Posts Tagged ‘Mansun’

Fierce Panda Records – 2nd July 2021 

Blackpool’s Jekyll – like so many up-and-coming bands – have seen their momentum, largely driven by hard-gigging to build a grassroots fanbase, hit a brick wall since last March, but their first release of 2021 looks set to launch them on a huge leap forward, not least of all because it comes with the backing of cult indie label Fierce Panda.

On first listen, it seems like a palatable mid-pace indie-rock anthem, but even before the fade, it becomes apparent that there’s more to it than that.

The story goes that ‘Tear Ourselves in Two’ was initially conceived to counter-balance one of Jekyll’s earlier tracks ‘Mania’ (which comes on like the criminally underrated and much-missed The Cooper Temple Clause) and it’s hard to resist the urge to make some reference to them as a band with two sides to their musical personality, but that would be obvious and rather lame. Oops, I did it again.

As ‘The Wounds We’ve Ignored’ demonstrated, Jekyll don’t only dig Muse, but dig deep emotionally and touch some pretty uncomfortable spots, and this is no exception. The lyrically dark ‘Tear Ourselves In Two’ has hints of many other songs, all stitched seamlessly together to conjure a simultaneous sense of familiarity and familiarity and freshness – as you struggle and strive to dredge the depths of your memory to decipher what it is it reminds you of, you come to realise that ultimately it doesn’t matter. Then again, on maybe the third or fourth listen – and it’s that much of an earworm, it hits that it’s a bit Pulp meets Mansun meets The Cinematics – and that their knack for bold, string-swept audiography is immensely powerful.

‘Tear Ourselves In Two’ is, quite simply, a corking tune and one that just gets better with every play.

28th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In recent weeks, there have been features in certain quarters of the media on the death of the band, led by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine proclaiming there ‘aren’t any bands any more’, and outlets like The Guardian supporting the claim by noting ‘if you look at the numbers, he’s right’, substantiating this with the statistics: ‘Whichever metric you use, the picture is clear. Right now, there are only nine groups in the UK Top 100 singles, and only one in the Top 40. Two are the Killers and Fleetwood Mac, with songs 17 and 44 years old respectively, while the others are the last UK pop group standing (Little Mix), two four-man bands (Glass Animals, Kings of Leon), two dance groups (Rudimental, Clean Bandit) and two rap units (D-Block Europe, Bad Boy Chiller Crew). There are duos and trios, but made up of solo artists guesting with each other. In Spotify’s Top 50 most-played songs globally right now, there are only three groups (BTS, the Neighbourhood, and the Internet Money rap collective), and only six of the 42 artists on the latest Radio 1 playlist are bands: Wolf Alice, Haim, Royal Blood, Architects, London Grammar and the Snuts.’

But this takes a very narrow perspective. Are the charts representative? No. And it should be born in mind that the same debate was happening five or six years ago on online forums as to why there are no bands in the mainstream anymore. People were bemoaning the fact the only bands left are Coldplay and Mumford & Sons, and how rock’s no longer a mainstream force.

What goes around comes around, and for those of us who have been around a bit longer and who have longer memories, the whole reason grunge was such a thrill was because it broke through at a time when the charts had been utterly swamped with lamecore rap and dreadful dance. But with such a fragmented scene now, does the mainstream represent anything other than itself? Arena-filling acts like The Manic Street Preachers and Placebo won’t trouble the charts not because they don’t have an immense fanbase, but because of how charts are calculated and how music is accessed by different generations.

Third Lung may belong to the new generation of streamers, but stylistically belong to the generation before. Just two months on from ‘I A Fire’, Third Lung give us ‘Hold the Line’ as a further showcase of their immense mass-market appeal. And once again, they’ve got epic chorus bolstered by epic production as their signature, and this one really soars.

The piano that’s as integral a part of the rhythm section as the bass and drums is almost buried under a surge of skyward guitars, and while certain aspects of their sound does hint at (early) Coldplay and turn of the millennium ‘bands’, there’s also a 90s alternative slant that points towards the like of Mansun.

Third Lung remind us that it’s possible to be ‘alternative’ or ‘indie’ and still break the charts without being mainstream – and while that seems unlikely at this moment in time, ‘Hold The Line’ is one of those songs that by rights should be an indie classic while also smashing the charts. In the current climate, they6’re unlikely to touch the charts, but ‘Hold The Line’ is a corker, and Third Lung prove that there really are plenty of bands, and good ones, too.

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Fight the Power Records – 1st October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Inego, who hail from Manchester, proclaim to channel ‘some of the city’s finest musical heritage such as New Order, James and Oasis; blending them with other influences that range from Daft Punk to Fleetwood Mac, Phoenix to Chic, and meeting somewhere in the mid-Atlantic to create their own unique brand of anthemic leftfield indie dance rock with pop and disco-funk sensibilities’.

I see ‘disco-funk’ and shudder to my core. I expect the problem is with me, and believe it’s biological or neurological. I don’t have a funky bone on my body, and funky shit all too often fuels an almost unspeakable rage that roars from the core of my being. On calmer days, I just get irritated.

But actually, Inego’s Departures draws on elements that appal, perhaps largely on account of their retro elements, most of which hark back to 80s pop. The production is clean and crisp to the point of near-sterility, and I’m frankly in awe: while many dismiss Duran Duran as vapid and overpolished, there are darker undercurrents to be found in their songs, and the production, as smooth as glass, is something else – and that’s what Inego recreate here.

