Skip to main content

Top Ten Albums of 2018 - Number 3

A note before I start. This is not the definite list of the best albums of 2018, but my personal top ten.I have only included albums that I own, and there will be notable and popular records not in this top ten simply because I have neither the time or inclination to listen to them all. It's okay to disagree!

With that said here's my choice for number 3.

Attack Of The Grey Lantern Deluxe Reissue by Mansun
The first time I became aware of Mansun was when I picked up the CD single of "Wide Open Space". 

Whilst that song itself is a '90's classic, it was the b-sides that got me interested. Back when CD singles came in 2 versions this meant a potential of 6 more tracks. What I heard there, especially in "Vision Impaired", and "Skin Up, Pin Up" convinced me that I wanted as much music by this band as possible. 

Anticipation was high, then, for the debut album, "Attack Of The Grey Lantern" (AOTGL).
Boy, did it not disappoint. You have to imagine yourself back in 1997. Oasis were the reigning kings of the the critics and the charts. A myriad of Gallagher brother wannabes were clogging up the pages of NME and Melody Maker. A few bands stood out as doing something other than re-hashing the Beatles back catalogue with louder guitars. Radiohead had shown two years previously with "The Bends" that they were headed in a different direction, but the genius of OK Computer was still 5 months away when AOTGL landed at number 1 in the charts. Suede had delivered a seminal work two and a half years prior with "Dog Man Star" but they were never the same afterwards without Bernard Butler. Reef and Kula Shaker had been number one, and a b-sides collection from Ocean Colour Scene hit number 4! The time was ripe for something different.

From the opening to the,(apparently), ending strings it was clear that this was not going to be more tired retro re-hashes. Whilst the Fab Four influence is strong, there is so much more to this record. Taking not just the classic pop and rock stylings from The Beatles, as so many at the time were; but also the music hall and classical traditions that played such a large part of their work.

A loose concept based on the titular hero , "The Grey Lantern" exposing the amoral behaviour in a northern town, tracks flow together showing the prog influences that became more pronounced in the follow-up "Six".

"Taxloss" remains my least favourite song on the album, although seeing Paul Draper perform the album in it's entirety this year, I was struck how much more I enjoyed it live.
Perhaps only "Egg Shaped Fred" sounds of it's time, and I wish live favourite, "Take It Easy Chicken" with it's David Bowie "Stay" style riffage was included. However having multiple versions of this on other discs mitigates this somewhat.

Other than that the rest of this album is all highlights. "The Chad Who Loved Me" and "Dark Mavis" with their soaring strings stand out, in-between is a journey of styles and ideas hung over a framework of sing along tunes.

Turning to the deluxe edition, this is clearly for the fans, including as it does the remastered album, a disc of BBC live sessions, a further cd of demos, rarities and outtakes and a DVD with a 5.1 mix, Hi-Res audio and videos. The extra discs are interesting for those like myself you enjoy hearing the genesis of songs, but the real bonus is the packaging and LP sized book that the music comes in. High quality and packed with photographs, live posters and flyers this is the real 'deluxe' part of the package. Looking through the pictures of tour posters to spot this gigs you were at brings the memories flooding back. 

A detailed history of the band's journey from three men with a drum machine to a number one album and a great live band is included, and fascinating. I wasn't as aware of at the time, or perhaps don't recall, the music press backlash to Mansun being a 'record company creation'. The reality was that the songs and got them a publishing deal before they'd even settled on a line-up, let alone played live. I caught them a few times in the '90s and was never disappointed. 

In conclusion this is a classic album, in a great package full of fan service. As a package it is great, as an album it merely hints at the greatness that was to come with "Six" . 

THAT'S the deluxe edition I'm really waiting for..... 


Popular Posts

Eraserland by Strand Of Oaks - Album Review

A new album from Tim Showalter which, barring a final misstep, hits all the Americana, (and more), marks. This album is heartfelt, sleazy, uplifting, classic and referential all at the same time whilst still pointing forwards.

The beginning is inauspicious. "Weird Ways" starts out like a standard Ryan Adams ballad, but takes off halfway through in a way that reveals the pedigree of the other musicians on the album. After hearing this track I thought it sounded like the aforementioned Mr Adams playing with My Morning Jacket(MMJ). The reverb drenched sound kept rearing its head and a little research revealed that, minus main man Jim James, they were the backing musicians on the album . No wonder I kept hearing them! As a band who has produced much that I like this was a good thing. 

After "Weird Ways" heads for the stars we stay there with "Hyperspace Blues" which is one for fans of Jason Pierce's Spiritualized, and sounds just as a song with that title s…

Songs To Die To - Part 3

Continuing a series about songs death and dying. These are not necessarily songs that talk about the process of dying, rather as the title suggests, songs that I could imagine listening to on my death bed, or taking as consolation during or after a funeral. 

