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.

Technique – Pop Philosophy

This week fifteen years ago saw the somewhat belated release of Technique‘s debut album Pop Philosophy. A two-piece consisting of infamous Creation Records boss Alan McGee‘s wife Kate Holmes and singer Xan Tyler, they secured the production talents of Stephen Hague, supported Depeche Mode on their Exciter tour in some parts of the world, and were pretty close to finding fame when everything seems to have gone a bit wrong. But more on that later.

The album opens with Sun is Shining, a sweet and simple pop song which is every bit as good as anything else that was on the charts in the mid-1990s. It’s uplifting, cheery, and frankly brilliant. This was also their first single, peaking at number 64 in 1999.

The second single follows, You and Me, which followed a few months later and peaked at number 56, and is another great pop song. So what went wrong exactly? Honestly, I suspect they were just too late. They weren’t alone – Peach suffered similarly by trying to enter the “clever synthpop” realm in 1996, and they failed to capture the popular imagination. Why would Technique have fared any better?

Ultimately, the only reason this album seems to exist is a 2000 Cantonese cover version of You + Me, which caused enough interest in the original for people to want to own the two singles, the five other complete tracks, and two remixes by Matt Darey. Those other five tracks are good, although there isn’t really anything up to the standard of either of the singles here. Unity of Love is a pleasant enough song, as is Wash Away My Tears, but there isn’t a lot else that you can say about them.

There are others which show potential – There’s No Other Way is pretty good. Deep and Blue is pleasant enough, although lyrically it’s a bit… well, I want to call it “wet”, but the lyrics are about the deep blue sea, which makes me even worse. Quiet Storm is bloody awful, but it’s the only thing on here that is.

I had always assumed the somewhat makeshift track listing was due to the band not having finished much else, but it turns out that there’s an earlier version of the album with a whole load of other songs on it. Maybe they just picked out the least bad ones for this release. Who knows?

Either way, history may have forgotten Technique, but this one little album isn’t at all a bad way to remember them. If nothing else, it’s worth having for Sun is Shining and You and Me, as well as the remixes of each of them. Honestly these are both fairly typical Matt Darey trance mixes – they start off with just a kick drum on every beat, and slowly grow into something enormous. They’re nothing particularly groundbreaking, it’s true, but they’re great nonetheless.

Oh, and if you were wondering what happened next… well, Xan Tyler was unable to turn up for the Depeche Mode tour, so Dubstar‘s Sarah Blackwood was draughted in at the last minute. Technique then rebranded as the briefly brilliant Client, and gained a sizeable cult following before eventually Xan Tyler turned up again in 2011 as Sarah Blackwood‘s replacement. Yes, I know it’s confusing – just nod politely…

You can still find Pop Philosophy on import from major retailers, such as here.

Music for the Masses 34 – 2 March 2005

For the second week running, the webcam was refusing to take pictures during this show. It did see a brief return of the Unsigned Act slot, with an entry from Subculture, and the many-talented William Orbit was the Artist of the Week.

Show 34: Wed 2 Mar 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: William Orbit.

  • Gotan Project – Época
  • Rob Dougan – Furious Angels
  • Depeche Mode – I Feel Loved
  • The Space Brothers – Forgiven
  • Energy 52 – Café del Mar
  • Apollo 440 – Astral America
  • William Orbit – Via Caliente
  • Peach – From This Moment On
  • Jean Michel Jarre – Je Me Souviens
  • Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls (DJ Hell Remix)
  • Subculture – Dead in the Day (Demo) [Unsigned Act]
  • Erlend Øye – Every Party Has a Winner and a Loser
  • William Orbit – Million Town
  • Kraftwerk – Expo 2000 (Kling Klang 2002 Mix)
  • Manu Chao – Bongo Bong
  • Erasure – Don’t Say You Love Me
  • LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk is Playing at My House
  • Wolfsheim – Wunderbar
  • Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme
  • William Orbit – Satie’s Ogive #1
  • Bent – The Waters Deep

Music for the Masses 29 – 6 December 2004

Show 29 was the last before the Christmas break in 2004, and while that may be a little off-season at the time of posting, it inevitably had a bit of a festive theme, with Erasure – also starring as the artist of the week – turning up on the playlist with She Won’t Be Home and other wintry hits from Pet Shop Boys and Saint Etienne.

