Taking Sides: Mansun vs. Kula Shaker

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No real reason for this other than hearing "Wide Open Space" by Mansun on shuffle mode on my iPod on the way to work. I liked both bands upon their respective debuts (as much as I'm loathe to admit it). One has aged significantly better than the other, but neither band's second album was much to write home about (let alone after that). Attack of the Grey Lantern, despite its indecipherable narrative about Mavis and stripping vicars and whatnot, still SOUNDS great (well, to me, anyway). Six had a few moments (and the worst album cover of the decade). Not an easy band (someone suggested they were the Fixx of the 90s'), but I liked'em nonetheless.

Kula Shaker? Hmmmm. Well, as indefensibly stupid as they were, I quite liked both "Hey Dude" and "Tattva" (not least for the latter's decided Dave Gilmouresque guitar solo). Crispin Mills' penchant for indefensibly ill-advised statements notwithstanding, K seemed like a perfectly peachy album in the tail end of 1996. Under closer scrutiny, the lyrics are all terrible and Crispin was never much of a vocalist, but surely there are some redeeming qualities there (though I'm hard pressed to cite them at the moment).

Neither band seem to mean much to anyone these days. There's a new Mansun compilation I gather, but I doubt its flying off shelves.

What say you?

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:21 (sixteen years ago) link


Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:22 (sixteen years ago) link

This would be a good Taking Sides if we could guarantee there would be no survivors from the battle.

noodle vague (noodle vague), Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:23 (sixteen years ago) link

But I gotta say it took some kinda crazy/stupid/genius thought for Mansun to aim at the Marillion fanbase with the cover of Six.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:23 (sixteen years ago) link


Alex in NYC (vassifer), Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:24 (sixteen years ago) link

Speaking as a Marillion fan, it didn't work on me.

To be fair, the intro of "The Chad Who Loved Me" is quite beautiful.

noodle vague (noodle vague), Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:25 (sixteen years ago) link

Pineapples and Oranges, mate. Just 'cos they were from the same country at the same time doesn't mean they have anything to do with each other. My take on Mansun is that they were musically overambitious prog/rock fans trying to do a newish version of Genesis ala Cardiacs. Maybe they tried too hard and overreached their abilities because as you note, it didn't always work. Kula Shaker were just session muso-type chancers trying to cash in on a revival of dancable indie music. The best Mansun songs are totally ace. Kula Shaker's biggies are the definition of meh. They both broke up because of a huge drop in popularity which is always a shit reason to stop.

everything, Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:31 (sixteen years ago) link

Well, the only reason i pitted them against each other had more to do with the fact that they were both new bands at the same time, that's it, really (and yes, they were both British).

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Thursday, 20 January 2005 21:38 (sixteen years ago) link

my friend lance liked mansun, so i'll say mansun.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 20 January 2005 23:35 (sixteen years ago) link

Mansun at least had some good singles after that first album, especially "I Can Only Disappoint U" even if they amazingly got even more impenetratble.

Kula Shaker, hmm. I would have stood up for "Grateful When You're Dead" then, don't know now.


edward o (edwardo), Thursday, 20 January 2005 23:56 (sixteen years ago) link

shite to the left of me!
shite to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with poo.

Ok, Mansun.

They did indeed have some okay-ish singles "I Can Only Disappoint U" "Wide Open Space". Very odd curates egg of a band really. Kula Shaker = the absolute dregs of the creative zeitgeist unleashed by 'Britpop'.

latetotheparty (latetotheparty), Friday, 21 January 2005 00:06 (sixteen years ago) link

This 'Taking Sides' is like being balanced on a 1mm wide wire with no balancing aids and being surrounded by a 50-mile wide pool of human excrement.

Si Carter (Si Carter), Friday, 21 January 2005 00:31 (sixteen years ago) link

(I never make these ridiculous hyperbolic posts but here I go)

Mansun's "Six" is my favorite record of all time.

(Did you make it past that sentence?)

Maybe a little more for sentimental and influential reasons now, but I still haven't found a record that has had more impact on my life than Six. I picked it up when I was 17, and it changed the way I listened to music from the very moment I started listening to it. The ambition, the nerve, the way every song had 14 different sections, how it dipped its hand in art-rock, techno, opera, guitar pop, psychedelia, pomposity, anarchy, and sheer ridiculousness was completely inspiring to me as a musician, and frankly, it still is today. It encompasses most of the qualitites and elements I love in music and in life.

Sure, I'm more into techno and house these days, but I have no shame at all in loving Mansun.

