Here’s Half Way There, from the early 1990s indie-dance group:
Here’s the latest album chart:
- Ladytron – Ladytron
- Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe Infinity
- Jean-Michel Jarre – Planet Jarre
- The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)
- The Radiophonic Workshop – Possum (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- The Prodigy – No Tourists
- Gary Numan – I Assassin
- Moby – Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.
- The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
- Inspiral Carpets – Devil Hopping
Celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this week is the Inspiral Carpets‘ fourth album Devil Hopping. I’ll be honest here – I don’t know a huge amount about this group. They were always around when I was growing up, and they were signed to Mute, so I always paid a bit of extra attention. Of course, famously Noel Gallagher was one of their roadies prior to finding his own success, which is a good claim to fame.
It opens with the catchy but loud second single I Want You, which on the single version came with additional vocals from Mark E. Smith of The Fall. On both versions, it’s pure rock, almost punk at times, with the manic drumming. Here on the album, it’s loud and does have that manic drumming, but the vocals aren’t quite punk, which is probably why they replaced them. It’s interesting though – definitely a catchy opener.
When I think of the Inspiral Carpets, I think of rhythmic, almost dance-based rock, though, and Party in the Sky is much closer to that blueprint. It sounds as though most of it was played live, but there’s a brilliant flanged guitar sound that plays on the right hand side from time to time that sounds as though a dance producer had a hand in building some of this. And having checked, one did – Pascal Gabriel, later of pop-dance trio Peach was the producer here.
There are times when they channel 1970s rock rather brilliantly, and Plutoman is one of those. There’s a bit of piano and gentle synth backing, with just the slightest prog rock-style guitar noodling until the chorus. The Hammond organ, the sound that always heavily characterised Inspiral Carpets‘ sound turns up for the first time here in the chorus.
Uniform is the track that this album has been building up to – for the first time, this is wholeheartedly the sound that I expect of this group. The verse is soft with rhythmic guitar, the bridge adds a bit of extra synth, and then the chorus just jumps up a notch and explodes with a whole load of Hammond organ. I’m not sure quite why I expect this as their blueprint – possibly just because I know Saturn 5 so well, as we’ll no doubt discuss in a few moments – but this seems to me to be exactly what I want from Inspiral Carpets.
That isn’t to say there aren’t a few dull moments on here, though – there are plenty. Lovegrove is nice, but not especially interesting. Just Wednesday has some fun rhyming in the lyrics, but otherwise you’ve heard most of this by now.
Then we get Saturn 5, the hugely energetic lead single, with its largely incomprehensible lyrics about the Soviet space program (or whatever they’re actually about). It was a modest hit, peaking at just number 20 in early 1994, but somehow has left an indelible mark on my mind. If I hadn’t already been listening to music for a couple of years before this, it’s very possible that this could have become my favourite track of all time – I probably would have got pulled into the indie explosion that followed a year or so later, and this blog would have had some very different content.
As it was, Saturn 5 was probably my first exposure to real rock music, as there just wasn’t much on the radio in the early-to-mid 1990s. I had been listening to a lot of synth-based pop, and increasingly a bit of dance – even some early trance and drum and bass. So, perhaps counterintuitively, I understood this immediately – it’s beautifully structured, with a catchy but softer introduction that leads you through to the verse, an instrumental bridge, another verse, and then an enormous chorus, where everything just explodes. It’s a lot more organic than most of what I had been listening to, but I would have understood that too, having always had my parents’ classical and opera playing in the background when I was younger.
In case it wasn’t obvious, I love Saturn 5. So much so, that when writing this review I decided I had to listen to it twice. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before – it really is that good. Sorry – bit of an essay there, but I think it deserves it. I think I’ve been waiting about a quarter of a century to write this review.
Obviously, nothing else here is ever going to live up to that for me, but I’ll try to be fair. But honestly All of This and More is more of a punk-rock piece, and doesn’t really cut it for me unfortunately. Way the Light Falls is nice, a softer track with huge Hammond organ but relatively little guitar. Half Way There has some fun lyrics, including the brilliant “Would I lie to you? / Yes, I probably would,” in the chorus.
But honestly, by this point the album, I’ll be honest that as a casual Inspiral Carpets listener, I’m actually starting to tire a bit of them. There’s just enough variety to keep you entertained, but some of the songs are a little bit similar to one another – probably fine if you’re a fan, but not really enough to keep a casual listener paying attention.
Cobra is faster, with more of the manic drumming that we heard on the opening track, and it is a bit different to most of the things we’ve heard up to now. Plus, it’s only a couple of minutes longer, soon passing the baton onto the closing track I Don’t Want to Go Blind. This is a more stripped affair, showing us just how good a vocalist Tom Hingley is. Instruments join the song, one by one, until by the end, there’s a fair bit going on. At this point, it does sound a lot like the tracks we heard earlier, but that’s fine. It’s a good closing track. With some extra drum work.
