Inspiral Carpets Live in Manchester March 2023

By Chinamusicpolice Editor

The Inspiral Carpets were one of the most iconic bands to emerge from the Madchester scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their distinctive blend of psychedelic rock, pop and punk, coupled with the unmistakable vocals of frontman Tom Hingley, made them a household name and a firm favourite among music fans all over the world.

Fast forward to March 2023, and I found myself lucky enough to be in attendance at their gig at the O2 Academy in Oxford. As soon as I stepped into the venue, I could feel the excitement building in the air. The atmosphere was electric, and it was clear that I wasn’t the only one who had been eagerly anticipating this moment for months.

The Inspiral Carpets formed in Oldham, Greater Manchester in 1983, and quickly became one of the leading lights of the Madchester scene. Alongside other seminal bands such as the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses, they helped to define the sound of the era and were instrumental in shaping the musical landscape of the time.

Their early singles such as “Keep the Circle Around” and “Joe” showcased their unique sound and attracted a loyal following of fans. It wasn’t long before they were signed to major label Mute Records and releasing albums that would go on to become classic records of the era.

Their debut album, “Life”, was released in 1990, and was a critical and commercial success. Featuring hit singles such as “This Is How It Feels” and “She Comes in the Fall”, the album established the Inspiral Carpets as one of the most important bands of the era and helped to cement their place in music history.

As I looked around the O2 Academy in Oxford, I could see that the band’s legacy had endured. The crowd was made up of a mix of die-hard fans who had been following the band since their early days, as well as younger fans who had discovered their music through their parents or through their own exploration of music history.

Despite the fact that the band hadn’t released any new material in over a decade, the enthusiasm for their music was palpable. As soon as the band took to the stage, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause, and it was clear that everyone was ready for a night of nostalgia and musical magic.

The band launched into their set with “Joe”, one of their earliest hits, and it was clear that the years hadn’t dulled their energy or their passion for their music. As they moved through their setlist, playing hit after hit, the crowd sang along to every word, their voices rising up in unison to fill the venue with sound.

It was clear that for many of the dads in the audience, seeing one of Manchester’s seminal bands live was a real treat. They sang along to every song, reminiscing about their youth and the memories that the music had helped to create. But it wasn’t just the dads who were enjoying the show – the younger fans were just as enthusiastic, and it was clear that the Inspiral Carpets’ music had lost none of its appeal over the years.

The band’s musical style is difficult to categorise, but it can best be described as a blend of punk, pop and psychedelic rock. Their music is characterised by catchy melodies, driving rhythms and Hingley’s distinctive vocals, which have a raw, emotive quality that perfectly captures the energy and spirit of the era in which they emerged.

As the band moved through their set, playing classic tracks such as “Two Worlds Collide” and “Dragging Me Down”, it was impossible not to be swept up in the music. The crowd danced, sang and cheered, creating a sense of community and connection that is all too rare in the modern world.

Come-Peel Sessions-Fire Records

When I think of the band Come, what first comes to mind is pain, and not the sort of pain that’s fixed with a shot of whisky but rather the sort of pain that festers for years and simply finds no salve. Traumatic, visceral and narcotic is how I’d describe Come’s music to the uninitiated. Thalia Zedek has always been able to connote raw pain through her voice and that is on dramatic display on this record especially on a track like “Off to One Side” where the bluesy guitar transforms into a gust front of pummeling aggression. Thalia sounds as if she’s been through a harrowing adventure and lived to tell the tale. “Wrong Side” is imbued with a wrenching sadness that turns into a vengeful anger that is pure Thalia and devoid of any cliche or sugared veneer. I’ve heard this song live and it left me devastated.

Moving on, one of my all time favorite songs, “Mercury Falls” sounds even more tense here than the album version. Throughout the entirety of the record Thalia’s voice is literally burning the proceedings to the ground. Take for example album opener “Dead Molly”, on this song the band builds things to a tormented crescendo, which like molten lava obliterates everything in its path leaving only remnant memories that eventually disperse into the ether. Most bands mine a well worn musical seam, but this has never been the case for Come. They’ve always set their sights on conveying emotions that are conflicted, raw and pitched on the edge of human tolerance. This album is an absolute gem that shows a band working with incredible confidence and musical dexterity that to this day has never faded.

Jonathan Levitt -February 15, 2022- 4/5 stars

USA buyers can click the below link to purchase the album.

