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Floored by the Inspiral Carpets once more


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 as ever.

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 collide?'

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 applause.

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.

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