Mansun - Attack of the Grey Lantern

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:1997-02-17

Mansun--whose records regularly go Top 10 in the UK, whose tours sell out effortlessly, but whose lead singer most people would be hard-pressed to name--are impossible to figure out; one gets the impression they prefer things that way. In successive photo shoots, they've been known to appear as safety-pinned punks, eyelinered New Romantics and Adidas-clad lads just to mess with people's perceptions, and never feature in their own videos.

Led by singer Paul Draper and guitarist Dominic Chad, Mansun arrived in 1996 straight outta Chester. While their peers were worshipping at the altar of Lennon, Marriott and Weller, Mansun were name-checking such off-limits influences as Duran Duran, Talk Talk, the Associates, Simple Minds and ABC. It's this blatant disregard for indie credibility that allowed Mansun to make such an ambitious, astonishingly opulent debut album. Attack Of The Grey Lantern creates a lucid musical narcosis, a waking dream, all multi-layered guitars and spooky samples: the mewing of drowning cats, the tolling of submerged church bells, WW2 air raid sirens (smoothed and airbrushed to sound like whalesong), ghostly operatic tenors, oceanic strings, and the Fahrenheit 451 crackle of burning paper (money? books? bibles?). It's almost--whisper it--a CONCEPT album. The titular Grey Lantern is a superhero exposing the moral hypocrisy of smalltown England, as exemplified by the irresistible "Stripper Vicar", the true story of a female friend, the daughter of a church minister, who found S&M apparatus in her father's wardrobe. A fantastic debut. --Simon Price

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