The era of Britpop is now viewed with a misty-eyed romanticism by the music industry. A golden time for British music, you had the big guns in Oasis and Blur, the critics darlings in Pulp and Kula Shaker, while there was plenty of deadwood (anyone remember Dodgy, for example?). One act though seem to have been handed a bit of tough luck by history, and they are Mansun.
Mansun (not to be confused with Marilyn Manson) were a cracking four piece who shone on the periphery of the scene. Breakthrough hits Wide Open Space and Stripper Vicar were well known, but not to the same extent as peers like Wonderwall and Country House. After the modest success of debut album Attack of the Grey Lantern, they decided to do something that flew in the face of what their chart rivals were doing. While the Gallaghers released “What’s the Story part 2” in Be Here Now, Mansun did something fairly unique; they made a concept album. In doing so, they also tapped into the elusive vein of genius.
Six came out in 1998 to rave reviews, but with no obvious smash singles to sell it, little commercial success. Song lengths ranged from 90 seconds to 10 minutes, while lyrical references to the Marquis de Sade, George Orwell and Richard Rodgers were never going to shift serious units amongst a buying public who were happy enough being told they had to “roll with it”.
Proggy guitar segments, this album had it. Rock covers of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, this had it. Soprano and harpsichord-backed poetry, read by Tom Baker… You guessed it, this album had it.
It’s difficult to know where to start really as a selling point for readers, as it appears that the band themselves hadn’t really thought of one when they created Six. Yes, Legacy was a top 10 single, but that’s like advertising a rainbow using just one of the colours. My personal favourite tracks are 10 minute masterpiece Cancer and the Pixies-esque fast-slow-fast power pop of Special/Blown It, but again that is purely subjective.
The fact that I am still listening to, and raving about, such an album nearly 15 years after it’s release is probably the best sign of it’s place in my heart. My suggestion would be to download the whole album and let it rip, you won’t be disappointed. Even 15 years down the line.
by Harry Harland