“You come to the point where you’ve done what you do and you move on,” said Paul Draper two years back. “There’s no point in repeating yourself.”
Actually, Paul, repeating yourself endlessly is groovy if you’re a monochrome, one-dimensional and conceptually self-contained perfect-pop combo like the [a]Sex Pistols[/a], Motvrhead or the Ramones. But [I]your[/I] schtick circa ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’ was to ram together surrealism with Beach Boys bollocks with bleeding-heart-on-your-safety-pinned-sleeve socialism with slapstick, music hall and Space-style dissections of small-town nutterhood. And tons of other stuff.
But, in the space of three albums, you’ve stripped away all the madness and boiled the sound down to an amazingly predictable formula. A rich formula, to be sure, but only in the sense that it’s nauseating. Listening to ‘Little Kix’ in one sitting is a little like sucking down 70 tubes of tomato purie. Pretty soon you wish you’d never started.
The packaging is boring enough – grey-tinged and unsmiling photographs, the song titles written (all in lower case) in one of those dreadful cod handwriting fonts. Understatement by dreary numbers.
The music, by stomach-churning contrast, is underwritten but horribly overproduced. The plain fare of unhummable semi-tunes and obliquely pithy lyrics is spiced up with so many clichid, overblown and irritatingly familiar production tricks that the resulting stew would probably have ELO puking their guts up in disgust. In some respects, ‘Little Kix’ is depressingly similar to ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’, but all the playfulness, the inventiveness, the eclectic wit and demented imagination have been drained away, to be replaced with teeth-grittingly formulaic self-parody. Sad or what?
Taken individually, most tracks are bearable enough. ‘Butterfly (A New Beginning)’ sounds like ‘Hunky Dory’-era Bowie (what a surprise), the new single, ‘I Can Only Disappoint U’, is Buggles meets Bon Jovi (by way of Bowie, naturally) and ‘Comes As No Surprise’ is U2 being sat on by Meat Loaf (dressed as Ziggy Stardust, obviously). But each and every bloody song sounds like Mansun. And that’s the problem. Mansun have, in effect, become their own cover band.
By the time you’ve suffered all the way through to ‘Forgive Me’ (which gives us that ‘Man Who Sold The World’ riff [I]again[/I] – thanks, lads!), you’ll be screaming for the dullness to end. Bad news: there are four tracks left, of which only one – the lyrically interesting ‘We Are The Boys’ – doesn’t sound like a dodgy 10cc B-side that’s been left out overnight in the rain and pissed on by dogs.
If ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’ was a trip and ‘Six’ was a panic attack, then ‘Little Kix’ is cold turkey. Mature, mainstream and utterly predictable, the band that once promised us the world have delivered yet more lame, cripplingly self-referential, puffed-up, headache-inducing, late-Manics-style retro indie-pomp.
From vital to utterly redundant in just three albums. What an horrendous cockup.