Best tunes of 1992: #8 Inspiral Carpets “Dragging me down”

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“Dragging me down” was definitely my introduction to Manchester’s Inspiral Carpets. In fact, it might’ve even been another of those tracks that came to me via one of those evenings out in my friend Tim’s ride.

It was definitely Tim that loaned me his CD copy of “Revenge of the goldfish”, the band’s third full length album, which I dubbed to cassette and dutifully and thoroughly studied. I remember my friend Andrew Rodriguez trying and failing at convincing a DJ at one of our high school dances to play this very track. And unfortunately, I still don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure to dance to this track at a club to this day, though there’s been a few others by the group (like this one) to which I’ve killed a dance floor or two.

Yes. The Inspiral Carpets were, for me, what “Madchester” was all about. Psychedelics and beats. Driving guitars and good times. Shaking maracas, persistent organs, and dancing to the point of exhaustion. The five-piece weren’t the biggest name from the scene – indeed, a certain one of their roadies (hello, Noel) most definitely eclipsed them in popularity- but man, did they put out some cracking songs.

“Dragging me down” starts off with this percussive beat, very much like the chugging of a train. Then, comes Clint Boon’s wicked keyboard line, evoking the image of some crazed artiste getting a hold of the most magnificent church organ ever and knowing that if he didn’t give it his all at that moment, some Puritan would wisen up and the gig would be over. And that’s just the first few seconds. Things only get better from there. Craig Gill really brings his “A”-game on drums and Boon’s keyboards continue to wash and whirl and zip and crash. All the while, Graham Lambert, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his part in creating the Inspirals’ sound, screams away on guitars, driving us all out on the dance floor, daring us to keep up with his pace. And yeah, Tom Hingley delivers the goods in that deadpan, sing/speak that we know and love.

“I would search this world for you, even though you can’t imagine
I want to take you to China, I want to kiss you in Rome
I’d use rocket ships, mine sweepers, transistor radio receivers
I want to hold you, want to hold you too tight
Gonna break every bone of everybody in sight“

Yassss! “Dragging me down”!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.


Best tunes of 1990: #6 Inspiral Carpets “Commercial rain”

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From my last Best tunes of 1990 post to this one, it’s like I’m jumping from one dance floor to another. I finished up blathering about The Sisters Of Mercy’s “More” with a memory of dancing to it in my high school auditorium but I never did get to dance to Inspiral Carpets in those days. My friends and I discovered them a tad too late, though we did try. As I recall, my friend Andrew Rodriguez put in a request for “Dragging me down” at one of our final dances and the DJ just shook his head in disbelief. He thought Rodriguez was having him on because he had never heard of ‘Inspirational Carpets’.

However, leap forward two or three or four years and I was dancing to this particular track pretty much every Friday or Saturday night at the Dance Cave in Toronto. Released as a stand-alone single in the UK but released on the US version of “Life”, “Commercial rain” has no depth lyrically. It contains a handful of words, repeated over and over, the only ones of which I even understood before googling them this week were: “Ah, commercial rain.” But the words are of little import here, the song was built for the dance floor.

Inspiral Carpets came out of the same acid house scene as their greater Manchester neighbours, The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, though they never did go on to the same modicum of success as those other two. Their sound was well-defined by Craig Gill’s funky drumming, frontman Tom Hingley’s flat but distinctive vocals, and of course, Clint Boon’s whirling organ work. This last is definitely the focal point of “Commercial rain”. It bobs and weaves around the screeching guitars and the upbeat and reverberating rhythms laid down by Gill, all ephemeral, like the sun’s reflection off a watch face or a laser beam refracting off a disco ball. It fills you up with pure joy and begs to be expelled by the burning off of dance floor energy.

Being that this is the second appearance by the Inspiral Carpets on this list and that the words about “This is how it feels” (at #20) were written by my friend, the aforementioned Andrew Rodriguez, I feel it only right to finish off this post with his words here too:

Solid beat? Check. Hypnotising organ work? Check. Mesmerising reverb effects? Definitely a check. Nonsensical but somehow sensible lyrics? Check. 1990’s “Commercial rain” (or “Reign”, depending upon who you talk to) was one of the Inspiral Carpets’ first big songs. While their sound did vary, this one epitomises them at their manic best. As a song, it also encapsulates a time and place tidily – early 90s (Greater) Manchester, at the height of the ‘Madchester’ era. That said, danceability isnt confined by time and space… “Commercial rain” is an infectious groove – and you’ll get down with it wherever and whenever you hear it. As the old Inspirals t-shirt said: “Cool as fuck”.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.


Best tunes of 1990: #20 Inspiral Carpets “This is how it feels”

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For the next song in my best of 1990 series, I am reposting some words, with permission, by long-time friend, Andrew Rodriguez, who, back in the day, introduced me to the Inspiral Carpets. I had asked him for 200 words for my old blog, Music Insanity, just a few of his thoughts on this song, expecting to have to build a post around his words, but he delivered me this. I think it stands on its own:

The Inspiral Carpets. It is actually painful for me to admit that I CAN’T recall when I first actually heard them. In 1990 I was firmly entrenched musically and stylistically. I was a Mod. A friend of mine had already introduced me to The Stone Roses. He would later introduce me to Blur. I am being humble when I say that I was one of the first people in Canada to hear either the Roses or Blur. But somehow…I sort of missed the boat with Inspirals. It didn’t take me long to get on board however.

But this is not about me per se – this piece is about the Inspiral Carpets, who I grew to love, and who I believe have been sorely overlooked. More specifically, it is about the song “This Is How It Feels”. And maybe it is about me, maybe it is about anyone who ever felt lonely – without being depressed. Or who felt depressed without feeling lonely. That sounds a bit fucked doesn’t it? Well that is the VIBE that I always got from the Inspirals. The Inspiral Carpets have a ridiculously impressive catalogue of albums and singles.

And they were basically holding it down on their own. The British music press labelled them ‘madchester’. But they basically worked in a world that was pre ‘britpop’. They were not part of a movement. They were simply a band playing simply good music. And for John (the creator and driving force behind music insanity! who also happens to be one of my best and longest standing friends) and I, and others who really just wanted a soundtrack to grow up with…the Inspirals delivered.

“This Is How It Feels” was the second single off their first LP. It was – well it was fucking 1990. Music was crap. The song paints a sort of grim picture. Back then we were too young to fully appreciate how powerfully sucky life can actually be. But – in an era before hyper connectivity, when all you could hope for was hunkering down with your walkman at night, watching the red battery indicator light and listening to tunes…this music SPOKE. And it continues to speak. Catchy tune, simple, but down to earth lyrics. It is not a dancefloor packer by any stretch – but it is highly danceable (trust me). And thoughtful. A good mix. And – I never felt lonely listening to Inspiral Carpets.

Somewhat downer lyrics, and slightly melancholic tones…that are completely offset by the staccato drumming and the upbeat nature of the chorus. This song – there were two versions so far as I know – the North American version had slightly more ‘radio friendly’ lyrics, which I only found out recently – and there were two videos. One for Britain, one for North America. The North American one is what I grew to love – both video and song version.

But regardless – in this song you have spirit, you have honesty, and you have hope. Throw in a catchy tune, some competent organ playing, and you cannot go wrong. This is a song that you can listen to – walking in the rain, driving, relaxing, or dancing. Thoughtful. Reflective. And timeless.

UK version:

US version:

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.