Come-Don’t Ask Don’t Tell-Fire Records

Wait a minute this album came out 27 years ago? It’s hard to believe, since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell seems to have defied aging, probably due its unvarnished grittiness and its sober take on life’s unending series of traumatic events. What Thalia Zedek, Chris Brokaw, Sean O’Brien and Arthur Johnson laid down on these 10 tracks was a savage exercise in stripping the veneer of this life away while presenting the brutal truth. Track after track, Thalia’s caustic vocals convey a road weariness, coupled with a defiant, take-no-prisoners posture that suits the albums emotional intensity to a T. Chris Brokaw’s seething guitar lines, create a stormy sea of bluesy reverb, that swirl around you adding a dramatic intensity that alone would be enough to knock you over, but mated with Thalia’s potent vocals, the effects are simply devastating.

I remember when I first heard this album, it was on a ferry heading home to Lantau Island in Hong Kong. With the city’s skyline fading in the foggy distance and a stiff sea breeze blowing, opening track “Finish Line” felt like a gut punch with its menacing guitar line, and its pummeling drums. Thalia’s vocals lead us to the brink and back again on this emotional master stroke of an opener. Every time I hear this song I feel as if I’m witnessing a relationship melting down right before my eyes. “Mercury Falls” captures the bleakness of a Boston winter, the intense loneliness that accompanies it and yet, believe it or not, there is hope. Hope in the form of Thalia’s trauma filled vocals that evoke a triumphant spirit. It’s about fighting back the tears and soldiering on no matter the emotional toll. “Yr Reign” with the lyric “I’m gonna stab you a letter just like you do to me” is emotionally enhanced by Chris Brokaw’s turbulent squalls and the rhythm sections menacing gallop. These first three songs are about as stunning a grouping as you’ll find on a record and always leave me devastated as well as a bit nostalgic. In fact while this record has accompanied me around the world and through some very difficult times, it has never waned in its importance or resonance. It may remind me of “bad times” in my life but it also gave me an inner strength to let the storms pass and find a way forward. Hopefully within these grooves you’ll find something similar.

(Fire records has also assembled for this amazing reissue an LP’s worth of B-sides, live tracks, the bands first single as well as it’s final recorded track including an amazing cover of The Swell Maps’ “Loin of The Surf”. I have included a video that I shot a few years back of the band in Brooklyn playing the track “Submerge” which is also included on the bonus LP.)

Jonathan Levitt -October 29, 2021- 5/5 stars

US customers can purchase here:

Jane Weaver-Flock-Fire Records

British singer and pop experimentalist Jane Weaver returns after four years from the release of her last record of all original music as a solo artist with “Flock,” a collection of catchy and at times funk-infused songs built around electronic flourishes, synth sounds and drum loops but where melody always remains front and center. 

Weaver has had a long career that’s flown under the mainstream radar but has had a devoted following among fans. She started out leading the post-punk outfit Kill Laura in the early 1990s and has had an idiosyncratic solo career since then. In recent years, her work has experimented with electronic music. In 1997, she told Paste magazine, “I think it’s mainly to do with going from using the guitar to exploring the world of synth and electronic music. It’s different types of machinery that create different types of noises that create different kinds of vibes.”

On “Flock,” electric bursts from synthesizers and drum machines serve as a foundation for the record but Weaver’s pop sensibilities are what shape the songs. 

Weaver has described “Heartlow,” one of two songs she’s released ahead of the album’s March 5 debut as a “homage to a lost generation of misfit girl groop records.” And the song does have the feel of being a song by a 60s girl group that’s really into Stereolab. 

Elements of funk brought to life by jangly guitar riffs and passionate vocals are fused throughout three of the catchiest songs on the record: “The Revolution of Super Visions,” “Sunset Dreams” and “Pyramid Schemes.”

Other standout tracks include “Stages of Phases,” a poppy song that highlights Weaver’s vocals amid jaunty bursts of electronica and the album’s danceable closer “Solarised.”

During these ongoing pandemic times, we can all use a bit of happy music to take our minds off the constant carousel of bad news. “Flock” is just the record to do that.

Juan Lozano-February 7, 2021- 4/5 stars

Terry Gross-Soft Opening-Thrill Jockey

2020 has been a terrible year for all of us, that goes double for musicians, but with the latest Cloud Seeder record and now this album by Terry Gross, things are ending on a high note. Terry Gross for the uninitiated are guitarist Phil Manley of (Trans Am), bassist Donny Newenhouse, and drummer Phil Becker. Here the songs have time to build, subside, and then enter the hallucinatory realm, where the music makes that vital cerebral connection. I thrive on this sort of music, probably because of my love of bands like Hawkwind, The Myrrors and Black Sun Ensemble. Space Voyage Mission is a dope, 19-minute stormer of a song. The first part of the song made me recall Amon Duul, 18th Dye and Sonic Youth with a smidgen of Can thrown in for good measure. The song is the perfect balance of muscular drumming and deft guitar playing, cut with a copious assortment of pedal effects. The first part of this song is molten hot and sucked me into its vortex. Part two is the right hook that keeps hitting you in the cranium. The tight beat, sludgy bass and smokin’ guitar was pure bliss for this 48-year-old psych fan. But wait, then the drums start rumbling and we find ourselves catapulted into part-three of this song. As we race towards the event horizon the music takes on a more frenzied pace that made me feel disoriented and detached from reality. This was truly an epic experience that deserves a place among the pantheon of psych-classics. 

