mercoledì 10 novembre 2010

Mansun "Six"













Ebbene si, ho odiato questo disco. Al primo ascolto rimasi sconvolto. Fors mi aspettavo una copia del primo disco e questa mistura di prog rock mi aveva profondamente deluso.
In realtà era stato il mio approccio ad essere sbagliato.
I Mansun non si erano fermati, no, avevano anzi raddoppiato sforzi, fatiche e impegno, ma era 1 impegno che veniva richiesto anche all'ascoltatore, che doveva smarcarsi dal primo disco e approcciarsi a questo lavoro a mente libera, pronto ad entrare in un mondo nuovo, ad un livello decisamente piùalto e complesso.
A tutt'oggi arrivare in fondo non è così facile, lo ammetto. Ma sicuramente è un disco che non mi spaventa più! Mi farebbe piacere leggere un pò di vostri commenti, cari lettori del blog (1998 Parlophone Records)


The sheer audacity of Mansun's sophomore album, Six, demands respect and ridicule. After the surprising success of their first record, Attack of the Grey Lantern, Mansun have practically abandoned all the key ingredients to that record's accolades. Songwriter Paul Draper dumped the satirical characters and simple guitar pop, which was a brave move, if not a stupid one.
Instead, Six invents the haphazard genre of glam- prog- space- bubblegum- rock in which rock stars in glitter and leather pants play nine- minute bezerk jams.
Surprisingly, this album has yet to see release in the States-- the songs change pace so frequently and randomly that they'd be perfect for our short- attention spans. It's perfect! I mean, if you don't like a song, you just have to wait about 30 seconds for it to completely change.
Seemingly influenced by comic books and hallucinogens, Six skitters from chugging power- chords, to intricate hooks, to Pink Floyd wandering, to Tchaikovsky samples, to lip- licking swagger.
At times they can come off like a frightening cross between the Pixies, T Rex, and Yes. If you give Mansun the benefit of the doubt, and assume they're not being completly serious, Six entertains immensely, chock-a-block with every element of modern rock. The fusion sounds so weird and seizure- inducing that it sucks you into its pretentious, mascara'd maw.
It helps that the four lads rock with remarkable skill. It's hard to imagine any other band pulling off this mammoth epic. (
Well, perhaps Radiohead on a heavy dose of prozac and a Cadbury chocolate rush.) Paul Draper's emotional, spotlight- sucking delivery sparkles over Dominic Chad's inventive solos and melodies, as the drummer and bassist simply try to keep up.
When making a concept album, a band walks the razor- sharp line between Kiss' (Music From) The Elder and Radiohead's OK Computer.
With a truckload of chutzpah, Mansun walks this tightrope for over an hour, teetering to either side, constantly looking to fall off. From moment to moment they can be ridiculous or beautiful, artistic or fluff.
The chills and thrills of hearing them perform such a stunt is worth hunting down an import. (Brent DiCrescenzo - http://pitchfork.com/)

