/90.

With the whole band contributing to songwriting, their Farfisa Compact Duo keyboard driven sound was now cutting the spunky melancholic pop that was to be their hallmark throughout their glory years.

Next single 'Move' just missed the top 40 and the band were picked up by Mute records. The extra impetus of the bigger label tuned them into chart regulars and their debut album 'Life' just missed the number 1 spot.

A triumphant run of singles, a tough non-stop world tour schedule and a smart handling of the media saw the Inspiral Carpets right at the vanguard of the new order. They may not have been the kings of the E scene like The Mondays or the coolest band in the world like the Stone Roses but no-one could deny their effortless knocking out one great pop tune after another.

This was the glory period anthems like This Is How It Feels, a virtual residency on Top Of the Pops and the classic Reading festival headline and sold out GMex show- and the masterstroke of the Cool As Fuck T shirt- the Inspirals were one of the biggest bands in the country.

Their second album 1991's The Beast Inside was a darker affair yielding the pneumatic drilled funk out hit, Caravan.

The band's 3rd album was altogether a different beast. Clinically produced and harder sounding Revenge Of the Goldfish delivered 4 top 40 hits. The biggest was the classic 'Dragging me Down' which peaked at number 12.

1994's Devil Hopping-named after Belgium born producer Pascal Gabriel’s attempt to explain the band was 'developing'-produced two of the band's best singles of their career. Saturn 5 and I Want You, which clattered into the top twenty within a month of each other.

Great slices of garage rock n roll hinting at sixties Pebbles compilations. Dank eighties revivalist; basements and punk rock energy. They even got the legendary Mark E. Smith from the Fall onto Top Of the Pops for his first ever appearance on the only pop show that matters.

Devil Hopping was their swansong and their best received album yet. And then just when it seemed like they were going to storm it again they disappeared from view. Their reformation is powered by a great new/lost single; Come Back Tomorrow is a blessing.

Too many British pop bands burn out before they get their pay day, and if the band that taught their ex roadie Noel Gallagher the ins and outs of rock n roll can get deserved recognition for their angular pop, then it would be a mighty justice indeed.


 

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