Review Summary: An album forgotten with time, emerging in promise.
Britpop was huge, perhaps the biggest movement in English music history, which is bizarre as it was a heavily inconsistent genre built upon poppy hooks and sing-along singles. To say the least, it’s a dividing genre, I know a lot of people who absolutely adore it and I know a lot of people who absolute despise it, mostly for the same reasons. If there’s any common ground in Britpop it would be Mansun. I suppose calling Mansun common ground is perfectly apt for a band describe by some as Britpop and by others as Progressive Pop. Both are neither true nor false, they aren’t completely immature in sound but they don’t fail to keep their music fun. On the switch side, they don’t try too hard to make their music ‘creative’, instrumentally carried, up their own arse 10 minute masterpieces – they do it in 5.
Attack of The Grey Lantern was released in 1997, a time in which Britpop was dying slowly as bands like Blur and Pulp went on to create more Art-Pop sounding music, delving away from their usual catchy formulas. With this, bands like Radiohead claimed their place atop of the worn-out English throne, making a huge name of themselves with back to back acclaimed releases. To cut the story short, Mansun’s timing was poor, you wouldn’t think this upon release as they debuted at the top of the chart, spending 19 long weeks on it. However, the album is now sat upon a cabinet of 90s albums forgotten with time which is a shame. This is probably due to releases such as OK Computer being so hugely acclaimed; Mansun struggled to stay in the limelight even despite making an album as original and adventurous as the previously mentioned. Who knows what albums we could have seen created from inspiration if this album was bigger, Attack is as inspired as an album can get and I’d be surprised if it failed to move artists.
The main single from the album was ‘Wide Open Space’ which went on to be Mansun’s biggest single and is probably the only song that the majority of casual music fans in the 90s would be able to remember from the band (deservedly so too). Wide Open Space is a fantastically written single; it’s the sort of spacey pop song that becomes absolute bliss when listened through earphones. The song has a unique claustrophobic sound that gives it a bleak mysterious vibe, but a captivating one. It was the best choice at single, because despite the creativity in sound, it’s probably the most accessible song on the album and a good representation of what you’ll get throughout the entire hour of listening. I’d go as far to say that the song is a representation of all of Mansun’s aims within the album itself, it is almost story-like in lyrics and the song shines where the album does, with classic production and a strangely catchy hook surrounded by heavy instrumentation. It’s an ambitious song.
If there’s one word to describe Mansun, It is definitely ambitious – You can see this straight from the get go with the soft orchestration opening of ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’ which fades within Alt Rock and Shoegaze throughout, with the production allowing for the vocals to be swallowed whole in a beautiful mess of jangly guitars and harsh drumming. The chaotic nature of the song builds up throughout the first verse allowing for a religious journey of being transcended within the song, only to be brought back to reality with the beautifully progressive chorus. This song then fades into a seductive, almost dance like alterative number which sounds like an awful idea on paper, but due to the pure spirit of the album it somehow works. Throughout the entire album there are many of these contrasting sounds which should completely fall flat, but they never do, instead the album is filled to the brim with beautiful melodies that float through the ears in absolute delight through different scenes and scenarios, in lyrics and in terms of sound. That’s one of the main reasons that this album stands out well above all of its contemporary’s, even despite borrowing aspects from a multitude of bands. There is never a moment of repetitiveness as every song on the album delves into a new territory and somehow, it impressively flows as a cohesive album.
If I had to pick a fault within the album, in which there is very few, It would be that with the utter brilliance of the first half of the album, the second half feels slightly worsened. It’s not bad by any means, I’d even go as far as to say that it’s great, It just happens to be that almost all of my favourite songs are situated between ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’ and ‘Stripper Vicar’ of which I’d argue all are perfect songs. There are classic moments within the next 6 songs still though, notably, the hidden bonus tracks at the end of Dark Mavis which sees the band delving into the forgotten concept of the album explaining why it was scrapped in one of the slower moments on the album (“the lyrics aren't supposed to mean that much, they're just a vehicle for a lovely voice”). ‘She Makes My Nose Bleed’ is another one of these latter songs that make the album feel significantly more complete, with a stadium friendly belter of a song that feels completely necessary.
This album is akin to a classic movie, it captures and compels you from the start with its first scenes setting the situation, then it carries you throughout an hour of fascinating characters (Mavis, The Vicar) and brilliance in an art form, finally it then leaves you completely satisfied at the end confirming that you have indulged in something worth your time. Unlike a movie, however, I don’t feel completely wrong with revisiting it every week or so. I also can’t actually see it, which is a shame because who wouldn’t love to see that Stripper Vicar “gagged and bound in stockings and suspenders”.