Gut, wenn man einen Plan B in der Hinterhand hat: Nach 24 Jahren holten die verbliebenen Inspiral Carpets ihr Gründungsmitglied Stephen Holt zurück und arbeiteten an ihrem fünften Alben.
"Spitfire" lautet der Titel der ersten Single, die nicht das Format von "This Is How It Feels" oder "She Comes In The Fall" hat, aber dennoch der beste Song des Albums ist und stilistisch stellvertretend für viele andere steht. "Changes", "You're So Good For Me" oder "Calling Out To You" hätten genau so auch 1990 auf "Life" sein können. Mit "Flying Like A Bird" lassen die Inspiral Carpets auch die sanfteren Töne wieder aufleben und an ihr zweites Album "The Beast Inside" (1991) denken. Während "Forever Here" gerne ein Song der Charlatans sein möchte, sind "Hey Now", "Our Time" und "Human Shield" Kandidaten zum Überspringen.
The album makes a storming start with the darkly atmospheric Monochrome, bristling with organ and guitar riffs. The sweetly yearning current single Spitfire (“You and I have future dreams / Where we could be as one”) heads up to the clouds with a soaring chorus. In contrast, You’re So Good For Me, the band’s comeback single from two years ago, seems a rather hesitant expression of love as redemption. A To Z Of My Heart shows a resigned acceptance of the uncertainties of life (“Some things sometimes happen for a reason that we never know why … The future will happen when the time is right”), with Holt reaching down for a deeper register and Boon pulling out all the stops.
One of the best tracks, Calling Out To You, builds up a compelling momentum in its desperate plea against loneliness, but the album’s slowest song Flying Like A Bird is also the weakest (love won’t last as “This bird ain’t got no wings”), with Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies failing to help it take flight. Changes has a catchy tune, a football terrace drum beat and an arresting comparison, “The click-clack cans of Coca-Cola / Sound like a soundtrack from Morricone”, but Hey Now comes across as a somewhat bland filler.
Beginning a bit like Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting For The Man, Our Time shows a fuzzier side to the band, with echoey instrumentation, while though musically reminiscent of The Charlatans’ classic Weirdo, Forever Here has a defiant attitude of its own: “Nobody ever get in my way / I’m staying around now, won’t go away.” Let You Down’s organ riffs betrays the influence of The Doors, with distorted effects underlining untrustworthy love and Mancunian punk poet John Cooper Clarke speaking the words of a dodgy dealer, “Dr Reliable”. The thudding bass-line of Human Shield gives way to the relief of “When night falls and day breaks / You pick up the pieces and keep them safe” to close the album on a note of consoling love.
From the start, with the quick fade in and sharp delivery from Holt on 'Monochrome', everything feels immediate and there, no messing around. Clint Boon's keyboards remain a key part of everything, at once celebratory and a series of near fanfares, but it's also a treat just to hear how Martyn Walsh's bass and Craig Gill's drums are all about making you want to dance – the moves and feelings may be anything but what's new and now, but compared to where too many bands with members in their fifties can be, this actually feels fun and anything but forced. The secret weapon that the band always had, though, is just how sweetly yearning the songs could be at the same time – and Holt's warm voice and slice-of-life lyrics on love, life and memories match with Graham Lambert's guitars in particular to make that work. 'Spitfire' is a great example, Holt on the chorus stretching out his vocals just enough while Lambert's gentle melodies ride the energetic arrangement beautifully. When Boon takes over on the breaks it's a lovely contrast in turn, then when Lambert adds in another melody towards the end it's a killer touch.
The slight downside to the album is that it almost never stops to breathe as it goes, with the slower flow of 'Flying Like A Bird' bringing in the first full change six songs in. It's hardly that nearly everything else completely clones itself song for song, but you can almost pick any song and get the same feeling from it, making it a little hard for individual moments to stand out. But they're there, whether it's Holt's understated intensity on 'You're So Good For Me', a neat lyrical moment like "The click-clack cans of Coca-Cola/Sounds like a soundtrack from Morricone" on 'Changes', the slow burn rumbling rhythm on the closing 'Human Shield' – Walsh really bringing a nasty strong punch to things – or Boon's shimmering lead-in and chorus melody on 'A To Z Of My Heart' and frenetic jamming on 'Forever Here'.