Morbid? I think not, as death is part of life. If we all talked about it a little more, maybe we'd cope with it better.

No 1: featuring "Land Of Hope & Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen here

No 2: featuring "Look On Down From The Bridge" by Mazzy Star here

With that said here's my next choice.

No 3: Gonna Be A Darkness - The Jayhawks

From their superb collection of songs that main man Gary Louris wrote with other artists, (full review here), comes this gem co-written with Jakob Dylan.

I love the extended musical introduction, starting with the mandolin, building with the bass and piano.It sets a lovely relaxed groove that hints at the sadness to come.
Louris and drummer Tim O'Reagan blend their voices beauti…

October New Music - Rockin' The Suburbs

Be sure to listen to the latest episode, 736, of Rockin' The Suburbs podcast to hear me talk about some of the new songs I enjoyed in October. You can listen here or via your usual podcast provider.

The songs I talk about, along with a little cricket, NFL & rugby are:

"Run Away" by Lightning Dust
"In Good Faith" by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
"Hard Times" by Whyte Horses featuring John Grant
"Favourite Boy" by Half Moon Run
"In The Air Tonight" by Lucy Dacus
Be sure to listen every day...........

Tuscaloosa by Neil Young & The Stray Gators - Album Review

Shakey's live archive releases continue apace, coming after the excellent "Songs For Judy", (full review here) and the even better "Roxy: Tonight's The Night Live", (full review here). 

This time Neil treats us to excerpts from an Alabama show, (hence the title), from the 1973 tour previously documented on "Time Fades Away". Whilst a commercial success, the tour was fraught due to Young's grief over the drug-induced death of Danny Whitten that led to his masterpieces "Tonight's The Night" and "On The Beach", and his discomfort in translating his sound to the big arenas his success now found him playing. Neil has previously stated that "Time Fades Away" is his worst album. Those of us who have endured "Everybody's Rockin'" or "Landing On Water" might beg to differ....

Anyway another snapshot of that tour emerges here, and an altogether more lighter mood prevails. The autobiographical &…

Hello Sunshine by Bruce Springsteen - New Song Review

After the Broadway experience comes a new song, and my initial thoughts upon hearing it were not about this track specifically, but what it means for the upcoming "Western Stars" album in June. As Bruce has said, this is a different type of album, not a rocker but a 'return to sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements'. 

My hope is that we are going to get Bruce's version of "Nashville Skyline", as the track has a laid back, country feel, with a rhythm that immediately evokes "Everybody's Talkin' ". 

Another one of his early influences, the great Roy Orbison, also shines through, and as a defender of "Outlaw Pete" from "Magic", (more on that here), this can only be a good thing. His vocal has a country tinge and the pedal steel and strings complete the image. 

Given his battles with depression, documented in his autobiography, the lines about "being too fond of the blues" and "loving the lonely place&q…

On The Line by Jenny Lewis - Album Review

Arriving with positive notices and an all-star supporting cast that includes a former Beatle in Ringo Starr, a former Heartbreaker in Benmont Tench along with renowned players like Jim Keltner, Don Was and produced by Ryan Adams it would be easy to dismiss such a description as too good to be true.
However, sometimes it is okay to believe the hype..
The 4th solo album from Jenny Lewis is an example of the old adage that misery makes for great art, and is another entry into the canon of great break-up albums.
It is crammed with catchy melodies, expert playing and excellent, if sometimes just a little too cool for school, songwriting. Right from the very start with "Heads Gonna Roll" the sweetness of the melodies is leavened with a perfectly judged dose of underlying menace and bitterness.
Mention has to be given to the Hammond solo from Benmont Tench on this track. The tone is deliciously fat and filthy in the best possible way.
"Wasted Youth" continues with a ridiculous…

Josh Rouse - Love In The Modern Age Review

I picked up Josh Rouse's latest album at the show reviewed earlier, purely on the strength of the new songs he'd debuted that night.

Firstly, the songs are almost uniformly great, and whilst some might complain at only 9 tracks on an album, less is sometimes more. "Leave 'em wanting more" is a good policy. I find it hard to accept, for example, that The Beatles "White Album", to pick a famous example, wouldn't have been improved by being cut to a single disc. A topic for another day perhaps?

Back to matters in hand. The album starts out with what is my favourite track from the set, "Salton Sea". It sets out the album's pop stylings and production, gated snare and prominent synths, occasional vocoder flourishes, etc. that continue throughout the album. With a nice build at the end to some instrumental guitar, it is a great start. 

The tunes keep coming, with the title track, "Businessman", and "Women And The Wind"  form…