In 1997, on day of release (or goddamn as near as), 18 year old me rushed to buy Mansun’s Attack of the Grey Lantern. It was the arse end of Britpop and Mansun were that band that never quite fitted; for me adding to the lure and being favoured over other bands with the “indie rock” tag from that time. Yes, this punk rocker was lapping up Rocket From The Crypt in the same timeframe, but I always had a penchant for the certain NME and Melody Maker flavours of the month. I guess you’d take any access you could get to new music in my small Welsh village. And so, here’s the million dollar question – how does Attack of the Grey Lantern stand up some 21 years later?
As the John Barry-esque strings on opener The Chad Who Loved Me swirl around the speakers, I’m instantly transported to the close of my teenage years. This is not purely a nostalgia trip though, as the first thing that hits with impartial ears is how epic a record this is. After intense re-listening, it’s taken me all this time to realise that this is a concept album (of sorts). I seemed to have overlooked the prog leanings too. D’oh! For me, the songs always stood up in their own right and I’m sure the chart bothering singles are testimony to that way of thinking.
There’s a welcome reminder of the strength of Paul Draper’s voice and his falsetto is shattering, none more so than on entering the chorus on the big hit smash Wide Open Space. With an array of options available, the “deluxe” tag is more than justified as the packaging is immense and the album has also been issued at a fair price point. I opted for the 2 LP black vinyl version but more hardcore fans can lap up 4 disc versions including demos, outtakes, BBC sessions and more. I’m no audiophile so the 5.1 remix is lost on me, but what I do know is that Mansun’s masterpiece has stood the test of time whilst their (non) contemporaries may be sat on a stale sounding slab of vinyl. I cannot recommend this reissue highly enough. I’m off to suffer the same fate as the Stripper Vicar; gagged and bound in stockings and suspenders. All hail Mansun. All hail Attack of the Grey Lantern. Ginge Knievil
Selected versions are still available on Mansun’s PledgeMusic campaign here