23 Nov 2011
Mansun - Beginner's Guide
Named after a Verve B-Side 'A Man Called Sun', Mansun were one of the most ambitious and interesting bands to emerge from the ashes of brit-pop. Releasing a bunch of singles before their first album came out, it was immediately apparent that Mansun were unique among contemporary British guitar bands of the time. Blur and Oasis were the big UK bands of the time with their updating of the Kinks & Beatles sounds respectively, so for a band seemingly more informed by Magazine style post-punk and progressive rock to knock Blur off the top of the English album charts was a pretty big thing. Like the Smiths before them, Mansun put out a huge amount of music in a very short space of time, and their E.P's were an embarrassment of riches, more often than not containing music as good or better than anything that made it on to their albums. unfortunately record company pressure and personnel problems meant it wasn't to last, but they leave behind a quality legacy.
Attack of the Grey Lantern - Their first album is a song cycle about a superhero, and contains some absolute classics ( Taxlo$$, Stripper Vicar etc ). The 3 CD deluxe version includes all of the b-sides and E.P tracks from the era,including the first Mansun song I ever heard ( Lemonade Secret Drinker from an old Q magazine compilation ) as well as some wonderful acoustic versions and is absolutely essential.
Mansun - Taxloss
Six - Abandoning the Ray Davies style character vignettes of the previous album, Six is a dark, sprawling prog rock concept album and one of my favourite albums of the nineties. The story itself is pretty impenetrable in the tradition of all the best rock operas, but the music is inspired. Pink Floyd meets the Police is probably the easiest way of describing the sound here. This requires a lot of work to get into, but is the most rewarding item in their catalogue. Lazy journalists at the time of release treated this fairly poorly expecting a carbon copy of the first album, but since when was progress a bad thing? Can't wait for a deluxe edition of this album.
Little Kix - After the critical and commercial failure of Six, Parlophone stepped in and demanded a more commercial, singles orientated batch of songs and that's exactly what they got. Much more accessible and catchy, but lacking a little in depth this is Mansun's weakest album and their last. Still enjoyable, but some of the best songs from these sessions ended up as b-sides ( Golden Stone etc. ).
Kleptomania - This 3 CD set is a fanboys dream. It includes the almost completed fourth album, abandoned when the band split. This is a major step up from Little Kix and a godsend for fans. There's also a disc of the band's best B-sides, as voted for by fans which as a stand alone album would only be beaten by Six in my opinion as their best release. A third disc is full of demos, outtakes and rarities and while the least interesting disc in the set still has a lot to offer.
Legacy - The Best of - The inevitable label cash-in is actually a pretty great starting point for those wanting to know what made Mansun tick. Some versions include a DVD with all of their video clips as well.