So that’s Devil Hopping. Unsurprisingly, for me, there’s little to grab my attention other than Saturn 5, but this album does have its moments, particularly with I Want You, Plutoman, and Uniform. It’s worth having the album to help understand the context of Saturn 5, but for me, I have to confess that there’s probably only ever going to be one Inspiral Carpets track.
Bizarrely, Devil Hopping seems to have fallen out of print, but you can still find the digital edition through major retailers and streaming sites.
It’s always a pleasure to be able to hide the odd nine-minute gem in the middle of a radio show, such as the brilliant Virus Mix of Everything But The Girl‘s Lullaby of Clubland. Surprisingly, the webcam shows me looking relaxed in the extreme.
Show 31: Wed 9 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm
Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Massive Attack.
- The Grid – Heartbeat
- Trance Atlantic Air-Waves – Chase
- Sylver – Take Me Back
- The Human League – Love Me Madly?
- Everything But The Girl – Lullaby of Clubland (Virus Mix)
- The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
- Inspiral Carpets – Saturn 5
- Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
- Camouflage – The Great Commandment
- Visage – Fade to Grey
- Pet Shop Boys – How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? (Ragga Zone Remix)
- The Orb – Once More
- Massive Attack – Karmacoma
- Mirwais feat. Craig Wedren – Miss You
- Lemon Jelly – The Slow Train
- Moby – Lift Me Up
- Mylo – Destroy Rock and Roll
- Ron Grainer – Doctor Who Theme
- Massive Attack – Butterfly Caught (Paul Daley Remix)
- Kings of Convenience – Know-How
It’s almost acceptable to take a two decade break from music if this is how you’re going to bounce back. From their imaginatively titled fifth album Inspiral Carpets, this is the brilliant Spitfire:
Here are some upcoming live highlights to keep an eye out for:
They have few random dates coming up in the UK and Italy, if you fancy reliving the 1990s…
Étienne de Crécy
Just three dates coming up for the crazy Frenchman, and they’re all in France, but I’d predict they’re worth making an effort to go to!
Well, they aren’t too amazing live unfortunately, but you might fancy going along to the upcoming dates in The Netherlands or California.
Not sure whether these are live or DJ dates, but you can catch them in the coming months in Lowestoft, Brighton, Oxford, Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, York, Leeds, and Holmfirth.
With just one date coming up at the time of writing, at the Barbican Centre in London in a few days’ time, but undoubtedly worth checking out!
Despite all my reservations about Record Store Day (mainly, the fact that only eBay sellers actually seem to get anything out of it), it’s hard not to get excited. So given the chance, you should probably think about finding your local record shop this Saturday, and seeing what might grab your fancy.
Here are some of the more interesting releases this year:
- Amorphous Androgynous (sometimes also known as The Future Sound of London) – The Cartel & Remixes (2xLP, UK only)
- Art of Noise – Live at the End of a Century (LP picture Disc, 500 copies, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
- David Bowie – 1984 Picture Disc (7″, 4,000 copies, US / Canada only) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (picture disc, Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
- Chromeo – Ezra’s Interlude / Over Your Shoulder (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
- CHVRCHES – Recover EP (12″, 2,500 copies, US / Canada only) and We Sink (7″, UK / Germany only)
- Cut Copy – In These Arms of Love / Like Any Other Day (10″, 2,000 copies, US only)
- Devo – Butch Devo and the Sundance Gig (Vinyl / DVD, 1,750 copies) and Live at Max’s Kansas City – November 15, 1977 (12″, 2,000 copies, US only)
- Everything But the Girl – Eden (30th Anniversary Edition) (gatefold clear LP, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Italy / France / Belgium only)
- Gemma Ray – Death Disc (7″ picture disc, Germany / Netherlands only)
- Inspiral Carpets – Dung 4 + The Cow EP (LP + 7″, UK / Germany only)
- Joy Division – An Ideal for Living (1978) (12″, 7,500 copies, US / Canada / Italy / France / Belgium only)
- LCD Soundsystem – The Long Goodbye (LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden) (5×12″, 3,000 copies)
- David Lynch – The Air is on Fire (LP, 1,000 copies) and The Big Dream Remix EP (12″, UK / Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
- MGMT – Congratulations (180 gram 2xLP, 1,000 numbered copies) and Oracular Spectacular (180 gram LP, 1,500 numbered copies)
- Kylie Minogue – Golden Boy (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Canada / France only)
- The Notwist – Run Run Run (12″, 1,770 copies)
- Nova Nova & Peter Hook – Low Ends (Original and Slabb Remixes) (7″, UK only) and Low Ends (Thierry Criscione Remixes) (7″, UK only)
- Pet Shop Boys – Flourescent (12″, UK only)
- The Specials – Sock it to ’em J.B. / Rat Race (7″, 1,000 copies, certain US / Canada / Belgium locations only)
- Tears for Fears – Ready Boys & Girls (10″, 3,000 copies, US only)
- Sébastien Tellier – L’Incroyable Vérité (LP, UK / Germany / Canada / France only)
- The The – Giant (12″, 2,000 copies)
- Tracey Thorn – Molly Drake Songs (7″, UK only)
I’ve done my best to get the territories right, but you’ll probably want to cross-check with the lists here if there’s something specific you’re after…
Last year’s list, if it’s still of interest, was here.
