Self-recorded in the final three days of 1987, the sessions that became Dung 4 were originally intended to result in a debut full-length for this iconic Oldham, Greater Manchester-formed, '60s garage-influenced indie act. At the time, momentum was building following local support slots with former Creation act the Bodines, a pre-Playing with Fire Spacemen 3, and a Stone Roses lineup that had already released "Sally Cinnamon." Then, when Inspiral Carpets decided to re-record some of the material here for 1988's Plane Crash EP, John Peel picked its lead track "Keep the Circle Around" to open his BBC Radio 1 show and the goalposts immediately shifted. Next, lead singer Stephen Holt and bassist David Swift each left the band for personal reasons, before a run of singles featuring their replacements -- Tom Hingley and Martyn Walsh -- hit the U.K. indie charts in 1989. Available that May for a limited time on cassette, at gigs and via mail order, Dung 4's 8,000 copies were long gone by the time Life -- their debut album proper -- was pipped to the U.K. number one spot in 1990. This reissued, expanded edition of Dung 4 benefits from remastered sound, represents the first time these recordings have appeared on CD and vinyl and includes the added bonus of May 1987's Cow demo. With the Seeds' "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" and the Velvets' "What Goes On" making appearances in live sets during the original Holt era, it's no surprise that the raw, primitive nature of these 4-track recordings was a perfect fit for the band's initial garage rock aspirations. Also, if the sole cover included here -- ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" -- was a template for what Inspiral Carpets wanted to be, the original material that sits alongside it is filled with the character that made the band unique. Throughout, Graham Lambert's tasteful, less-is-more approach to guitar dovetails Clint Boon's shrill and airy Farfisa organ, which seems to have the wind from the Saddleworth Moor behind it. Swift's bass occasionally finds that JJ Burnel-inspired, treble-filled tone that Walsh would also later settle on. Add to the mix drums from a 16-year-old, hip-hop-obsessed Craig Gill and unmistakably Lancastrian vocals from Holt and Boon and it's fair to say that not many other bands sounded like this in 1987. There's an enigmatic quality to tracks such as "Causeway" and "26" (the latter available here for the first time in any form) that bear many repeated listens, but what's really apparent here is that the Inspirals were a pop band from the outset. "Garage Full of Flowers" is as punchy and immediate as anything in their catalog, and could have been a successful single in its own right, and while Dung 4 and the earlier Cow demo may not have been as dynamic as Life, they certainly crystallized that feeling of the sun creeping out from the clouds that their Manchester scene contemporaries also managed to capture in the years that ensued.
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AllMusic Review by James Wilkinson