Release Date: Nov 4, 2014
Record label: Cherry Red
Inspiral Carpets is that rarest of things: a reunion album that also represents the first-ever time an original lineup got an opportunity to make a record together. Vocalist Stephen Holt departed the Carpets in 1989, just a year before their debut, Life, and he stayed out of the picture until the band geared up to active duty in 2011, some 20 years after their first album and almost a decade after their initial reunion. It's a slightly convoluted history but never once do the Inspiral Carpets sound burdened by their past on this eponymous record.
Inspiral Carpets’ convoluted history has been dominated by soap-opera-style intrigue since they released their last studio LP, Devil Hopping, in 1994. The Oldham quintet split after Mute dropped them in 1995, but their on-off post-Y2K reunion only morphed into a full-blown reformation when former frontman Tom Hingley departed and original vocalist Stephen Holt was reinstated in 2011. Consequently, if this self-titled comeback LP has been designed to draw a line under the Inspirals’ turbulent past, then it adroitly achieves that aim.
Although they reformed in 2003, psychedelic garage indie rockers Inspiral Carpets have only now got round to releasing a new album, 20 years on from their last one. They may not have had the same impact as the likes of The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses since their heyday in the Madchester/Baggy era, but this underrated band produced four top-twenty albums and a string of minor hit singles in the early 90s. And the new material feels like a positive rejuvenation.
From the trendsetting groups that came out of the Madchester baggy scene, Inspiral Carpets were the least troublesome, which could be construed as the least hip. This, along with their dab hand at hit singles, has aided in the resilience of the group. Two decades since the band's last studio album, Inspiral Carpets release their self-titled comeback with four out of five members, plus original vocalist Stephen Holt, who was replaced by Tom Hingley.
Oldham’s Inspiral Carpets had a more convincing claim than most to be outsiders in the baggy scene of the early ’90s. Powered by psychedelic organ, their tunes owed more to obscure ’60s garage than anything else. While never attaining Stone Roses-level stardom, the Carpets drifted comfortably in their slipstream until splitting in 1995. Reuniting in 2003, ‘Inspiral Carpets’ is their first album since ‘Devil Hopping’ in 1994 but not much has changed.
In the liner notes for their self-titled fifth album, each member of Inspiral Carpets reflects on getting into the recording business again after nearly 20 years away. It’s the sort of tack that is usually reserved for reissues or career retrospectives, and you can’t help but think it feels more like a rationalization than a declaration of purpose. Did anyone really miss these guys, anyway? Though they had a loyal following and a fair amount of chart success in their native UK, Inspiral Carpets always seemed like second-tier members of the “Madchester” scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Inspiral Carpets were not the biggest band of Britain’s Madchester explosion in the late 1980s and early '90s, but they gave the movement its definitive dance anthem. The band’s 1990 single “Commercial Rain” crystallized everything Madchester was about, at least where it counted most: on the dancefloor. Swirling and sinewy, it split the difference between hippie trippiness and punk simplicity.
Having formally reissued their 1987 demo tape Dung 4 earlier in the year, the Inspiral Carpets, on their new self-titled album, almost seem to have found a sequel to that release just sitting around their archive. Which isn't meant to be dismissive at all – if anything the Inspirals' first full studio album in two decades is almost the culmination of an alternate timeline for the band as a whole. When Stephen Holt left halfway through the sessions of the first album Life, replaced by Tom Hingley, nobody could have guessed he'd end up replacing Hingley in turn in 2011.