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Show 29: Mon 6 Dec 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Erasure.

  • Bomb the Bass – Darkheart
  • The Postal Service – Recycled Air
  • Sohodolls – Trash the Rental (Demo)
  • Ladytron – Playgirl
  • Depeche Mode – Photographic (Rex the Dog Dubb Mix)
  • Erasure – Sono Luminus
  • Alpinestars – Burning Up
  • Pet Shop Boys – It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas
  • Lemon Jelly – Stay with You
  • Espiritu – You Don’t Get Me
  • Jean Michel Jarre – Chronologie (Part 6)
  • Andy Pickford – Oblivion
  • Erasure – She Won’t Be Home
  • Piney Gir – Girl
  • Empire State Human – Little Alfie
  • Way Out West – Ajare 2
  • Jolly Music feat. Erlend Øye – Talco Uno
  • Client – In the Back of Your Car
  • Delerium – Wisdom
  • Peach – Hush
  • Erasure – Breathe
  • Sparks – The Calm Before the Storm
  • Saint Etienne – I Was Born on Christmas Day

Music for the Masses 23 – 24 October 2004

Three weeks in, and the newly reborn Music for the Masses radio show was finally starting to find a rhythm, even if it was just a week away from its end. Freed from the shackles of the playlists which dogged the show’s previous incarnation, there were now slots for forthcoming new releases, music news, and the new Artist of the Week slot. The laid back, late night nature of the music won the show a lot of praise – the fast talking of the presenter less so…

Show 23: Sun 24 Oct 2004, from 4:00am-6:00am

Broadcast on LSR FM, on FM and online. Artist of the week: Moby.

  • The Beloved – A Dream Within a Dream
  • Leftfield feat. Toni Halliday – Original
  • Monaco – What Do You Want from Me?
  • Moby – Porcelain
  • Röyksopp – Remind Me (Someone Else’s Radio Mix)
  • The Grid – Rollercoaster
  • Olive – Beyond the Fray
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence (Reinterpreted)
  • Peach – From This Moment On
  • Moby – Heaven
  • Way Out West – Blue
  • Bent – Stay the Same
  • Alex Gold feat. Phil Oakey – LA Today
  • Gloworm – Carry Me Home
  • Dirty Vegas – Walk Into the Sun
  • Adamski (with Seal) – Killer
  • Erlend Øye – Sheltered Life (Radio Mix)
  • Beyer & Lenk feat. Tiga – Ananda
  • Moby – The Whispering Wind
  • 808 State – Pacific State
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled

This show was recorded, and for the most part still exists. It will be posted as a Playlist for stowaways soon.

Music for the Masses 11 – 1 March 2000

Universities, seats of learning though they may be, are not always seats of perfection, so a note from your producer saying “Please mention karioky,” as shown on the image below, shouldn’t be too much of a surprise! Just in case I forgot to mention it on Bay Radio back in 2000, there’s karioky at PJM on Wednesday night at 8pm.

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Show 11: Wed 1 Mar 2000, from 10.55am-1.00pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 12 tracks). A indicates A-list (6 tracks); B indicates B-list (3 tracks) and C indicates C-list (2 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 11 tracks). X indicates tracks I borrowed off friends (Total 1 track). L indicates the ones from the “library” (Total 6 tracks).