Michael F Gill (Michael F Gill), Friday, 21 January 2005 04:03 (sixteen years ago) link

i have to go with Kula Shaker, as that was one of the albums i was obsessing over in my Britpop phase. i think i sold K a few years later, but at the time i couldn't get enough of it. i think i still have a "Tattva" single floating around somewhere, i need to pull it out.

jonviachicago, Friday, 21 January 2005 04:11 (sixteen years ago) link

is this like the post britpop wire vs magazine thread?

elwisty, Friday, 21 January 2005 04:18 (sixteen years ago) link

Well, the post britpop Wire would be Elastica with a bit of Menswear.

Michael F Gill (Michael F Gill), Friday, 21 January 2005 04:23 (sixteen years ago) link

i mean more that they are bands that were obstensily spawned of britpop but expanded the template like them other bands done with punk

elwisty, Friday, 21 January 2005 04:43 (sixteen years ago) link

this used to be my playground... i would never voluntarily listen to either but mansun are still *way* out ahead. kula shaker, cast and ocean colour scene defined the public face of UK 1996, an absolute dud year. (of course it wasn't *in general* but for indie types, it was probably what helped precipitate the decline of the music press and the indie scene itself.)

Miles Finch, Friday, 21 January 2005 10:39 (sixteen years ago) link

i like me some Mansun

Stevem On X (blueski), Friday, 21 January 2005 10:44 (sixteen years ago) link

Mansun were too hairy and Northern and that bloke who thought he was the reincarnation of Brian Jones wasn't a patch on Anton Newcombe.

Kula Shaker, I'm still ashamed to admit, gave me that post-baggy neo-psychedlic summer fun whizz bang fizz feeling, plus, well, that irrational hormonal "oh my god, I want to dangle myself in your proto-aryan gene pool" thing.

Masonic Boom-Boom (kate), Friday, 21 January 2005 11:44 (sixteen years ago) link

"The Sound of Drums" made me think Kula Shaker's best days were ahead. Oops.

mark grout (mark grout), Friday, 21 January 2005 11:48 (sixteen years ago) link

Kula Shaker had more hair than Mansun, one of them had a beard which i remember being disgusted by at the time. i had 'Fool' in my head the other day which is probably Mansun's weakest single but there you go.

Stevem On X (blueski), Friday, 21 January 2005 12:04 (sixteen years ago) link

mansum by a mile. i like the deubt. yes, they were britpop, but not drawing more from 80s influences than the done-to-death 60s stuff.

Robin Goad (rgoad), Friday, 21 January 2005 12:10 (sixteen years ago) link

sorry, take the 'not' out of that post and it mught make sense...

Robin Goad (rgoad), Friday, 21 January 2005 12:11 (sixteen years ago) link

attack of the grey lantern hasn't aged well. i was a big teenage mansun fan, like michael, and that was the record that got me into the whole deal. a lot of it sounds a bit mediocre and forgettable - just average britpop stodge. highlights still pretty damn good tho - love the orchestral opening crashing into "the chad who loved me."

they had a real manics-type cult thing going on, many manics fans converted to mansun when msp went more conventional in the post-richey years. i think "six" really escalated the obsessive nature of their following - it sounds silly (especially now), but i like it plenty. definitely their best work. agreed that it's an album of great moments, and not a good end-to-end listen, but the highlights are tremendous - inverse midas, anti-everything, fall-out, first two minutes of "being a girl", the opera/spoken word mid-section.

"little kix" was terrible. i saw them play live a few weeks before they split up and it was a half-hearted, laughable disgrace. they should have continued the wacky prog silliness - the orchestral pop thing was blandsville.

kula shaker are a'ight. not as bad as some people would have you believe. i like "tattva". i still have "shower your love" on cassette single, and even give it the odd airing. a gorgeous song, their best, and a forgotten classic. download immediately.

weasel diesel (K1l14n), Friday, 21 January 2005 12:11 (sixteen years ago) link

I got 'Grey Lantern' when it came out and was disappointed then. The whole 'Mavis' mythology -- not for me. It came out like the same week as 'Homework' I think.

Miles Finch, Friday, 21 January 2005 12:17 (sixteen years ago) link

it came out a couple of months before Homework iirc tho that may just have been me getting an advance copy as i remember reviewing it for student paper (four stars), followed by Homework the next issue (five stars)

Stevem On X (blueski), Friday, 21 January 2005 12:38 (sixteen years ago) link

Ah yes, 'HW' was March 25, 'GL' late Feb. Half-term to be precise. Some say my student paper review of 'Taxloss' deceisively halted Mansun's advance on the pop charts.

