Band: Inspiral Carpets
Album: Life
Year: 1990
Label: Mute
Status: Still going
This is a story of unhappy lives, misunderstandings and lack of communication, and a desire for escape that will not be realised. Who said the Inspiral Carpets, so much part of the late 1980s Madchester scene, were just psychedelic organs and hippy guitars?

This song was their first top 20 single (and the album it came from reached no 2 in the UK). This Is How It Feels and Saturn 5 remain two of their most well-known and appreciated songs. Why is that?

Maybe we identify with the simple chorus: this is how it feels to be lonely, to be small. The final line is often misheard as “This is how it feels when your work means nothing at all” and can be internalised and appropriated as a truth by all alienated McJob workers.

The video showed the band on desolate moors, windswept, grey, cold, wet. It’s grim up north, eh? Despite the psychedelic bit in the middle (this was the 90s) the video is reminiscent of search parties. It ends with night, torches going out, people swallowed by darkness. Not your usual upbeat pop song. It’s interesting that there are two versions of this song. The original version has a line that implies a suicide caused by depression; for the radio version this was changed to something more ambiguous, about a note left for a local girl. Knowing the lyrics of both versions aids in interpreting the song. A song entrenched in memory, with a chorus that speaks to us all.

Extract from page 211 of 2000 Tunes: A History of Manchester Music by M. H. Rees; used with permission. Read the whole series (25 extracts) here; or my summary post. Readers might be interested in my forthcoming novel about a man obsessed with Manchester music - confusingly, it is also called 2000 Tunes!