Review: Jack Foley
SO THIS is how it feels to be reminded? Standing in the middle
of Brixton Academy, surrounded by a heaving mass of sweaty
fans, all chanting 'moo', and wearing all manner of T-shirts
proclaiming to be 'Cool as fuck', I couldn't help but feel excited.
It had been about 10 years since I last caught The Inspiral
Carpets live, and the memory of that occasion (also at Brixton)
still burns brightly. Could this reunion/reminder recapture
the magic of days gone by, or was it merely a cash cow, designed
to bring in some long sought-after cash for Messrs Clint Boon,
Tom Hingley and co?
Thankfully, the former was the correct answer. Taking the stage
to the strains of Joe, the evening got off to a blast
and seldom flagged throughout.
Hingley may look older and less mobile on stage, but he has
lost none of his presence, whisking the fans into a frenzy from
the word go and ensuring that the 'mosh pit' remained as sweaty
The Inspirals were at the forefront of the 'baggy' Madchester
movement of the early 90s, hitting their peak at the same time
as the likes of The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, and achieving
chart success with a number of singles. Sadly, though, they
disappeared from view around '94/'95, following the release
of the Devil Hopping LP.
Gone, but not forgotten, as the distinctive sound of the band
(provided courtesy of Boon's organ) has provided the inspiration
for countless new indie acts, such as Hot Hot Heat and the Caesars.
At Brixton on Friday (April 4, 2003), Hingley and co provided
a timely reminder of why they remain so highly regarded. As
the songs came belting out, so did the memories, fuelled by
the images being projected onto the Big Screens behind them,
depicting cows dancing to the beats of the records, while wearing
shades, or snippets of former videos.
And all of the old classics were revisited at some point, from
the sublime Two Worlds Collide, early on, to the band's
best-known anthem, This Is How It Feels.
Two Worlds Collide, in particular, brought back some great memories,
with its cracking guitar rifts, and painful lyrics, featuring
lines such as 'Today I stole the sun from the sky, the colour
from the heart of a rose, today I took food from the hand of a
starving child', before giving way to the aching chorus of,
'What have I done with my life? Is this the end, when two worlds
Yet, as depressing as the words may sound (and poignant, given
the career path of the band), the sweeping, grandiose chorus builds
to something quite uplifting, and even powerful.
Lesser known tracks then became mixed with the bigger singles,
with the likes of Sackville, Directing Traffic and Butterfly
providing a timely break from the highs of tracks such as the
aggressive I Want You, the excellent Caravan and
the aforementioned Joe.
Another personal favourite, Bitches Brew, sounded as fresh
as the day I first heard it, with its delicate guitar rift providing
a somewhat mellow contrast to the robust chorus, while the barnstorming
Dragging Me Down, with its distinctive hammond organ, brought
the first act to a suitably upbeat close.
The only quibble I had with the evening was the selection of
the Doves classic, Pounding, as one of the choices for
the first encore, which sounded somewhat out of place for a greatest
hits evening. A colleague suggested, maybe, that Hingley had written
it, but whatever the reason for playing it, the cover version
didn't really work - Hingley, himself, looked a little unsure
of the verses, while the Inspiral Carpets' organ sound doesn't
really lend itself well to the more guitar-driven Doves' original.
It probably didn't help, either, that I had been at the Doves'
TCT gig a week earlier, and had benefited from hearing the
song performed as it should be.
But aside from that, the evening provided a terrific nostalgia
trip. The second encore restored the party atmosphere to full
effect, with a blistering version of Saturn 5 - the band's
last big hit before their untimely departure. It was an appropriate
way to end things, I guess, yet it wasn't the highpoint.
That came courtesy of She Comes In The Fall, halfway through
the evening, when a marching girl band appeared on stage for the
beginning and end of the track, during which the 'twirler' performed
a dazzling routine before saluting the crowd and milking the rapturous
In terms of spectacle and enjoyment, the moment now has to rate
among my all-time favourites, and helped to ensure that the memory
of the Inspirals remains as 'cool as fuck' as ever.