First time I heard Inspiral Carpets was in 1990 when their debut album, Life, was released. Their earlier indie singles never entered my radar and I don’t think I ever heard of them until they signed to Mute. With organist Clint Boon’s raging keyboards, Martyn Walsh’s throbbing bass, Graham Lambert’s slashing guitar and Craig Gill’s steadfast drumming, the band were world’s away from the E-inspired bands that were gravitating towards Dance rhythms instead of their Rock ‘n’ Roll origins. Vocalist Tom Hingley (who had replaced original vocalist Stephen Holt before the Carpets signed to Mute) fronted the band and while he was known as the ‘voice’ of IC, each of the musicians carried the same amount of clout on record.
A mix of Garage, Punk, Psychedelia and Pop with just a dab of Bubblegum, Inspiral Carpets were one of the best Manchester bands to emerge from that city in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (and yes, better than the always over-rated Stone Roses). For four albums and loads of singles, the Carpets nailed it almost every single time. Though they didn’t change things up a whole lot, they did progress as musicians, became more creative and their songwriting became even stronger over the years. With the Carpets, their songs were much like a plane ride: the intro was the jet engines revving, the verses were the plane heading down the runway and the chorus is when they really fucking soared. Their hooks were so heavenly that you could practically glide in the clouds with them. But by 1995, it was over.
The band split but reconvened in 2003 and continued to play live but did not release any new music. Hingley quit in 2011 and original vocalist Holt came back to the fold. At that point, the band released Dung 4, a pre-Mute collection that was previously only available on cassette.
Now, in 2014, the band returns with their first new studio album in 20 years and it’s pretty damn brilliant. The opener, “Monochrome,” is a decent opening track - however, it doesn’t have a hook that slaps you upside the head. Oh, but when “Spitfire” kicks in, the magic begins. From that point on, the album is a non-stop thrill ride filled with goosebump-inducing melodies, great harmonies and an energy that equals anything they released two decades ago. Everything you loved about the Carpets back in the day is still here in full force. Songs like the aforementioned “Spitfire,” “A To Z Of My Heart,” “Calling Out To You,” and “Hey Now” are as good as anything they have released. On one hand, it’s like they never left yet there is a sense of maturity that comes out in the grooves – these guys STILL love to make music and it shows. And a guest appearance from the great John Cooper Clarke on “Let You Down” is ace!
This self-titled platter is quite possibly the best full-length the band has released since their debut and is definitely one of my top ten favorite albums of the year.