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Inspiral Carpets
Dung 4 (Reissue) Ned Raggett , May 8th, 2014 06:41

Some bands are caught up in things a little larger than themselves without trying to in the slightest, and the Inspiral Carpets are and remain one of them. Between them and the Charlatans, both taking a lot from the example of the Prisoners, plus the various psych and mod bands from earlier years that inspired them in turn, they weren't so much a part of Madchester as stereotyped via the Hacienda and baggy as garage mania redone for a different time. The gestation of the band is its own tangled story of initial singles and demos and overlapping labels and changing lineups, but the Record Store Day-associated reissue of the demo tape Dung 4 helps clear the air – recorded at the end of 1987, rough and unaffected, it's a perfect snapshot of a group gelling like crazy.

Clint Boon's organ performances, unsurprisingly, take a pride of place throughout, a series of warm, surging swirls that helps the collection fly. But the whole band sounds fired up like crazy, and if there have been bands before and since that work in the same general sound, the Inspirals just sound a treat, like they're playing for a packed subterranean club instead of, as was the case, recording at home after their day jobs were.

Songs like 'Theme From Cow', with a nice midsong bass/drum breakdown from Martyn Walsh and Craig Gill before everyone returns in triumphant full, and 'Keep The Circle Around' just crash into place and don't let up.  (The inclusion of four bonus tracks in the shape of the even earlier Cow demo shows even more rougher and frenetic mania, especially how Graham Lambert's guitar almost is nothing but a wash of sheet metal noise.)

'Joe' is a good example of the energy on display, the roots of one of their earliest classics in miniature. Stephen Holt's voice here is immediate, almost in your ear, while the music is just a touch removed in comparison in the mix. But it's not a case of one swamped by the other, it's both driving forward in an "ignore us if you can" moment that sweeps all before it.

The immediately following 'Causeway' showcases this balance just as well, Holt's easy, yearning performance the feeling of a friend remembering an adventure, while 'Butterfly' is a great bit of romance mixed with self-doubt grounded in the day to day that similarly never lets up, down to the bit of unpolished but effective flanging.

There's also evidence at plenty of points as how their slower songs were always a bit of a secret weapon, with the bass-led 'Sun Don't Shine' creating something that's hardly goth but maybe not too far removed in a very English way, a literal rainy day psychedelia that shimmers and captures the feeling of a quiet sigh mixed with getting one's energy back up a bit. '26' is another winner, with rich, sad guitar from Lambert that more than once calls to mind Manchester legends the Chameleons, whose Dave Fielding later produced the group for the 'Plane Crash' single. All that plus a rollicking concluding cover of '96 Tears' by ? And The Mysterians, because why not honour the roots to the full? From start to finish, a great little treat from a wonderful band, still.

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