In today’s synthesizer era, the cheesy wheedle of an electric organ immediately locks a band into rock nostalgia (remember ”96 Tears”?). As one of the psychedelic retro-pop groups currently dominating British charts, Inspiral Carpets features great big organ chords to distinguish itself from such momentary superstars of the Manchester explosion as Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. But that very act of nonconformity marries the quintet to groups of the past.
Life straddles the post-punk present and the psychedelic ’60s with hook-filled songs that liberally quote specific chapters of rock history amid a dense wall of keyboards and guitars. ”Directing Traffic,” for one, mimics the Doors’ sound and lifts a melody from the Electric Prunes’ ”I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”; ”I’ll Keep It in Mind” stresses folky vocal harmonies and inserts an organ solo straight out of a skating rink. While some of Life soars with evocative power, too many of the songs turn on slight ideas or maddeningly inane lyrics. Life isn’t always worth hearing. C+