Chart Peak: 14
It's a sad fact of life that the Inspiral Carpets are probably fated to be remembered chiefly for haricuts, having a stupid name and the fact that one of their roadies later formed Oasis; although on what seems the opposite end of the North-West indie spectrum, they were also the band who got Mark E Smith onto Top Of The Pops.
When they're remembered at all for their music, it's largely for this song (although the one I have the strongest recollection of is actually 'Saturn V'), their first and longest-running Top 40 single and the only one immortalised by Now compilers. I don't really remember when I first heard this song, except that it probably wasn't in 1990 and that I wasn't immediately impressed by it. It took years for me to appreciate just how effectively this record captures a despondent and dark mood, not the sort of extravagant rage or depression that's commonplace in music, but the sort of unfathomable stew of despair conjured by the key opening lyric "Husband don't know what he's done/Kids don't know what's wrong with Mum". She probably doesn't know either.
There are two different lyrics for the second verse "There's a funeral in the town/Some guy from the top estate/Seems they found him under a train/And yet he had it all on a plate" or "Black car drives through the town... Left a note for a local girl..."; presumably the latter is intended to be more radio-friendly by making the suicide references less explicit, but I think it's the version I prefer anyway because it seems to fit in with the vague quality of the rest of the lyric, which is really about what people don't - or can't - say, not what they do. The band support this brilliantly with a low-key soundscape, Clint Boon's keyboards avoiding the gimmicky use they're sometimes put to and adding to the doomy air. At the risk of sounding like a regional stereotype, you can almost feel the rain. And despite all the above, perhaps the most impressive thing of all is that I really enjoy hearing this track.
I can't claim to have been among the people who rushed to buy the first Inspirals album, Life (kept off Number One by The Carpenters) but I did later obtain a secondhand copy for the princely sum of 50p, textured sleeve and all. None of the rest matches this, but I'm glad I had it. It's claimed that Noel Gallagher is part of the chorus of backing singers on this track: if so contributing to this evocative piece might have some claim to be the greatest work of his career.
Available on: Greatest Hits
Charting 1997: 27th December
4 years ago