Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mansun Discography Part Six: Attack Of The Grey Lantern

Finally! After five increasingly good EPs, Mansun's debut album was relesed on the 17th February 1997. Ten years ago. I am old. It went straight into the UK album charts at number one, the first number one placing for any release by the band on a national pop chart. I think its a great if flawed (in hindsight; when it came out i was utterly obsessed) record that for some reason reminds me of a 90s Kinks album, featuring as it does a loose narrative connecting the bizarre inhabitants of an English village/town. I say loose because this was indeed the band's intention, but sequencing priorities and time pressures meant that it doesn't really have a concept or story as such; there's just a feeling that inhabitants the piece and makes it feel a little more fun and less just a bunch of songs chucked out to fill up a record.

We open with Chad Who Loved Me, which of course namechecks the bands guitarist, and starts out with a really nice John Barry-like orchestral theme that creates a nice mood of expectancy and drama to proceedings. The band launch into it after a few minutes, and from the get-go it's great stuff. Lovely distorted vocal, psych guitar arpeggios, slashing string sections, etc. The 'You're a desperate icon' was commandeered for many a Manics fan-style DIY tshirt (Mansun fans did indeed crossover a bit with the Manics obsessives fanbase wise). Chad... is mighty stuff, a great start. Mansun's Only Love Song is just as good, as the name suggests its a bit more ballady, but its too loud to ever get boring; Chad's guitar tone is joyous. I'm not too keen on the atmospheric faux-dance stuff in the last minute though. Badness. Taxloss is up next; a decent song though the video was always better, it's probably actually my least favourite early singles of theirs. They sound too much like scousers. To be more accurate it sounds like horrific britpop chancers Space. It also does NOT need to last for seven bloody minutes. You, Who Do You Hate? is better, very underrated actually. Mostly acoustic, then launches into a chorus that for some reason reminds me of Ten era Pearl Jam. Must be the guitar tone. Very nice vocals throughout. Wide Open Space next; perfect as ever, then Stripper Vicar, which brings the pace up a bit and gets the momentum going at the mid-point.

Disgusting is rather an odd one. Pink Floydy guitar drones, odd Adam Ant-esque drum beats, muffled vocal, then into a clean higher vocaled chorus. Rather eighties, but the tone is moody enough to get away with it. Nose Bleeds follows, then the super super good Naked Twister, which is far better than the silly title suggests. A little long, but it doesnt matter when Egg Shaped Fred follows it and brings the tempo up again. The final track proper is Dark Mavis, which seems to share the string section from the album opener, and is a rather good end to the faux-narrative. One of those 'time to go to sleep' end of film album closers, with a final bit of anthemic melodrama and a bunch of resigned melancholia. Which leads us to an A Day In The Life-ish orchestral blasty fade out bit. A few minutes later and we get a re-release of the sublime Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter, which (if you'd been trying to work out some sort of narrative in the lyrics), reminds you that 'the lyrics mean nothing'. Those silly Mansun men. Overall? A great album, slightly dated, but a lot more listenable and exciting than albums by more successful indie bands of the time (Charlatans, post-good Verve).

Mansun - Chad Who Loved Me
Mansun - Disgusting


Blogger iforwardhamish said...

do you happen to have the impending collapse of it all? it was a b-side on the legacy cassette single, and try as i might i cannot find it anywhere!

12:59 am, January 08, 2008  
Blogger holgate said...

Disgusting is rather an odd one.

I think there's a hint of Dusk-era The The, and not just the Matt Johnson-esque treated vocals.

I'd make the comparison to XTC/Squeeze elsewhere, rather than The Kinks, but there's all sorts of ventriloquism going on from Mr Draper, which is all to its benefit.

When people were talking about the tenth anniversary of Be Here Now (ugh) Urban Hymns (semi-ugh) and OK Computer, I delved into the YouTube stuff for Mansun, and reminded myself why I keep coming back to Attack.

So I'll disagree with you: ten years on, to my ears it hasn't aged at all. Not a bit. You could put it out today.

And nothing tops that intro when looking back on that particular slice of music history -- including Ladies And Gentlemen, which is another keeper.

3:47 pm, January 09, 2008  
Blogger Harrison (from Harrison Galaxy) said...

cool review Jamie, you blogged this around the same time as I heralded my thoughts (, judging by your blog overall, your tastes are more guitary and less mainstream than mine, but lovely to see some glorious pop overlapping here!

12:44 pm, March 05, 2008  

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