Tuesday, 1 July 2008

INSPIRAL CARPETS WITH MARK E. SMITH: I Want You


The talk has all been about the disorientated ecstasy, the giddily weightless unreality which trickles through one's body and mind like microcurrents of non-static euphoria when one is in love and is loved back - the dizzy flotations of MBV, the symbiosis between fulfilled voice and relentless, unchanging machine cogs which powers "I Feel Love." And maybe this sneaks in too, even though I can already visualise Mark curling his Sykes nose in professed affront at the mere thought of his singing "love songs."

But this "I Want You" is about the urge, the rush and the secondary and tertiary urges which dazzle one into pursuance and acceptance. I never really shared a pop bunk with the Inspiral Carpets; I liked the slogans and the cows and the coolers and the washing powder briskness of their liveliness but their music rarely seemed to get elevated beyond the level of merely acceptable. Granted, "This Is How It Feels" was an important reminder that the "Mad" in Madchester could stand for worse things as well as better, but elsewhere it was largely efficient early 1966 beat group stuff, too easily what people thought the Teardrop Explodes sounded like (especially with Tom Hingley's more stentorian Julian Cope of a vocal style).

Yet "I Want You" is a pursuit of lasting ecstasy (that is, without a capital "E"), ribbing and speeding like no Inspirals song did before or afterwards; the broken barriers, the white knuckle ride, a chase perhaps a little too hard set to be comfortable ("The chance of defeat is not in my nature"), but the band is all fused into one rush tour steam train of activity; guitars and organs indistinguishable, drums skidding like toothbrushes on ice.

Over this we get the megaphoned punctum of Mark E Smith, finally getting a Top 20 hit and a TOTP appearance, crinkling his throat up, almost playing the part of an older and wiser Madchester veteran commenting like a grumpy dad or a renewed youth on what he's hearing and seeing, diving in or out of the song like a jagged angelfish, frequently crashing into Hingley's vocal and especially into the choruses, drawling icicle whimsy about rumours of illness circulating, "singing" or at least chanting along with the verses without recourse to adherence of bar lines, mumbling about "a course" and "of course," proclaiming his disgust at the supposedly sincere usury of the Dutch East India Company, reminding us whose side "we" should be on, at one point giggling, at the key point (viz. the end) barking "Shut up!" and it's more than enough to turn white knuckles into blackcurrants; a phenomenal classic of bipolar pop, the graceful collapse into the back garden of chaos, the Carpets' greatest moment, shouting and speeding into the best possible 1994.