I remember seeing a video for ‘Wide Open Space’, still one of my favourite alltime tracks, which was one of the singles off their first album, ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’. I guess the title appealed to me based on a youth reading comic books. Wide Open Space was a killer track, but all of Attack of the Grey Lantern was masterfully sequenced, had some excellent songs, and an amazing flow. Needless to say I was looking incredibly forward to a second Mansun album back in the day.
I don’t think I was ever in my life as disappointed with a new album of a band I liked as I was with Six. I found it… unlistenable. The record was simply all over the place, way too many techie sounds everywhere, and songs just ended almost right after starting – it was an ADHD dream and I couldn’t wrap my ears around it. I think I left the album for a good two years.
And then one day I gave it another chance. Or, a good fifteen chances. I listened to the album on repeat a whole day. Until things finally started to click into place. The album was still all over the place, but songs started being crystallized out of the swamp. Granted, each track still felt like a cut-and-paste of song ideas, switching between three different songs during one track, repeating bits from other tracks across tracks, and basically just sounding like the work of a madman. But, with repeated listens, a method emerged from the madness.
Of course, it helps that strewn across this disc there are some of Mansun’s best songs – Being a Girl, Special/Blown It and Legacy are adrenalin rollercoaster tracks. But really, it’s the album experience that ties this album together – few other albums so excellently portray what it is like to be an album. And, you know, these days, albums are quickly becoming a lost art.
Yes, the album is still completely crazy. It is out there. I can’t recall off-hand any other album that has felt so strange and alien at the beginning, and still manages to amaze me. It’s by no means my favourite album, but it definitely wins on the amazing turnaround from utter crap to complete genius it’s thrown at me.
(Incidentally, I mentioned this album before in my 30-albums-I-took-to-Spain list.)
I was disappointed (but not as much as when first hearing Six) when my then girlfriend hooked me up with Little Kix, their third album. I was assuming it was going to win me over in the same way as Six, but never did. I completely lost track of them after that. They split right after releasing that album, and Mansun is one of the few bands I really really like that I’ve never been able to see live. I still regret not seeing them, I would definitely have traveled to the island to go see them.
A month ago I learnt that they actually did have quite a bit of output after that last release – apparently they had wrapped up sessions for their fourth album, and released three discs’ worth of material in a box called Kleptomania that I ought to be getting really soon. Pretty impressive – with any luck it’s actually a lot better than Little Kix.
So, by chance someone on last.fm shoutboxed me to get me subcribed to the singer’s blog this week, where he reveals all the secrets about this album and settles many more questions than I ever had about this album.
Three important points I learned from his blog:
- the album really was indeed a piecing together of lots of little song ideas
- amazingly, this whole album was recorded ‘live’ – no after-the-fact Pro Tools editing and splicing. I’ll have to take his word for it, but I would have deemed it impossible from listening to it. Basically, this is one of the final albums of the no-protools-era.
- They did in fact use Pro Tools on this album – but they used it as an instrument. They recorded sounds or bits, tweaked them live in Pro Tools, and played them back through their recording equipment as they mixed it live. So basically, it was also one of the first albums of the protools-era
Also, reading through his entries about each of the tracks makes me even more than in the past want to be the fly on the wall on a recording session of an album – a goal to set for the future I guess…
Seriously, if you love rock music, this album deserves your attention. But it deserves lots of it, or none at all. You need to live in this album for a week and let you win it over. Its rewards can be found through the looking glass, but you need to break on through to the other side.
You know, I think I’m going to listen to Six on repeat for the rest of the week… let’s see if I can get any work done that way!
Thanks, Mansun, for a mindblowing album.
(Update: shit, I found some site that sells a still-‘new’ Kleptomania box set. And of course that site had other stuff I am never able to find, like Catherine Wheel’s Ferment CD because mine is broken. I just splashed out 200 euros on music. Me, a credit card, the internet – a dangerous cocktail)