Flyin’ High

With a reputation as a Boyzoned Pink Floyd, you might imagine that 'Six' Comes Alive would be hard to get off the ground. Not so...

“In the unlikely event of an evacuation, please use the nearest exit…” The airplane-style security announcement preceding Mansun’s arrival could not be more apposite. No other British band is currently making such a dashing show of testing the escape velocity of history.

If Mansun’s debut album ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’ teased with its flashing New Lancashire Dolls schizophrenia and hasty jump suits, this one really asks for it. ‘Six’ severs ties with the laddish centreground of Brit guitar bands and cavorts precociously in a twisting maze of prog, glam and early-’80s guitar pop. The broiling art anthemics of the Manics or Radiohead might be as ambitious, but ‘Six’ is more controversial. No-one has done northern angst on LSD quite like this before, and certainly no-one has dared to pair alienated rock with the look of four indie Barbies.

With the mountainous tangle of bands they’re thought to have cross-referenced, and a reputation as a Boyzoned Pink Floyd, you might imagine that ‘Six’ Comes Alive would be hard to get off the ground. Not so. The opening pair of ‘Negative’ and ‘Being A Girl’ hurtle past like prime streaks of bubblegum doom. Hysteria levels peak with ‘Stripper Vicar”s helter-skeltering Catholic guilt, and rapidly the notion that Mansun are in any way ‘problematic’ is pummelled by their sheer energy. In their current phase, the high-octane [I]ennui[/I] has a dignity to it. They are dark without being dull, pop without being trite and rock without being Symposium.

Impressive beneath his fringe, Dominic Chad is a star guitarist (see the freeforming on ‘Railings’, a recent collaboration with the legendary Howard Devoto) who manages to deport himself without being a wanker. And notwithstanding the occasional Rush-tinged falsetto, Paul Draper surfs the guitar vortex while staying clear of camp. Silver cross dangling and fringe flopping he clings to the mic like a very young Si Le Bon with a major sincerity transfusion.

Of course the baroque pace-shifting of ‘Six’ (even the middle-eights have middle-eights) means they lose the plot in places: ‘Special/Blown It’ and ‘Television’ U-turn towards territory best left to the Ozric Tentacles, and the Manics-esque genius title track ‘Six’ takes a sabbatical to the outer galaxies. But muso tendencies are not overdone. ‘Wide Open Space’, ‘Shotgun’ and ‘Taxloss’ deliver a surfeit of stungun pop thrills.

By the punk-out end, they have done acid rock heavy, Pumpkins lite, poignant plastic pop and ‘sonic cathedral building’. They are the anti-Embrace, as witnessed by lines such as, “[I]The nature of uncarved blocks is how to describe what’s hard to describe[/I]”. They have exploded every teardrop in the house and given the merchandised massive reason to be orgasmic about their secret heroes. They make the girls sigh and the boys fly. Isn’t that the definition of a truly great prog rock bedsit diva doll band?