Beautiful Days Festival
August 17th 2012
What does a much loved band do in its rock n roll dotage?
If they are the Inspiral Carpets they suddenly rediscover themselves and get back in touch with what they were. When the band had their line up shuffle last year, swopping golden voiced Tom Hingley for original singer Stephen Holt the move had a certain logic to it. Tom had been crucial to the band’s hit period and his voice tipped the band over from night time radio to the daytime hits but for many long term observers the band were always the sixties garage band with their stomping Seeds influenced tracks that defined a pre baggy Manc psych period and Holt was vital to this.
Plucked back from normal life Stephen is remarkably assured for someone who spent twenty years outside this strange life of gigs and bands. It’s like those twenty years never happened as the Inspirals rattle through a set of much loved hits at the Beautiful Days festival. Sounding more urgent and stripped down than they have for years the band have an added chunky bounce to the sound and the timeless nature of these classic songs is underlined as they power through a great set.
Historically seen as one of the key trio of Madchester/baggy bands with the Roses and the Mondays, the Inspirals were, in reality, one of those mid eighties garage bands who were part of criminally undocumented underworld of sixties day tripper bands in the North west.
This was a world of bowl cuts and battered seven inch singles, a world where Sky Saxon was god and the electric authenticity of those brilliant sixties garage bands was worshipped. Most of these revival bands fell by the wayside or were just lovers of the music celebrating the form. The Inspirals, with a steely resolve and a knack for writing great pop songs that were, arguably, better than the groups that they were aping- had started to break out of the isolation of the underground scene and were becoming John Peel regulars and touring successfully around the UK when the Manchester thing took off under their feet and they suddenly found themselves as a pop band and central to a very northern second summer of love.
The. 21st century version of the band have tapped back into their formative years and the underground haze of the garage band. It’s a role they seem very comfortable with, especially as they still have these much loved hits to draw upon. This Is How It Feels sounds magnificent and causes an outbreak of audience singing, Joe is restored faithfully as the five knuckle GarageBand shuffle and Saturn Five sounds monstrous. With the electric excitement of garage rock combined with the power of their knack of great choruses and a genuine love for playing this music the Inspiral Carpets are a perfect festival band.
There is a genuine electric excitement to their sound and a new toughness to their playing. Clint Boon’s Farfisa organ is still the key texture and the band sound as fresh and vibrant as they did back in the eighties. They may have no real plans for storming the charts like they did in the Manc baggy years but that doesn’t make them any less vital. Infact it adds to their power as they are a band without any concern for the moral and musically sapping world of radio playlists and creeping round the music business.
They are now the greatest of things, a band unfettered by any kind of control and genuinely playing the music they love and understand. They may have started as young fans of the tripped out end of the sixties and mid eight Death To Trad Rock weirdness but they are now the perfect example of the classic guitar garage band. You can really feel that in their paying and their passionate attitude is perfectly summed up in the coiled figure of Stephen Holt whose passion for the songs drives the band forward.
Bands like the should be treasured, great examples of the beauty and simplicity of great rock n roll. he Inspirals have taken the past and made it sound timeless and that’s a pretty tough to trick to pull off.