Stuart Ralston made the short trip down the road to Dunfermline as Inspiral Carpets continue their renaissance.
When Inspiral Carpets announced their summer schedule, there was disbelief that they were actually playing PJ’s in Dunfermline - a great venue with an increasingly growing reputation - but not somewhere I’d expect to see the Inspirals. Clint and Graham mentioned to me a while back that they enjoyed DJing there some years ago hence the inclusion of the gig to the busy summer tour schedule (tonight and tomorrow are warm up shows for their festival appearances on Saturday and Sunday, with the band touring Australia and New Zealand, starting next week).
The now familiar World of Twist intro tape sees the arrival of the band on the tiny PJs stage. We first visited PJs back in 2014 and were impressed with the set up. A thriving bar come club come venue. Tonight’s gig sold out way back and every vantage point in the multi level club is occupied as the expectant crowd are treated to an opening onslaught of Joe and Generations. The band are in fine form. “We can see the whites in your eyes, we can touch you” exclaims Clint before drummer Kev Clark and bassist Oscar Boon rattle through the intro of Weakness. Weakness is enhanced with Oscar’s backing vocals and he seems to be adding more and more since we last saw the band in action. Weakness gets a great response from the packed crowd and the band are on top form, ratting off their big hits and fan favourites.
Whilst there’s nothing new in the set, these vintage classics like Butterfly are delivered with a real passion from the five - Clint on Farfisa, singer Stephen out front trying to dance and pogo his way through despite the limited space, Kev in his element out the back on drums and Oscar and Graham on bass and guitar respectively quietly going about their business at the far left of the stage. She Comes In The Fall - the band’s big summer hit of 1990 - sees Kev star on drums. He’s drumming with the same energy and passion as the late Craig Gill and is a joy to watch. She Comes In The Fall seems to lift the audience and the extended drum solo is appreciated by both crowd and band. An early set highlight. Preceding single This Is How It Feels is another rousing, uplifting success, and the band are once again assisted by Lee from their crew on an impressive tambourine. We are then treated to a solo rendition of This Is How It Feels complete with wrong words from a punter in the audience before Two Worlds Collide allows us a little breather.
The garage / Northern Soul crossover Let You Down lifts the pace again with Clint and Kev holding it together. It sounds semi improvised and benefits from this, showing the band are happy to challenge themselves and the audience. That’s the thing about this reunion; the band are not content to go through the motions. This is exemplified on Caravan, the lead single from their second album The Beast Inside. We only get Caravan from The Beast Inside which is a shame as there many classics and hidden gems on there. Find Out Why is much more potent live than on record (as is I Want You deliver later on in the set). Delivered at a frantic speed, it’s a classic punk rock song before the reflective Sackville takes over. Directing Traffic is a little bit shambolic at times before Clint introduces the band and crew, thanking them all. You sense there’s a real bond between band and crew.
Keep The Circle Around - the classic debut gets the band back on track and is dominated by Clint’s swirling Farfisa and yet more powerhouse drumming from Kev. Uniform sees yet more improvisation before a commanding Dragging Me Down brings the main set to a close. It sees the audience completely engrossed and captivated.
The three song encore has something for everyone. Opening with just Kev before the remaining band members resume their positions, Commercial Rain was far too good to be relegated to a b-side (although it did have a-side status in the States where it was released as a 12” in late 1990). It’s the Inspirals at their danciest. This extended workout sees all four musicians crafting out their own sound. Whilst it has a dance element, there’s also a strong Velvet Underground influence too. Clint them explains that everything in the set was based on 96 Tears, the 60s garage standard by Question Mark and The Mysterians. Tonight’s rendition is much closer in sound to The Mysterians version than the Inspirals version! Traditional set closer Saturn 5 is as uplifting as it has ever been and sees the audience enjoy a dance. It’s a rousing finale and sees everyone in buoyant mood.
Inspiral Carpets are on a roll. Some forty years into their career, they could be forgiven for churning out the hits and the crowd would be happy but they don’t. By improvising and playing some deeper cuts, they challenge themselves and the audience and you sense that the band are having as much fun up there as the crowd are in front of them.
Inspiral Carpets official website is here. They are also on Twitter and Facebook. They play Edinburgh Liquid Rooms (21), Sunderland Kubix Festival (22), Nottingham Splendour (23), Perth Rosemount Hotel (28/29), Brisbane The Triffid (August 3), Sydney Manning Bar (4), Melbourne Croxton Ballroom (5), Wellington San Fran (8), Auckland Tuning Fork (9), Derby Hairy Dog (24), Norwich Epic Studios (25), Portsmouth Victorious Festival (26), Newark Festival (27), Bedford Esquires (November 16), Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (17) and Minehead Shine On Festival (18).