Six, Mansuns second album, revels in a vision of modern existential dystopia that members of Radiohead might find bleak. The bands last album was unquestionably mediocre bratty, blandly assimilated Britpop, Blur-Radiohead Lite and the influences havent changed noticeably on Six. Trying to explain why Six turned out so good, then, is about as frustrating and fruitless an endeavor as those described throughout the album. (Typical: "Stop youre looking miserable/Cant be bothered to get up today/My futures looking positive/No one even picked on me today/So you tested negative/Panic in your bedsit goes away/You convert to Scientology/To feel a part of something/Once again.")
As the above-quoted lyrics from the song "Negative" attest, frontman Drapers vision is overblown especially when its reiterated over the course of 13 long songs. This quality should detract from the albums charm, but it doesnt; rather, it suits Drapers themes of information and sensory overload, as does the full-throttle, stylistically schizoid music. For one example, "Fall Out" is anchored by a recognizable quotation from Tchaikovskys Nutcracker Suite, metamorphoses into Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie glam, then spins into full-on guitar bombast. As on the title track and "Legacy" two other quick-change standouts if the CD player werent keeping track youd think several, very brief and very different songs had flashed by. Draper and company keep this craziness under reasonable control with their consistently thrilling guitar lines, astounding pacing and totally unexpected rock n roll sexiness.
Paul Draper may be confused, Mansun may be confused, the world may be confused; Six is undeniably a concept album about confusion. Thankfully, on record, its all well in hand.