  • 1. Bellatrix “The Girl with the Sparkling Eyes” C
  • [IRN 11.00 News]
  • 2. Gene “As Good As it Gets” L
  • 3. Wannadies “Yeah” A
  • 4. Death in Vegas “Aisha” L
  • 5. Kraftwerk “Expo 2000” R
  • 6. Heaven 17 “Dive” R
  • 7. Chemical Brothers “Music: Response” A
  • 8. Basement Jaxx “Rendez-Vu” R
  • 9. Human League “These Are the Days” (Sonic Radiation) R
  • 10. Ooberman “Shorley Wall” A
  • 11. Asian Dub Foundation “Real Great Britain” S
  • 12. Bluetones “Keep the Home Fires Burning” A
  • 13. Big Yoga Muffin “Is that How You?” A
  • [Chart rundown: numbers 10 -> 6]
  • 14. James “Just Like Fred Astaire” L
  • 15. Erasure “In My Arms” R
  • 16. Dubstar “Not So Manic Now” R
  • [IRN 12.00 News]
  • 17. Moby “Natural Blues” A
  • 18. Enigma “Return to Innocence” R
  • 19. Divine Comedy “Something for the Weekend” X
  • 20. Coldplay “Shiver” B
  • [Chart rundown: numbers 5 -> 1]
  • 21. Atomic Kitten “See Ya” L
  • 22. El Niño “Friends” L
  • 23. Massive Attack “Protection” R
  • 24. Tony di Bart “The Real Thing” R
  • 25. Jean Michel Jarre “This is a Sign” R
  • 26. Sarah Cracknell “Anymore” (Faster Pussy Cat, Kill Kill Mix) R
  • 27. Muse “Sunburn” C
  • 28. Southern Fly “Maybe It’s the Right Time” B
  • 29. Charlatans “Scorched” B
  • 30. Peach “Hush” R

Producer: None.

Notes: Reasonable… had severe ups and downs (I went from being half decent to completely dying on my rump). Nonetheless, entertaining from where I was sitting.

Music for the Masses 5 – 15 December 1999

The last show before Christmas 1999 was on Bay Radio on December 15th, and took an entirely non-festive turn. It continued after the New Year, so we’ll pick things up again in a few weeks’ time.

show5a

Tracks played on the fifth show, Wed 15 Dec 1999, from 11am-1pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 12 tracks). A indicates A-list (7 tracks); B indicates B-list (3 tracks) and C indicates C-list (2 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 10 tracks). L is dem dere tracks out of the drawer (Total 4 tracks).

  • 1. David Bowie “Thursday’s Child” L
  • 2. Longpigs “The Frank Sonata” A
  • 3. White Town “Your Woman” R
  • 4. New Order “Ruined in a Day” (K-Klass Mix) R
  • 5. Corrs “Radio” A
  • 6. Lighthouse Family “High” L
  • 7. Cuban Boys “Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia” A
  • 8. Peach “On My Own” R
  • 9. James “We’re Going To Miss You” S
  • 10. Europe “The Final Countdown 2000” A
  • 11. Erasure “Always” R
  • 12. Bob Marley & Funkstar Deluxe “Rainbow Country” B
  • 13. Beck “Sexxlaws” C
  • 14. Nine Inch Nails “We’re in this Together” B
  • 15. Stereophonics “Local Boy in the Photograph” L
  • 16. Pet Shop Boys “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” R
  • 17. Saint Etienne “I Was Born on Christmas Day” R
  • 18. Mr. Hankey “The Christmas Poo” A
  • 19. Human League “Stay With Me Tonight” R
  • 20. Rhinocerose “La Guitaristic House Organisation” B
  • 21. Tom Jones & Cerys “Baby it’s Cold Outside” A
  • 22. Charlatans “My Beautiful Friend” A
  • 23. Kraftwerk “The Model” R
  • 24. O.M.D. “Enola Gay” R
  • 25. William Orbit “Barber’s Adagio for Strings” L
  • 26. Robbie Williams “She’s the One” C
  • 27. Shamen “Ebeneezer Goode” R

Producer: None.