Worm Gear begins the second half of the record with a searing, warped, acid-washed throb that engenders a dissociative sense in the listener. The sonic assault is conveyed with a firming intention of pummeling you into an alternate reality. The sonic brutality slashes and burns everything around it and left me imagining how incredible music like this will sound in a live setting once Covid-19 is in the rear-view-mirror. These two songs take up 33-minutes of the album and make it completely worth the 18$ price tag (see the official unboxing video below-Ed). I think this record is a definite must have for any heavy psych fan out there. The stellar playing and song-craft is imbued with a virtuosity and grit that will stand the test of time, whilst providing ample trips away from planet earth. Now if they can only get their namesake, NPR’s Terry Gross to tour with them, that would be a show for the ages.

Jonathan Levitt-December 18, 2020- 4/5 stars

Purchase at the link down below.

Rats On Rafts Excerpts From Chapter 3: The Mind Runs A Net Of Rabbit Paths-Fire Records

Dutch band Rats on Rafts are back with their third full length LP, set to be released on Fire Records on January 29, 2021. This is a full 8 days after the orange clown moves out of The White House and seems the perfect time for an album chock full of wit, spunk and innovation to be released. Calling it a concept album might put some people off, but here this Dutch band, the one that gave us the awesome Tape Hiss show just how keen their analysis of the world is. Tokyo Music Experience perfectly nails the big brother is watching us vibe. The sense we are under surveillance and losing our grounding in reality starts to creep over you. This song grabs hold and feels like being on an acid trip with no way off the merry-go-round. Here the bouncy rhythm and sonics, buttress the pre-programmed nightmarish future the band are alluding to. An absolutely stunning moment.

Then there is Another Year which references the Swell Maps in all their fucked up, isolationist glory. In the space of just over a minute, the band show they’ve really expanded their sonic palette.

Fragments builds on this vibe and immediately made me feel I had been dropped off in some unknown neighborhood smack in the middle of Pudong Shanghai with its gleaming skyscrapers, crass materialism and detachment from reality. Where is my Dream proves a harrowing yet very rewarding sonic experience. The band really know how to ratchet up the tension and sense of unease. A pop song at its core, here the music veers off into a distorted dilaudid haze that references the scream in Pink Floyd’s Careful with That Axe Eugene, and then implodes into a hail storm of warping distortion. This was such a well rendered piece I had to listen to it a few times. On each successive listen, I felt as if a secret code was being revealed to me. Part Two: Crossing the Dessert is another epic stunner with its sonic barrage. Here the band slay everything in its path. The deftness of the playing, the paranoid singing and harsh production stretched over a giddy up beat, gave this reviewer a psychological workout that I hadn’t expected. Completely scary and intense this record should come with a warning label that it only be administered during the day. Proceed at your own risk because as the legendary band Hawkwind once said via Michael Moorcock:

Do not waste time blocking your ears
Do not waste time seeking a sound proofed shelter
Try to get as far away from the sonic source as possible

Do not panic, do not panic, do not panic!


(purchase the record using this link)

Jonathan Levitt, December 13, 2020 , 4.5/5

Cloud Seeder-The Sea of Alexander Von Humboldt-Lather Records

Prepare yourself for a killer cosmic journey because Cloud Seeder who are comprised of Roger Kunkel, Dave Thompson and Steve Edberg, come out guns-a-blazing on their sophomore record. This is some bad ass psych rock that manages to coax the cobra from its basket on numerous moments throughout all 12-tracks. In that Shadow Part One opens the album with a blistering funky soul surfing jam that has so many cool things going on at the same time. Here the keyboards, the spoken sound sample, the organic fluidity of the playing, left me hoping it would go on forever. Maria on the Moon, is a beautiful moody piece that shows off Roger Kunkel’s trance inducing lyrical guitar playing. I love how the song spins down into a sonic haze as if we have lost the signal and are nearing interstellar space. Caprinae reminds this drug-addled listener of Pink Floyd’s, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Here Cloud Seeder have taken their production skills to the next level, making me believe it’s 1967 instead of 2020. Laughing Gas is the perfect song to play on some lonely stretch of New Mexico Highway situated between nothing and not much else. Here I am reminded of ex-Spacemen-3 blokes The Darkside and their song She Don’t Come. The playing is exceptional all around and once again for those who love psychedelic music the song stretches out into a menacing fury and never lets up (Vincent Price cackle and all). Buckminster begins with a jazzy riff and then morphs into a Bill Frisell/ Ginger Baker type jam, that is warped and unsettling and helps set the stage for the second half of the record.