There’s something rather exciting about Record Store Day – loads of your favourite bands start throwing out obscure releases on bizarre formats. Not downloads, but real, tangible formats.
There’s also something rather disappointing about the whole thing. Of all of the releases I’ve heard about and wanted on Record Store Day, I’ve never actually seen a single one of them. Partly because I’ve always been out of the country every year so far, but partly also because I have a sneaking suspicion that what happens is that it’s actually a day for private dealers and too-keen collectors to swamp record shops and buy all the good stuff out. Anything worth having will be up on eBay within the day. Which seems to slightly defeat the object to me.
In fact, the only release from previous years that I remember having seen is the cassette version of Goldfrapp‘s last album Head First – which is a brilliant idea, but the knowledge that I’d never actually listen to it was what stopped me from buying it at that point.
Anyway, this year’s Record Store Day is this Saturday, and I’m actually going to be in the UK this time, so we’ll see if I can keep hold of my wallet while it happens. Here are some of the highlights of the releases that I spotted:
- Bent – From the Vaults 1998-2007 (unknown format, 500 copies)
- Booka Shade – Black Out: White Noise EP (12″)
- David Bowie – Drive-In Saturday Night (7″ picture disc, 3000 copies), The Stars Are Out Tonight (7″ white vinyl, 5000 copies) and 1965 (7″)
- Calexico – Spiritoso (LP, 2200 copies)
- Caribou – Start Breaking My Heart (LP), Up in Flames (LP) and The Milk of Human Kindness (LP)
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Animal X (7″ picture disc, 2500 copies)
- Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love (12″, 4000 copies)
- Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know? (7″)
- Brian Eno x Nicholas Jaar x Grizzly Bear (10″, 2000 copies)
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood – The Eye Has It (7″ shaped picture disc)
- Garbage – Because the Night (10″, 5000 copies)
- The Human League – Don’t You Want Me (12″)
- Inspiral Carpets – Fix Your Smile (7″)
- Junior Boys – Even Truer Remix EP (12″, 400 copies, “regional”)
- MGMT – Alien Days (cassette single, 2000 copies)
- Moby feat. Mark Lanegan – The Lonely Night (7″)
- Mike Oldfield – Theme from Tubular Bells (7″)
- Pink Floyd – See Emily Play (7″, 5000 copies)
- Röyksopp – Ice Machine (10″)
- Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun (12″, 982 copies, “regional”) and Hvarf / Heim (double LP)
- The XX – Jamie XX Edits (12″, 1600 copies)
- Various Artists – Astralwerks 20/20 (seven 7″ box set, including rare and unreleased tracks by Kraftwerk, Air, The Chemical Brothers and others, 100 copies, “regional”)
- Various Artists – Factory Records – Communications 1978-1992 (10″ or 12″ including tracks by Joy Division, New Order, Durutti Column and Happy Mondays, 1000 copies)
- Various Artists – Music from the Motion Picture Drive (LP picture disc of the excellent album with tracks by Kavinsky and Cliff Martinez, 1000 copies, US only)
Which should be more than enough to keep you busy. I’ve no idea what “regional” means. Thanks to the New Vinyl blog for helping with information about the releases. The full list is here for the USA and here for the UK.
Here are some highlights of the live gigs coming up in the next few weeks:
Currently in the middle of a manic world tour are Crystal Castles. Catch them everywhere in Europe, the US, South America, Mexico, the US again, and then Europe again in the next few months.
From the “I had no idea they were still going” desk, Inspiral Carpets are touring the UK (well, mainly Scotland, and Wrexham) next month.
I’ve seen her a couple of times already and can confirm that Little Boots is one of the best live performances I’ve seen. Turkey, Italy, Spain and Los Angeles will be lucky enough to get visits from her in the next few months.
Simian Mobile Disco
There are plenty of places to find Simian Mobile Disco over the next month or so, including France, Poland, Ireland, Italy, UK, Austria, and the USA.
Finally for this month, I can only begin to imagine how excellent a concert from Claudia Brücken must be. So if you’re in the UK or Germany you can find out next month and report back. Or you could just listen to her live album, which is probably pretty good too.
If there are artists you want to see covered here, please comment below.