Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Inspiral Carpets - Life

Year: 1990
Genre: Madchester

Highlight Tracks: "Commercial Rain", "Weakness", "Sackville"
Weak Tracks: "Sun Don't Shine", "Memories of You"

I feel like I can't properly comment on this album without a vocabulary chock full of Manchester colloquialisms because that's what the album brings to mind: the vibrant and exciting Manchester scene of the late 80's and early 90's. In one month in Manchester you could catch techno-progenitors 808 State at some warehouse then cut across town to catch Inspiral Carpets on the guitar-pop end of the scene (or Happy Mondays or The Charlatans or Stone Roses - take your pick). There was such an awesome proliferation of music going on there no wonder they dubbed it Madchester!

Life crackles with energy and imagination, practically bursting at the seams with ideas. As a debut album it gives the impression that the Inspiral Carpets were going for broke when they recorded it; jamming in two albums worth of quality material as if they thought this was the only chance they'd ever get to cut an album. The result is an album that includes everything and the kitchen sink. A debut that I would call a madball masterpiece of proto-britpop if not for the inclusion of the two weak tracks listed above.

"Memories of You" is weak because it sounds like filler. It feels like the band threw it in to give the listener an unnecessary breather from the blistering first half. Musically the track is okay, but momentum-wise it pulls the chair out from under the otherwise brilliant progression of songs.

"Sun Don't Shine" is just a terrible misfire of a song. It took all of my willpower not to skip over it on today's listen. I hate this song and wish it had been regulated to b-side or better yet 'unreleased' status. I guess the song should have worked since the band pull-off similar ballad numbers on the album's later half and again years later on Revenge of the Goldfish. But no matter how many chances I give it, this song always falls flat. First, they replace the Hammond organ with a cheesy synthesizer line that I can not stand. Then as if that wasn't bad enough the song bogs down in a quagmire of painfully bad lyrics sung with a rare lackluster vocal delivery by Steve Holt. Ugh, moving on.

Thanks to these two tracks the album plays long. Which is a shame because it really is a great example of high-energy British rock and doesn't need those two songs slowing it down.

As I stated earlier the album is overflowing with strong tracks. "Commercial Rain" is a perfect example of what makes Life such an amazing album. Its opening beats drive head first into a wall of distorted Hammond organ then smash through as the bass and guitar open up full-throttle. The song's trademark Madchester jam then wraps around Holt's emerging vocals that manage to sound like the best of the early 80's Romantics. The rest of the album features equally amazing instrumentation and passionate vocals. "Weakness" sums up everything about the band that rocks; being a true party anthem. On the slower side, the single "This Is How It Feels" turned into a genuine hit (and rightfully so) while the album closer "Sackville" is a glimpse into the genius balladry that would come later in the band's career on Revenge of the Goldfish.

No comments: