Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The Herbaliser Band
Camden Jazz Café
Friday December 12

WhoreCull was last here enjoying the retro-funk of Tru Thoughts’ Quantic Soul Orchestra. Ninja Tunes’ Herbaliser band have many similarities to Will Holland’s adventures back in time, a multi-piece live band taking on instrumental studio hip-hop for instance.

Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba’s foray into live funk, first heard on the album Something Wicked This Way Comes, is the more adventurous of the two. Though many of the guitar licks, brass stabs and rhythm breaks are as pure JBs as QSO, Teeba uses the decks as an extra instrument and there are more breakdowns, manic breaks and fresher riffs that seem to make concessions to our actual post-rave culture. The flutist would add those often annoying acid jazz licks, yet the alto and baritone sax solos echoed the free improvisation of artists like Ornette Coleman. Indeed alto sax Chris Bowden was the star of the show, if there are any NME journos out there looking for icons.

Having first been beguiled by their sound at Glastonbury 2001, despite being 50m away and at the time none the wiser as to who they were, to see them [in rather less pharmaceutical thrall] perform in a nitty-gritty gig venue and still rock the crowd was, indeed, something wicked.

Female UK rapper Wildflower appeared for the second encore. No need for rhyming en masse when the ‘instrumentals’ are so engaging. Brighton bad-boy DJ Format came on and played some hip-hop. With the bass welcomingly high up in the mix, the party carried on.

“You can’t put a price on enjoyment”, glib fuckers will tell you. “Come on mate, just have a drink and a laugh,” others will opine. Sorry, twenty sheets for an hour of live funk and optional hip-hop in a sweaty den is a disgrace. And if we are beginning to see the first signs of a grassroots revolt against the ridiculous prices for football matches (well my Dad’s trying to get something going), I see no reason why similar movements can’t be started in other entertainments. OK, these would be no attempts at system overthrow, but regulation of rip-off culture would at least show that the droogs are capable of basic activism.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Inspiral Carpets
5 December
Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Back there in the late ’80s/early ’90s, while we still had some choice of our lifestyle without feeling like a virtual market commodity, football and music synthesised. If you were lucky enough, in places like Oldham you had a team and a band to be proud of like never before. Wearing your heart on your sleeve, because that’s what blokes of a certain persuasion do, was augmented with a big jokey cow symbol. Cool as fuck!

The times, the optimism, the drugs (Inspirals were never that keen) and the music have moved on since. Oldham is more usually in the headlines for its BNP presence and race riots, while the Greater Manchester profile is now focused on places like Bolton, with the self-deprecation of various Kays, or Wigan, with its post-Verve meaningful rock.

It is appropriate now that Inspiral Carpets, who while the Roses and Mondays were proselytising a new chemical world of possibility, were peddling organ-led, 60s-style kitchen-sink tales, have now taken their place on the retro circuit. We all know they imploded in various ways, and who would have thought that the Charlatans, from an even further-flung northwest outpost, would emerge as the people’s champions (well, not in Manchester)?

But that still couldn’t prepare me for the quality of those golden oldies or the genuine lad-rapture with which they were received. Even post-peak nuggets like Generation and Dragging Me Down were fervently greeted with mass ‘Moos’, the atmosphere at times appropriating the beery near-chaos of a terrace celebration. And it felt great to hear the heavyweights – Joe, Move, This Is How It Feels, She Comes In The Fall, Sackville, the obligatory cover of ? And the Mysterians’ 96 Tears – again. It reminded you that the Inspirals were famous for a lot more than allowing Noel Gallagher to roadie for them. If it hadn’t been for that dreadful second album.

People were smiling inanely, there was none of that blasé bollocks that goes with watching new bands, who in spite of our search for the New all sound like old bands anyway. So with the happiness quotient so clear, the only thing for ‘culling’ is the shameless retro culture that keeps such bands alive. At least it wasn’t ‘Inspiral Cowpats’ or some such other tribute band.

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