I had an abundance of choice ahead of me in London on an autumnal Saturday night. Brix and the Extricated were playing at the wonderful Lexington, with a plethora of special guests and a live album in the offing. Another of this year’s young British jazz stars, the Ezra Collective, we’re playing the not so wonderful Roundhouse, home of the crappy sightlines and an even worse PA system.
And yet here I am at the Spice of Life, a long-established venue on the edge of Soho, next to whatever the latest theatrical Harry Potter extravaganza is.
Carpet brings me here. Almost two years since I last saw them in their back yard in Macclesfield, they’re headlining their debut show in the Smoke.
What have they been doing in the meantime?
They’ve honed their songwriting skills. Not for them, some wishy-washy Coldplay-lite balladeering. These new songs are energetic, forceful and characterful. Most importantly, they are damned hooky too.
There are two other things that they’ve been working hard on. Firstly with the help of Gavin Monaghan at Magic Garden studios in Wolverhampton, they’ve got themselves comfortable with the studio environment. Gavin’s been a mainstay of the Midlands’ music scene for the last 25 years and Carpet were clearly in good hands. They’ve just released a four-track EP, Floored, which represents a quantum leap from their earlier demos. This isn’t unexpected. When you are a bunch of callow 16-year-olds rehearsing in bedrooms and garages, getting sonic perfection isn’t the goal. Two years on, they’ve hit the grand old age of 18 and can produce songs that are musically rich with texture and depth, but also not with unnecessary gimmickry and studio trickery.
The final piece of the 2019 jigsaw is stagecraft. Off the bat, the Spice of Life set was all original material. Their gigs in the early days were skilful covers that revealed some of their musical DNA but pointed toward where they were from, not where they were going.
The band have also matured and are much more confident in a live environment. To think this is their first gig in London, they were not phased by closing the bill on a Saturday night in the heart of the West End.
This bodes well for next year’s challenges which start with the next round of the Glastonbury Pilton Stage competition in January, where the band have made it through to the last 25. There’s a battle of the bands type affair to come and then fingers crossed for a Glastonbury debut next June.
It’s a shortish set at the Spice of Life- all killer, no filler. Opening with the spiky The Last Thing I Want to Hear and All in Good Time, the band’s technical improvement in the last two years was evident. The guitar interplay is sharper, the rhythm section is more on point. We have new songs Step Back and Spilt Milk showing that this is a band that are still writing and growing. The single Both Feet was the clear crowd-pleaser.
My personal favourite is Facades. Whilst I love it as it stands, I’d happily bung the band a bit of dosh to re-record it with a horn section. I think the addition of a Teardrop Explodes/Reward would add some magic dust on to what is already a fantastic song.
The band have some end of year gigs lined up back in Cheshire and more plans for 2020. Let’s hope the stars align for them as there is clearly huge potential.
- Both Feet
- Step Back
- Spilt Milk
- Every Shade of Blue (She Still Wears Black)
- Rocky IV
PS – if you like what you hear, please purchase the Floored EP from Bandcamp here. Much better than streaming in terms of revenue for the artists, plus the Bandcamp App is great too.
A couple of brief notes on the support bands.
First up were Bought It For The Bottle, a clean-cut four-piece. Funky Fender rhythms and fizzy melodies – think Two Door Cinema Club or Friendly Fires.
Second on the bill were Project Culture, another young foursome. Bedding in two new members with not too many growing pains, they were a little spikier. All original material, with the exception of an Arctic Monkeys cover, the band were a little more experienced with an album available on Bandcamp. I’ve downloaded it, donated a couple of quid and look forward to giving it a listen.