Mansun Discography Part Four: Four EP - Wide Open Space
Wide Open Space was by far Mansun's most successful single yet, and to this day remains the song that most non-fans associate with the band. That also goes for America, where I think it was their only release to do even half well, mostly due to an interesting video. It was released on two CDs and one 7"/tape in November 1995, and reached number 11 in the UK singles chart. One website tells me that it was later to become a 'baseball anthem' (what on earth?) and that the Perfecto remix was a pretty big club hit at the time. This released also provided us with four new bsides and two acoustic versions of songs from EPs two and one respectively.
It's not exactly hard to tell why WOS was the bands biggest hit to date. It's a classic Britpop era singles, instantly catchy and free of some of the more odd lyrical idiosyncraticities of say, Egg Shaped Fred or Stripper Vicar. Compared to those early singles it also sounds remarkably fresh even now, the production thankfully not too 90s to date it. Perhaps the only thing i'd put against it would be that i've heard it faaaar too many times for it to have any real effect on me (hello Creep! hello A Design For Life!), but really that's my fault and not Mansun's. Note: doesn't that guitar solo sound like it should be on Six? It does. In fact the whole thing is so good that it doesn't really matter that it doesn't have that many different section and lasts four and a half minutes.
Rebel Without A Quilt is the first bside on CD1, and it's definitely one of their best bsides. Definitely reminds me of Magazine, especially in the chorus (Mansun would of course later go on to work with Magazine's Howard Devoto...did I mention that already in another post?). It's midpaced but not boring, lots of minor key angst. Nice falsetto going on too. All round top marks. Vision Impaired, despite a dodgy start, turns into a pretty satisfying Bowie circa Aladdin Sane style rocker, with a great gang style chorus vocal. Short but sweet.
Skin Up Pin Up is an odd one. I think the band wanted it to be a single at the time, and it was notably remixed for inclusion on the Spawn soundtrack, but somehow it just ended up as a bside. The lyrics are a bit off, and it does sound very mid-90s (sort of Adore-era Pumpkinsy without the layers), but it's still pretty much enjoyable, despite it making me think of baggy. Which is never good. It also really really reminds me of other Mansun songs in part... one vocal melody and one guitar lick were definitely reused... so maybe it was a matter of the band leaving this as a bside and taking the bits they liked for future recordings? Who knows. The final new song is The Gods Of Not Very Much, which has some interesting Dave Gilmour style guitar and a great Cure style bass lick at points, but other than tries to do a hundred things at once and doesn't really do anything cohesive. Oh and there's a nice use of discordant horns, which makes me think of post-Kid A Radiohead, but they don't last long enough to add much to the song. Overall slightly forgettable.
Finally we have a few acoustic songs, both versions of tracks from earlier EPs. The version of Moronica is probably better than the electric one; it's beautifully produced and sung, really showing off Draper's vocals well. Unfortunately however the acoustic setting doesn't do much to cover up some of the more obviously bad lyrics. All of the above can also be said for the version of Lemonade Secret Drinker, which is rather divine. Overall? A pretty fantastic EP really, everything is at least competent, and occasionally quite superb. Want some more? Here's the music video. Enjoy.
Mansun - 01 Wide Open Space
Mansun - 02 Rebel Without A Quilt
Mansun - 03 Vision Impaired
Mansun - 04 Skin Up Pin Up
Mansun - 05 The Gods Of Not Very Much
Mansun - 06 Moronica (acoustic version)
Mansun - 07 Lemonade Secret Drinker (acoustic version)