If someone over at Parlophone Records had been doing their job back in the summer of 1998, this album would never have seen the light of day. All I have to say is thank god whoever was supposed to be supervising Mansun's follow-up to the mega-smash Britpop comedown, Attack of the Grey Lantern, was asleep at the switch.
Six is one of the most improbable and unpredictable records I've ever heard (from a major label or otherwise) and that's probably why I enjoy it so much. But I understand that it's not for everyone.
In fact, the few people I've exposed to this album have either a) violently ejected the CD from the player as if it were a reflex action, b) asked me to leave their home, or c) both. To date, I've only been able to convince one friend of its greatness and even he skips a good chunk of the songs. Still, I haven't given up hope that its debauched beauty resonates with someone else out there.
As of right now, Mansun is but a footnote in history. Try bringing up Mansun in conversation and you're almost certain to wind up discussing bad Eurythmics covers and fishnet stockings.
Then, once you explain away the confusion, the slightly more aware music fan will say, "Right, they did that Grey Lantern album. I liked that 'Wide Open Space' song." And for almost everyone in the States, the story ends right there. But see, for me, that's where it really begins.
Attack of the Grey Lantern was fantastic, and it easily ranks among my favorite albums of all time, but it still has nothing on their second offering. Six is the sound of a band collectively snubbing its fan base and smashing expectation to spectacular effect. No stone is left unturned and no genre unscathed over the course of its 70 monstrous minutes.
Mansun nick "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" (yeah, the one from Piotr Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite) and marry it to lyrics about Stanley Kubrick faking it with the moon. They play a song entitled "Cancer" that, at over nine minutes long, features three distinct movements and they actually have the gall to break into laughter right in the middle of it.
There's a minute-long piano ballad called "Inverse Midas". Yes, there's even an operatic interlude that includes a voiceover from the legendary Tom Baker entitled "Witness to a Murder Part II". (FYI, "Witness to a Murder Part I" does not appear on the album and may not even exist.)Admittedly, Six is preposterous-almost certainly the product of copious amounts of drugs.
But there's something compelling about its insanity, the way it veers from classical scores to pedal-morphed guitar solos without so much as a case of whiplash. This is inspired dementia from start to finish. Some would be tempted to call it a concept album, but, honestly, there's too much going on for there to be a coherent concept.
I prefer to think of it as a "conceptual" album -- one that has the arc and scope of a concept album but never quite follows through.
There are scattered references to Scientology, Winnie the Pooh, and Marxism. But really, they're mocking the whole idea of a concept album. If Attack of the Grey Lantern was a spoof, Six is an outright parody.
The title track, which also, fittingly, happens to be the opener, sets the tone perfectly. It begins with a short piano intro before guitarist Dominic Chad revs up his guitar for a blazing volley.
Then, as the riffs die down and the strings fray, the track seemingly gives way to an entirely new song as Draper sings, "Life is a compromise everyday". His voice short-circuits, leapfrogging from speaker to speaker.
Any sane band would have divided the two sections up into separate songs, but not Mansun. And it's all the better as it is. "Television" is a frightful epic that takes on our present day fascination with the tube -- lampooning our insatiable desire for up-to-the-minute news coverage.
It ends with an avalanche of guitar feedback and a two second blip of our very own national anthem. The very next track, "Special/Blown It (Delete As Appropriate)", lulls the listener into a false sense of security only to deliver a backhanded punk wallop with Draper carrying on about fucking up, shooting his load, and spewing on the motorway shoulder. Varied to say the least.
But whole thing works because Mansun, even at their most deranged, can't betray their pop instincts. Their unerring ear for a memorable melody keeps the enterprise from sinking under the weight of ambition.
Much of Six goes on in this perfectly convoluted manner, save for the pristine ballad, "Legacy" (which is the saddest rumination on the fate of washed-up rock stars I've ever heard).
The album isn't so much a collection of songs as it is fragments and ideas. The story goes that Mansun entered the studio with very little in the way of actual material. They had nothing but 27 small sections and spare melodies.
Whereas every other band would try to flesh out the pieces into complete songs, Mansun decided to do it the harder way: combining the disparate segments as best they could. The result is akin to a collage, but, to their credit, it never feels forced or haphazard. Instead, the approach yields the most challenging and beguilingly unexpected music.
It sounds like no one and everyone: Magazine, Joy Division, Prince, Radiohead, David Bowie. But make no mistake, these fragments, snippets, whatever you want to call them do somehow, almost miraculously, form coherent songs. Six is a never short of a delirious prog-punk romp.
Sadly, Epic Records has ruined the Mansun experience for American audiences. Both of their albums have been irreparably mauled, but Six more so than the Attack of the Grey Lantern. Epic removed "Inverse Midas" and pared down "Six" and "Being a Girl" to both songs' detriment.
I'd go as far as to say that the American version of Six isn't even the same album. You're better off not hearing it all than to subject yourself to such an inferior, watered-down edition.
If you're serious about listening to Six, do it justice and get the import.
Mansun's wayward path following Six has been equally distressing. Little Kix, their third album, is the most wretched album I've ever heard from one of my favorite bands. Bland, unimaginative, and overproduced, the album was everything that Six was not.
It's hard to believe a band could stumble so terribly, but I suppose to scale such impossible heights, you've got to risk colossal failure.
Since the chilly reception of Little Kix, the band has been holed up in the studio, trying to regain their form. They emerged briefly this past May to test material at a handful of live dates across England. To be fair, it's hard to pass judgment on bootleg recordings, but what I heard of the new stuff didn't sound promising.
But even if Mansun never recovers, the band will always have a special place in my CD collection.
I only hope that people appreciate Mansun somewhere down the line -- that their sonic experiments weren't all for naught. That would be the greatest shame of all. (Jon Garrett - http://www.popmatters.com/)


