Inspiral Carpets – Greatest Hits (2003)
Inspiral Carpets were a band that, at the height of their popularity, pretty much passed me by. They were a staple of the “Madchester” baggy indie scene in the late 1980s, alongside The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. At that point, in my early teens, I was busy listening to my Beatles, Stones and Bowie albums and didn’t have a great deal of interest in new music. However, in the early nineties, I became aware of them thanks to listening to good late night radio programmes and really loved Clint Boon’s swirling Hammond Organ sound, particularly enjoying “Dragging Me Down” and “Saturn 5”. In 2009, I finally got around to buying their Greatest Hits for a relatively small amount of money. Thankfully, I only spent a few quid on this purchase because, to be frank, I was disappointed when I first heard it. It’s not that this is a particularly bad collection (far from it), it’s just that this isn’t an album that I can easily appreciate by listening to it from start to finish. It’s like having a huge box of chocolates and having to eat a lot of chocolates you don’t particularly enjoy just to get to the ones you do. None of them are that terrible, far from it, but by the time you reach your favourites, you don’t enjoy them as much because you’ve overdosed on the flavour.
Without delving any further into their back catalogue, it still seems glaringly obvious that the Inspiral Carpets were very much a singles band, because not exactly everything on their twenty track “Greatest Hits” is brilliant. It does, therefore, leave you to wonder what their other tracks were like. Their early material is full of energy, but a little devoid of melody and more than a little samey. It does, in my opinion, get a lot better as the album goes on and, as the last track finishes, the latter part of the album almost tricks you into thinking that you’ve heard an absolutely brilliant collection, but the first half of this album is slightly unremarkable. I’m guessing that makes me more of a fan of their later output. Still, I think, to absolutely love this album, you have to have been there, to have lived it. If you weren’t, then there are still some cracking tracks on their “Greatest Hits”, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend listening to everything on this collection to get to the good stuff. It’s actually a good album to rip to a digital music player and hear tracks from at random, singularly, amongst other artists. They really do sound better when separated from each other, so you aren’t overwhelmed by a particular distinctive sound.
My personal favourites from their “Greatest Hits” are the early career highlight, “Caravan”, the laid back “Please Be Cruel”, the absolutely classic “Dragging Me Down”, the sensational “Saturn 5” (the song that got me interested in the Inspiral Carpets in the first place), the catchy “Generations”, “I Want You”, which has a similar musical feel to The Jam’s “Funeral Pyre” and the gently melodic “Uniform”. I’ve listened to this album a couple of times today and certainly think that it’s a little better than I first thought, but it’s an album that could be a lot shorter than the mammoth twenty tracks on here and the inclusion of everything but the kitchen sink does put you off listening to the whole album on from start to finish. The highlights are certainly excellent, but you have to wade through so many tracks to get to them, so it remains an album I’m happy to own, but not one I will be listening to very often.