If ESPN can milk "30 for 30" well past their 30th anniversary, then I can run my series of 20 records I haven't heard in 20 years (since starting the blog in January 2000) well past year 21. We will get to 20 eventually, I promise. This will be the sixth in the series, and I have the next six records already lined up, waiting to be heard for the first time (with near certainty) since the 1990's ...
Out of the Madchester Big Three, Inspiral Carpets are, and were, by far the least famous. The Stone Roses had the best peak musically, Happy Mondays had the best notoriety and were uncannily in the right place at the right time to capitalize on their limited talent (in no small part thanks to their label, which did all they could to promote the myth). Inspiral Carpets had a longer peak than either of them (and a better peak than the Mondays) but could never quite transcend their reputation as a somewhat geeky number three in the Manchester hierarchy.
I wore my "Cool as F***" shirt (without the asterisks) a good luck charm in tests and exams for years. So this EP has a unique sentimental value that no other record in this series can match thus far.
The record itself is a US-only release that compiled a few of their early singles and was released as a sort of lead-in to their debut album "Life".
The Carpets' formula is on display from the opening notes of "Joe" -- blasts of shiny organ over shuddering bass and syncopated beats. There's a clear nod to the Fall (and perhaps even the Mondays) in its minimalist bluster and shouty-lite vocals, but without the grit and upheaval that you get from the best of the Fall. More creative, catchier melodies would come with the "Life"-era singles.
"Find Out Why" is silly and awkward but nails the chorus in a way that "Joe" can't touch. "So Far" has barely a glint of a decent melody and comes as every bit of the blatantly tossed-off B-side that it was. "Out of Time" mostly exists in order to be an easily shoutable chorus in live shows, but as a two minute slice of bouncy pop, it certainly accomplishes its intended goal.
The EP ends with the 16-minute "Plane Crash", which starts as an homage to "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" before launching into an extended organ jam punctuated by churning guitar-based noises and other airy sound effects. "What Goes On" it's not. Singer "Tom Hingley" declares, on record, that "it's only been ten minutes" toward the end of the middle jamming portion, suggesting that they were going long purely for the sake of doing it. A couple of years later, they'd get it right with "Further Away", a 14-minute monster with nary a wasted note. But "Plane Crash" is certainly not the tense epic that I remember it being.
How about that t-shirt though? It supposedly sold better than any of their albums?