PART ONE – REINVENTION OF A BAND/SYNAPSE BREAKDOWN (QUESTION MARK)
What’s really worrying is no-one thought to stop them. When Mansun decided that combining ‘The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy’ with a Milton Keynes Bowl drum solo would be a fine artistic statement, nobody gently pointed out that it was 1998, and really, unless they craved the mockery of their peers, then they should ditch the ‘Nutcracker’/metal fusion of ‘Fall Out’. No-one suggested that dividing ‘Six’ into three parts and calling one ‘Interlude – Witness To A Murder (Part 2)’ might make them look slightly foolish. And certainly, no kindly voice explained that having former Doctor Who Tom Baker narrating a fable about Brian Jones’ death over a harpsichord was the point where vaulting ambition smashes slap-bang into a wall. And if that’s worrying, wait until you find yourself admiring – even enjoying – the whole thing.
‘Six’ is preposterous. Ludicrous. Nuts [I]and [/I]cracked. Each song starts somewhere between the end of ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘The Wall’, then gets pretentious, a record hellbent on making Genesis, Pink Floyd, and The Doors look as grandiose as tea and biscuits with The Wedding Present. The signs were there in the orchestral mayhem and abnormally long songs of ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’, in the boiler suits and nail varnish, the Ultravox videos spieling constantly inside Paul Draper’s head. Mansun have always been a band with delusions of delusions, but nothing could be adequate preparation for the taste apocalypse of ‘Six’. ‘Special/Blown It (Delete As Appropriate)’; ‘Anti Everything’; ‘Cancer’; the titles alone set alarm bells ringing. Mansun will undoubtedly be sampling them to feed through a BF20 rack flanger on the B-sides.
INTERLUDE – NUROFEN
PART TWO – WHY? WHY? WHY? (OR HOW?) (ARIA)
‘Six’ will be jeered at. It will also be hailed as heroically ambitious guitar rock, immune to the potent half-life of Britpop, grunge and dadrock still poisoning music. Compared with the evolutionary mainframe equations of ‘OK Computer’, ‘Six’ is an Atari console, returning to a time of naive FX experimentation and unabashed guitar solos. It shares Radiohead’s themes of psychic pollution, yet emotion never comes easy to Draper. Happily he’s dispensed with the comedy vicars, yet the angst here is still oddly dispassionate. The schizoid technophobia of ‘Television’, the hypochondriac spiral of ‘Serotonin’ – with everything distorted in a chattering swarm of ideas and lunacy, it’s affectless. And that seems to be the point – the way nothing settles, that the Beat-like jerkiness of ‘Being A Girl’ suddenly breaks into a classical interlude, or that the Joe Jackson piano of ‘Inverse Midas’ cracks into the juvenile howl of ‘Anti Everything’. You have to admire their nerve, even as they’re pulling yours to pieces.
Yes, you will laugh, and yes, you might not stop – but in an ideal world, ridicule is nothing to be scared of. Unfortunately, as things stand, Mansun should be very, very afraid.
HARPSICHORD CODA. FADE OUT. CUP OF TEA. LIE DOWN.