Category Archives: I

408. Inspiral Carpets – “Life”

For a brief period in late 1989 and early 1990, I was a card-carrying member of the Madchester mob.

Egged on by NME and RRR’s “New, Used & Abused” programme, I faithfully acquired LPs, 12″s and even t-shirts from a raft of British bands fronted by moptopped types.

While my first love was definitely the Stone Roses lads, the work of The Inspiral Carpets left a greater impression than most of their other contemporaries.

I point the finger of blame at Clint Boon, the guy squelching away on the organ and lifting each track into a more vital and exciting place than they probably would be if solely reliant on the more typical guitars etc.

Having said that, lead singer Tom Hingley has a voice very well suited to this genre, and he plays off against said organ lines very well.

The passage of time has not harmed the aural power of this album, and I’ve relished the revisit… but looking at this video-clip I do question what I was thinking when I thought these guys had some sort of sartorial smarts:

Perhaps they were taking fashion tips from the great Emo Phillips:

File under: Life with a pudding bowl haircut

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407. Icecream Hands – “Broken UFO”

For no clear reason, this album was very unfamiliar when I started playing it a couple of days back.

I presumably bought it in a flurry back in 2002, played it a couple of times and shelved it, never to spin it again.

I’m glad I rediscovered it. There is nothing shockingly new here. Chuck and the lads pump another batch of power pop numbers.

As usual, it’s suitably warm, mid-tempo and guitar-based. The lyrics are clever, with some fun music fan references to Badfinger, James Reyne, and most thrillingly for yours truly, Morphine on Coming after you again. There is also a nice companion piece to The FauvesHot Nairobi Nights in The Diplomat’s Daughter.

As is so often the case with 90s Aussie bands in my collection, this CD seems to reflect a lost opportunity for recognition and success.  These guys had a pop sensibility only tempered by their maturity and lack of danger:

File under: Unforgivably Forgotten Output

406. Icecream Hands – “Sweeter than the Radio”

This is an album with a perfectly apt title.

This is a luscious leap in quality from the Icecream lads.  It envelopes the listener in a sound sadly too absent from the airwaves.

The band isn’t really doing anything new or shocking relative to their prior release.  But, they are executing it so much better.

The songs are warmer, fuller and more contagious. It’s also a music nerd’s delight with several lyrics about bands, about loving songs, and sadly, also about splitting a record collection.

The latter disaster situation has a title (and associated lyric) – Picture Disc From the Benelux – that surely only a long-time record store clerk (lead singer Jenkins was a fixture at the sadly departed Gaslight Records) would pen.

Said tune is a fantastically constructed upbeat number, and this album has several coulda-shoulda-been hits (Dodgy, Yellow and Blue). These are matched with more moody numbers (e.g. Gasworks Park), that in combination place this band in the territory of other retro-ish power poppers such as The Liquor Giants.

I wonder whether Jenkins is also a Seinfeld fan with his sneaky tune about an accidently-exposed nipple:

File under: It twiddles my dials

405. Icecream Hands – “Memory Lane Traffic Jam”

Icecream Hands seem to have always been around the Melbourne music scene.

Purveyors of a power pop with roots in the work of those Beatles guys (amongst others), and similar in sound (at times) to Weezer, my sense is that the band never achieved anywhere near the success levels they might have deserved.

Indeed, there are fellow Melbourne bands of the power-pop ilk, such as Even and Snout, who I suspect shifted substantially more units than the ‘Iceys’ in the mid-late 90s.  Perhaps it was the persistence with a two-word name that held them back (although that didn’t seem to hurt Big Star).

Anyway, to the CD itself. It’s a well-engineered, well-written and well-executed excursion into the somewhat jangly power-pop world.  Chuck Jenkins has an ideal warm voice for the genre.

The songs are somewhat delicate and take a little time to open up to the listener.  There are no big washes of guitar or killer riffs to grab the attention, nor any massive swings in tempo.  Alas, there aren’t really any super memorable choruses either.

I’m pretty sure this was their full-length debut, and it was a nice entrée into their world, but not a slam dunk in any way.  But, I was willing to persist…

File under: Promising roads ahead

404. Abdullah Ibrahim – “Best of…”

This was a very thoughtful Xmas present from wife’s Aunt when we were last in South Africa.

Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) is a legend of the South African jazz scene (despite living in exile for much of his career), a pianist and composer of the highest order.

This compilation is certainly great value, with 10 tracks totalling more than 75 minutes airtime. The works are all instrumental, built most often around tenor saxophone or piano, with limited supplementary orchestration.

As you’ve probably deduced, I am a jazz philistine. But I know what I like, and I like what I hear here (hmm, that sentence developed a rather Dr Seuss feel towards the end!).

This is a perfect soundtrack to a breezy, warm day… a day with a few storm clouds brewing, but which seems to work out well in the end.

The highlight of the album, is Ibrahim’s signature tune, the epic 13 minute+ Mannenburg. Here’s a taste of it:

Good jazz makes you feel cool, in the way that a leather biker jacket and slick haircut did for the Fonz.  This album delivers.

File under: On the money