Opener ‘Je Sais Ce Que Tu Ressens’ has heavy hints of The pet Shop Boys in the mix, and there’s a strong pop sensibility that runs throughout. ‘I Need Your Love’ is unashamedly cheesy, a nagging bass and clean guitar defining the sound, and at its best, Departures sounds like Mansun’s Paul Draper fronting The Psychedelic Furs circa 1982. ‘Can You Feel’ throws some bold, arena-friendly cinematic ambition into the mix, hinting at U2, and maybe later Editors and New Order, specifically amalgamating ‘Ceremony’ with the sound of ‘Republic’.

And so I should absolutely detest he slick groove of ‘Coming Up’, but nostalgia prevents me, hearing, withing its hectic shuffle The Associates, Mansun, Duran Duran. The slower, acoustic-based ‘She Don’t care’ is soulful and sincere, and affecting despite being heavy on the brass.

The bottom line is that this is a really, really good, solid album. It’s not challenging, it’s not contemporary, and it’s got the most overwrought bass and slap bass than anyone’s likely to have heard since Top of the Pops circa 1983. But it’s got songs, and they’ve absolutely nailed the sound and the production.

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Inego Album Artwork

KSCOPE – 8th June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Mansun’s Six stands as one of my favourite albums of all time. It came at a particular time of life and in an era where anything remotely proggy was so out of vogue that it was amazing a major label would even release it. While not nearly as outré by comparison, it’s predecessor and the band’s debut, Attack of the Grey Lantern was a long way out of step with the rest of the indie / Britpop scene. It probably achieved success – and a reputation which has endured remarkably, as this reissue which marks its twenty-first anniversary attests – because of its idiosyncratic nature, rather than in spite of it. Its hitting the top of the charts seems as remarkable now as it did then: it’s a mixed-bag mish-mash of ideas, an oddball half-attempt at a concept album that collects a bunch of singles / EP lead tracks with material that was penned specifically for the all-important debut album. It shouldn’t work. It should never have worked.

It perhaps goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: this is very much one for the fans, and lovely as it is, does come with a whiff of cash-in, especially as it’s not even the first reissue the album’s been subject to. You may be forgiven for thinking the 2010 3-disc ‘collector’s edition’, which gathered all of the B-sides from the various attendant EPs and a bundle of acoustic versions, etc., had it more than covered, especially in the wake of the 2004 3-disc retrospective Kleptomania did a fair job of gathering EP B-sides and rarities alongside the material tat had been in development for the band’s fourth album, which was abandoned prior to completion.

Having kept Six on (albeit infrequent) rotation over the last (mumble) years (being inundated with material for review means I often struggle to find time to listen to my own collection. This has, over time, created a strange separation between music for work and music for pleasure, despite the fact the two very often become one and the same. I would also add that not only have I developed an unquenchable thirst for the new, but my difficult relationship with notions of nostalgia often keeps me away from the albums I played the grooves off in my more formative years, not necessarily because they’re painful or even because they’ve dated, but because they’ve become so ingrained in my psyche, I don’t actually need to hear them for them to be floating around in my head on spontaneous recall), I only revisited Attack of the Grey Lantern a few months back for the first time in a good five years.

From the bond-inspired string intro to ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’ through the brash indie-pop of ‘Egg-Shaped Fred’ to the instant classic that was ‘Wide Open Space’, it still stands up as a great album. The aching, soaring strings and unusual arrangements set something of a template, and if the rolling piano and orchestral layers of ‘Dark Mavis’ sound somewhat cliché in 2018, it’s important to remember that songs simply didn’t sound like this in 97 – and in terms of execution, they remain leagues above of those who attempted to emulate them. It was all in the extraneous and sometimes quite unusual details, the quirks and kinks that Mansun showed themselves to be different.

Did it need remastering? Listening to an MP3 promo doesn’t reveal a world of difference from the original. And that’s ok: there wasn’t anything wrong with the original. It just means that the remastered aspect is perhaps less of a purchase incentive than the additional unreleased material.

The demos are interesting: the drum-machine led version of ‘Dark Mavis’, which borders on goth stands as one of the most ‘in progress’ recordings, although many aren’t radically different from the final versions beyond being a bit rougher. As for the radio sessions… going back to the band’s October 95 Peel session proves informative, and contextualises the ban’s evolution, as well as demonstrating just how rapidly they developed from brash, bratty indie into a different kind of beast altogether. Draper’s at his most nasal and whoopy on ‘Skin Up Pin Up’ and melodic signatures which would resurface in later songs are evident here. Songs like ‘Naked Twister’ are delivered in classic session style – recorded quickly, they’re less polished but more direct than their official studio counterparts. And then there’s the fourth disc, the DVD…

With 21 years elapsed, the timing feels right, and seeing Paul Draper’s solo return being positively received, there’s a sense that the Mansun revival is well under way, and deservedly so. This, however, is unlikely to win any new converts: the mere cost and overwhelming volume of material on a four-disc version of an album is simply beyond the casually interested or the passing fan. Whether it’s satisfying a need or milking the existing fan-base I wouldn’t like to say, but as reissues go, this one is at least comprehensive and well-assembled.

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Mansun - Attack