- Inverse Midas
- Anti Everything
- Fall Out
- Serotonin
- Cancer
- (Interlude)
- Witness To A Murder (Part Two)
- (Part Two)
- Television
- Special/Blown It
- Legacy
- Being A Girl


MANSUN

7 commenti:

  1. Approfitto di questo post per fare il delurking, perché 1) volevo da tempo esternare il mio apprezzamento e/o ringraziamento per questo blog, che rappresenta in modo molto fedele la mia collezione di CD (e mi sa che più o meno siamo anche coetanei) e 2) si parla di uno dei gruppi che più mi avevano entusiasmato nei favolosi anni '90.
    Six per me è il capolavoro dei Mansun. Sì, anch'io avevo adorato il primo album e lo spiazzamento provato al primo ascolto lo ricordo ancora molto bene. Con gli ascolti successivi, però, tutto mi è sembrato avere senso, ogni volta in modo più perfetto, e so di averlo ascoltato 'on the loop' fino alla nausea.
    Inoltre, cosa da non sottovalutare, i Mansun (a differenza di molti - troppi - altri loro contemporanei) sono sempre stati un gruppo che spaccavano soprattutto dal vivo, e tutti i brani di Six si prestano benissimo ad eccezionali versioni live.
    OK, ho deciso che adesso lo ripesco e me lo riascolto...

    Ciao e keep up the good work!

    Marcello

    PS Piuttosto, aggiungerei che io mi sono quasi vergognato per loro all'ascolto di Little Kix. Quello sì che è un album di cui non riesco ad arrivare alla fine. Ho persino desiderato che si fossero sciolti prima di riuscire a pubblicarlo, e non dopo...

    RispondiElimina
  2. io avevo adorato il primo disco e... questo disco l'ho amato ancora di più! da subito.

    sicuramente più difficile del primo ma concordo con marcello... infinitamente meglio di little kix

    ciao

    RispondiElimina
  3. All'epoca li conoscevo più per i singoli (Wide open spaces, Stripper Vicar, Legacy) che per i dischi. Mi piacevano molto e quando li vidi come spalla dei Manic Street Preachers a Milano rimasi impressionato dal tiro e dalla precisione della sezione ritmica e dalla genialità delle parti di chitarra di Chad. Inutile dire che corsi a comprarmi i due cd...

    Un vero peccato il passo falso di Little Kix, veramente inascoltabile a parte il singolo "I can only disappoint you" che per me rimane un piccolo capolavoro.

    RispondiElimina
  4. Grazie ragazzi per i vostri commenti e ovviamente anche per i complimenti al sito, sempre graditi!
    Io vado avanti tutta, sperando che prima o poi non mi facciano chiudere baracca...perchè ogni tanto le mail "minatorie" non mancano!! Ma io non mollo!!
    Pure io ero a quel concerto...ma ti ricordi che i Mansun iniziarono prestissimo? Il Rolling era quasi vuoto!!!
    Prestissimo però arriverà anche il post di Little Kix...ahimè!
    Grazie ancora!!

    RispondiElimina
  5. US reader here...actually, Six came out later in 1999 and sold quite poorly (partly due to its weirdness, but also due to the fact that the charts were full of rap metal, boy bands and poppy punk at the time). Still my favorite album of theirs, though...gorgeous music on this one!

    RispondiElimina
  6. Sì, i Mansun al Rolling Stones stavano già suonando quando arrivai da Torino! Il cantante poi aveva qualche problema con il volume (effettivamente molto basso) e si lamentava in continuazione. Mi sembra di ricordare che scese dal palco piuttosto incazzato e forse tagliando un pezzo di concerto.

    C'erano veramente quattro gatti a vedere i Manics, e tre di quei gatti erano gallesi che lavoravano a Milano. Peggio per tutti gli altri e meglio per me che vidi il concerto a 2 metri da JD Bradfield ;-)

    RispondiElimina
  7. Io l'ho adorato da subito. Potevano diventare qualcosa di grosso, peccato si siano persi.

    RispondiElimina