[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s been a pretty good run for Britpop birthdays. Last week saw Liam Gallagher and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker turn another year older, and today Mansun frontman Paul Draper turns 43. Mansun was often overshadowed in the ’90s by his musical brethren, so to balance out the playing field, here are five forgotten Mansun tracks to prove this band was more than just filler of Britpop’s “Wide Open Space.”
5. “Ski Jump Nose (Acoustic Version)” – 1998, b-side on the cassette single of “Legacy”
“Ski Jump Nose” had been knocking around in the Mansun back catalog for a while before the acoustic version ended up as a b-side on the 1998 “Legacy” cassette single (aka the Eight EP). Originally a rock epic b-side on the 1996 “Egg Shaped Fred” single (aka the One EP), the acoustic take of the song is carried by the band’s harmonies. We love both versions of “Ski Jump Nose” but the acoustic one is truly a hidden gem.
4. “Black Infinite Space” – 2001, b-side to “Fool”
Mansun’s final studio album, 2000’s Little Kix, joined albums like Oasis’ Standing On the Shoulder of Giants in acting as Britpop’s death rattle. The party was officially over but thankfully, Mansun could still write great tunes regardless. “Fool” was the band’s last real single (“Slipping Away” was released in 2004 to promote the compilation album Kleptomania). Throughout their career, Mansun proved that their b-sides were just as strong as their album tracks and “Black Infinite Space” is no exception. With its melodic chorus and careful arrangement, it’s a prog-rock ear worm.
3. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Loser” – 2004, Kleptomania
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Loser” was written around the time of Little Kix and was even briefly considered for the album’s lead single. Unfortunately, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Loser” ended up in the Mansun vaults until it was placed on disc three of the 2004 Kleptomania compilation. This is Mansun’s jab at their rock star contemporaries. With lyrics like “He’s only filling the holes that echo through his existence,” we’re left wondering who exactly was Draper’s inspiration for this surprisingly sexy song.
2. “The Chad Who Loved Me” – 1997, Attack of the Grey Lantern
From the opening strings of Mansun’s 1997 debut Attack of the Grey Lantern, we quickly realized that we certainly didn’t have another wannabe Blur on our hands. Featuring sweeping orchestration and Mansun’s signature snarl, Grey Lantern’s opening track is a classic. Draper isn’t singing about shagging birds or the poetic beauty of the Westway; he’s setting us up for a concept album. “Am I a god or am I Jesus?” he sings. This band oozed confidence right from the start.
1. “Keep Telling Myself” – 2004, Kleptomania
Had Mansun not called it quits after Little Kix, “Keep Telling Myself” would have appeared on their fourth studio album. Instead, the song finally surfaced after fans begged both Draper and label EMI to release the songs that would have become Mansun’s fourth record. Disc one of Kleptomania is essentially this fourth album and it’s a strong one. It was difficult to choose one track for this list but “Keep Telling Myself” is a personal favorite. I love everything from its melody to Draper’s unique vocals to the guitar riffs.