Notes: Not at all bad. Anyway, there’s definitely a conspiracy going on somewhere here, because it would appear that either I do a good show every other week, and alternate, doing a bad one every other other week, or I do my best shows in the face of adversity. Well, at any rate, that was probably my best yet, even though I had to set the studio up myself (which I almost managed too), meaning I didn’t start on time, and also my first link consisted of dead air, since the mic lead wasn’t working. Also, we would appear to have new equipment, just to make my life more complicated… aah well, ne’er mind, eh?

Music for the Masses 3 – 1 December 1999

History doesn’t record who Phil and Mary-Jane were, although as I recall their “thing” was to argue live on air, in addition to apparently destroying the studio while broadcasting, neither of which are likely to make particularly good listening. But these were early days on Bay Radio.

show3br

Tracks played on the third show, Wed 1 Dec 1999, from 1pm-3pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 7 tracks). A indicates A-list (6 tracks); B indicates B-list (0 tracks) and C indicates C-list (1 track). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 10 tracks). L indicates tracks I snatched at random in the vain hope of impressing people (Total 8 tracks).

  • 1. Beastie Boys “Alive” A
  • 2. Primal Scream “Swastika Eyes” L
  • 3. Dubstar “It’s Over” R
  • 4. Robbie Williams “She’s the One” C
  • 5. Olive “You’re Not Alone” R
  • 6. Chicane “Saltwater” L
  • 7. Pet Shop Boys “Closer to Heaven” R
  • 8. William Orbit “Barber’s Adagio for Strings” (Ferry Corsten Remix) L
  • [Advert Break]
  • 9. Grid “Diablo” (The Devil Rides Out Mix) R
  • 10. Garbage “The World is Not Enough” A
  • 11. Murry the Hump “Colouring Book” S
  • 12. Catatonia “Londinium” L
  • [News Break]
  • 13. Suede “She’s in Fashion” L
  • 14. Electronic “Get the Message” R
  • 15. Beloved “Deliver Me” (Salt City Vocal) R
  • 16. Amar “Red Sky” A
  • 17. Kraftwerk “Pocket Calculator” R
  • 18. Yazoo “Nobody’s Diary” R
  • 19. O.D.B. “Got Your Money” A
  • 20. Offspring “She’s Got Issues” A
  • [Advert Break]
  • 21. Ace of Base “Beautiful Life” R
  • 22. Eiffel 65 “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” L
  • 23. Peach “From this Moment On” R
  • 24. Groove Armada “I See You Baby” (Full Frontal Mix) A
  • 25. New Order “Touched by the Hand of God” (Biff & Memphis Remix) R

Producer: None.

Notes: Well this was just plain bizarre. Probably the best show I’ve done yet, but still bizarre. Basically, Phil and Mary-Jane, who are normally after me on Wednesday afternoons, elected to swap with me for one week only, and I obliged. So, I arrived in the studio at about 12.45, to find the studio in complete disarray, with CDs scattered everywhere. The line-in input for CD2 was hanging out of its socket (so presumably they had been broadcasting in mono all morning) – which made it impossible to check levels until I plugged it back in. I couldn’t work out which microphone I was using, so for the first link had to turn them both right up… and then there was another thing. When I arrived, I discovered that the people before me had very kindly played all my tracks off the playlist, so I had nothing to play. I eventually arranged with someone who was kind of in charge, to play most of the tracks off the A-list and the single of the week, which left me with quite a lot to fill. Fortunately I was, of sorts, prepared for this (as boy scouts always are), and duly played loads of bizarre remixes and obscure dance tracks. Whether the open day visitors really appreciated this is debatable, but I did get one “What was that last track?” and one request, so it can’t really have been too dire. Well, not really. The lessons to learn from this are, firstly, never to do a show after Phil and Mary-Jane, and secondly, that it probably isn’t a good idea to do a section in which Yazoo follow on from Kraftwerk. They worked well together, but it suddenly dawned on me half way through, that 1983 was quite a long time ago. Eeeh well, we live and learn. Hopefully.