Mansun - Legacy (Parlophone, 2006)

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Rewind back to 1996. In the immediate aftermath of the Britpop explosion there were very few bands around who could be classed in any way as original. Sure, there were plenty of bands about selling plenty of records but every now and again, a band comes along which inspires you. If ever a band could be considered a "cult", Mansun were one. They became a talking point. They formed relationships, bought like minded misfits together and gave people (for a little while at least) some form of escape. In the very best tradition of cult bands (Manics, Suede, The Smiths etc), they achieved this by putting out records at a rate which by nowadays standards seems diabolical. Not just that, but every EP would be released with a smattering of tunes which most bands would kill for instead of throwing away as B-sides. In short, Mansun packed into their few short years what most bands achieve in a lifetime.

So where did it all go wrong then? Well after the immediate success of debut album "Attack Of the Grey Lantern", the band headed straight back into the studio to record their second album, the mysteriously titled "Six". Of course, that would be too easy though for a band like Mansun, so inbetween this they managed to team up with Howard Devoto, formerly of Magazine, to record their eighth EP "Closed For Business". When "Six" hit the shelves in 1998, whilst fans hailed it as a masterpiece, critics were left confused. Paul Draper himself described the album as "fifty verses and no chorus". Not quite true, but indeed here was an album that challenged you. It's no accident that of the four singles from the album ("Legacy", "Being A Girl", "Negative" and "Six") all of them had to be edited in one way or another to be considered for commercial release. Even the artwork for "Six" is a head fuck.

But, as is the way of the world, due to the uncommercial nature of "Six", it didn't do nearly as well as its predecessor in terms of sales. Consequently for their third album the band attempted a less obscure approach to recording. The emerging album "Little Kix" was a studio friendly attempt to regain some commercial appeal. However, many fans were left disappointed. This wasn't their band anymore. And the band knew it. After the promotion of "Little Kix", in May 2002 the band set out on one last tour showcasing some new tracks. The sets were short and the band were tense. Inevitably, plagued by self doubt, the band fell apart and announced their split officially in 2003. The Fourth album was never completed.

So this collection then is their final swansong. To make a Mansun "Best Of" a single CD collection of lead tracks is kind of taking away the impact and output of this band. It contains all the lead tracks from their singles as well as "The Chad Who Loved Me" (an old live favourite from "Attack Of the Grey Lantern") and "Getting Your Way" (one of the tracks from the aborted fourth album sessions). Most interesting though is the accompanying DVD which comes with some copies, which contains all their videos as well as some live footage and an interview with Paul Draper and Chad. Played in chronolgical order from beginning to end, these videos show the transition of the band from art school punks to brit rock giants to prog rock challengers to pop gem masters.

In "Legacy", Paul sings the line "Nobody cares when you're gone". Not true. It's a pity it all came to an end so quickly. However, let's not forget here what Mansun achieved. As well as being quite possibly the most blistering shit hot live band of the last ten years, they managed a number one debut album with "Attack Of The Grey Lantern", nine top 20 singles and even got a release for their scrapped fourth album sessions, released as the 3CD collection "Kleptomania", after an internet campaign from fans made Parlophone and the band themselves realise that people were still hungry for more. Mansun will always be remembered by those who loved them.

This is their Legacy.

Richard Bull

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