Infectious Agent is a sinister pulsating jam that rips and snorts its way towards a fiery death. This is just simply too cool for school. 牛逼! Headcharge reminds me of a narcotic-informed jam from Torch of the Mystics by The Sun City Girls. Here Kunkel and crew let things unfurl over what feels like a long-lost soundtrack to a cult 60’s road movie. The Great Departure is a fascinating song that is cut up into several distinct sections that builds to a ferocious peak and then spins down into a unsettling off axis moan. The Absence of Small Fish bounces and chugs with a glorious sonic melange squeaking and squelching in the background. It’s as if we’ve tuned into some short wave radio broadcast that is only clear for a few minutes then gets inundated in a flood of white noise. This has transient random waves with announcements in spades. I love every little flourish, from the tiniest bleep and bloop to the wide open production to the exploratory nature of the music. The record closes with In that Shadow Part Two which provides a positive end to a record that dumps the listener out somewhere familiar yet unknown. Even though I loved the first album this record completely outshines that one on so many levels. The playing here is a joy to behold. The compositions are unique and filled with the unexpected which are nourishment for the body and soul. This is one of the finest musical statements I’ve heard this year.


This record needs to be released on vinyl because the vibe of the music, the artwork, the whole package are deserving of it.(Get a kickstarter going boys!ED)

by Jonathan Levitt-5/5 stars- December 8, 2020

James Johnston / Steve Gullick – We Travel Time – God Unknown Records

Back in 1998 I was utterly transfixed by the film The Sweet Hereafter directed by Atom Egoyan. The insular community, the tragic bus accident, the harsh landscape and the questioning of what justice is and if it really matters when you can’t (in this case) bring back a townful of children. At around the same time I was also very much into the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man where protagonist William Blake had to shed his demure persona whilst being ushered into increasingly more difficult situations and decisions, before finally being cast adrift in a Native American funerary canoe. I mention these two films because James Johnston and Steve Gullick are both wonderful visual artists in their own right. Steve is a stellar rock photographer, and James a brilliant painter who I’ve followed now for several years. It is with this record that the two have created something utterly compelling and magical. To sum it up It’s a soundtrack begging to be paired with a film. So let’s get into it. 

First Light is beautiful and melancholic with layers of violin stretched over the sound of the ocean, squealing strings and the occasional seagull.  Then there’s Blue Rider which turned my eyes into a camera panning across the dusty horizon focusing on the faint image of a man on horseback, heading off into the painted desert, the sound of his voice commanding his stallion wafting occasionally on the breeze and then as quickly as I catch sight of him he vanishes. Here the tension of the guitar, violin and harmonica combined with Johnston and Gullick’s, mournful, harmonized vocals stay just long enough to make their point and then dissipate into the ether, making me question if what I’d just witnessed was simply a mirage.  Gullick really shines on the track Poised to Fall which finds us hitting the trail in search of revenge and redemption. He sings “For the broken speech, for the harsh belief, for the blood that’s spilled” truer words were never spoken as we inch our way towards inevitability.  Stormy Sea foreshadows the second half of the album and is an unsettling number that hints at a foreboding future.  The tense and brooding Big Star Falls, is the moment we stop and stare up at the sky questioning the path we’ve taken and yet we understand that we are being lured onwards towards some unclear fate. Swing Me is the questioning of one’s motivation. You stare into the abyss with nothing reflected back, while the tendrils of violin, plucked guitar and organ curl and eddy around you amplifying the pain in your heart. We Sail conjures images of a stormy ocean with the sound of a bell buoy off in the distance, life must now lead you across the water for a reckoning. Will you have the will to face what’s waiting on the other side? The beautifully layered vocals were completely unexpected and left me with some hope as they faded away. 

I am so impressed by this record and its ability, in often very short pieces, to summon the emotion that it did. Not many records these days have the ability to conjure up such vivid imagery. But I think overarchingly the album is very keyed into the often competing emotional forces that swirl within all of us and the fact that nature is continually contending with itself. It’s an important questioning of life at this juncture.  

Jonathan Levitt Dec. 5 2020 Rating 4.5/5

Photo by Steve Gullick