Review: Inspiral Carpets – The Complete Singles

Artwork for Inspiral Carpets' 2023 compilation The Complete Singles

A much needed lookback on the Inspiral Carpets’ career.

Somewhat unjustly, Inspiral Carpets are largely perceived as third in the ‘triumvirate’ of the Madchester scene.

While it’s fair to say they didn’t burn as brightly or have the same cultural impact as the Stone Roses, or fuse as many different artistic ideas (nor make as many headlines) as the Happy Mondays, this appraisal of their legacy (their first singles compilation in 20 years) seems long overdue.

The chronological collection follows their progress with early, non-album singles setting the foundations for their sound from the outset.

Keep The Circle Around has a purpose and direction with the Hammond organ, so omnipresent throughout their career, high in the mix where it would stay. Likewise, Butterfly has a driving momentum while the juddering Joe broadened the sound and tempo.

Their first album (1990’s Life) built upon the early material with some fine singles, not least the marching rallying cry for the disaffected This Is How It Feels, with its instantly recognisable, innocent keyboard riff and tom-tom percussion.

The thunderous Move (aligned with the debut if not included on it) and the excellent She Comes In The Fall solidified Inspiral Carpets’ status in the peak of Madchester as a key component of it, but one-off single Biggest Mountain was less euphoric, signposting their next move while evoking the more subtle indie-rock of The Chameleons.

Reflecting the era, or perhaps more their youthful restlessness, by 1991 Inspiral Carpets were developing at a rate of knots; Caravan was more proficient and ambitious with widescreen intentions while on Please Be Cruel, Tom Hingley’s vocals were more considered and, for want of a better word, professional.

Yet although The Beast Inside met a warm, if not overly positive, response, third album Revenge Of The Goldfish found the group mixing the old and the new.

Dragging Me Down dares the listener not to pogo/mosh (delete depending on age) although the silky keys beneath the verses are sophisticated in a way that perhaps the rest of the songs isn’t.

Elsewhere, Two Worlds Collide attempts to be as grandiose as the title suggests, all mature piano, while Bitches Brew is a piece of melancholy pop the band aren’t given credit for.

By the time fourth album Devil Hopping was released in 1994, Britpop was asserting its dominance on guitar bands, but the sheer Modish joy of Saturn 5 still can’t be denied, while even Mark E Smith is less sardonic and more motivated on the highly charged I Want You.

Sadly, despite straddling both Madchester and Britpop with some success, Inspiral Carpets were dropped by their label in 1995, although they have since released some strong singles, not least Let You Down from 2015, featuring a guest appearance from a typically insolent John Cooper Clarke.

Included in this hefty package are 24 remixes, the highlight of which is The Go! Team’s interpretation of This Is How It Feels, so close to their sound that it could be the Brighton outfit, but their distinctively innocent percussion complements it beautifully.

The Complete Singles is released alongside a reunion tour which is a commemoration of the life of drummer Craig Gill who sadly passed away in 2016.

Always so full of life and zest, this collection ably reminds why Inspiral Carpets were so much more than the band Noel Gallagher used to roadie for.

A fitting tribute.

Learn More