Miles Finch, Friday, 21 January 2005 12:46 (sixteen years ago) link

conversely, there's no way 'Homework' would've crashed into the UK album charts at #6 if i hadn't proclaimed it to be 'not bad for a couple of frogs'

Stevem On X (blueski), Friday, 21 January 2005 12:51 (sixteen years ago) link

The cover of "Six" wasn't aimed at Marillion fans, it was surely aimed at Pendragon fans:


I really fucking loved "Six" when it came out - not only did I like the album itself, it was also a big and happy surprise, b/c I'd had them down as lightweight sub-Radiohead types before that. I still like it a lot, & pull it out and listen to it from time to time, and I always enjoy it, though there's a few places where I hit the skip button. I can remember when "I can only dissapoint u" came out, man, what an appropriate title. I'd had some advance warning that the album sounded like they'd been listening to nothing but Van der Graaf Generator, so you can probably imagine it was er a bit of a let down. One of the b-sides "The Golden Stone" is really great, though, and strangely enough, it does have a kind of early solo hammill-ish thing about it.

Kula Shaker I remember hearing when they did their radio session on MArk Radcliffe's show, before they had a single out, and also on "The White Room" on tv. They were pretty thrilling at that point, they had this late psych/early prog thing, plus they rocked. WTF happened after that, I don't know, it's like they did the whole when a good band starts to suck thing between getting signed and releasing their first rekkid. There's one good track on "K" that I remember, and I think a B-side on the "grateful when yr dead" single was ok. I saw them live, and they were a contender for the worst band I've ever seen. They were fucking rubbish.

So, I pick Mansun, because even though they let me down horribly, they at least thrilled me in the first place, and made an album I still really like. Plus, the title of "I can only disappoint u" suggest they knew exactly how much of a let down it was going to be. I wonder if they got dragged onto the carpet by their record company after "Six". Kula Shaker lose out because their whole "raga-rock" thing was really fucking lame - raga-scale guitar solo + a bit of sampled tanpura on the intro and outro = k-lame decal job.

In my ideal world (tm), Mansun would have kept going, getting stranger and stranger, until they reached the point where they could sign to cuneiform.

Three albums from around the same time I liked a lot better, and still listen to are Dark Star's "Twenty Twenty Sound", Supergrass "In it for the Money" and Six by Seven's first album.

This was a great idea for a thread, thanks NTC Alex.

Pashmina (Pashmina), Friday, 21 January 2005 13:15 (sixteen years ago) link

I'd advise caution before clicking on that Pendragon album cover jpeg, it really is a horrible cover (& a pretty horrible rekkid as well)

I just remembered "Railings" guest vocals howard devoto! ++++points for Mansun.

Pashmina (Pashmina), Friday, 21 January 2005 13:21 (sixteen years ago) link

permission to judge a book by its cover!

Miles Finch, Friday, 21 January 2005 13:24 (sixteen years ago) link

Devoto also co-wrote the Mansun bside "Everyone Must Win"

Michael F Gill (Michael F Gill), Friday, 21 January 2005 13:26 (sixteen years ago) link

Haha, we did this in the pub a few months ago! It quickly degenerated into TS: Levellers vs Afro Celt Sound System.

Matt DC (Matt DC), Friday, 21 January 2005 14:40 (sixteen years ago) link

pashmina's post is tremendous. although i remember my brother buying a load of six by seven albums and i found them all dreary.

weasel diesel (K1l14n), Saturday, 22 January 2005 00:28 (sixteen years ago) link

but that's besides the point, of course. "wide open space" was played in the pub tonight, and i enjoyed it plenty.

weasel diesel (K1l14n), Saturday, 22 January 2005 00:31 (sixteen years ago) link


They had some great pop songs, but they worked really well as a whole on the album too.

jellybean (jellybean), Saturday, 22 January 2005 01:21 (sixteen years ago) link

"Wide Open Space" is a completely great track.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Saturday, 22 January 2005 01:22 (sixteen years ago) link

although i remember my brother buying a load of six by seven albums and i found them all dreary.

I always sorta think of them as a pop(ish) Mogwai. This is very much a compliment.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Saturday, 22 January 2005 02:04 (sixteen years ago) link

sixteen years pass...

Inexplicably revisited both bands recently. Neither have aged especially well.

Alex in NYC, Tuesday, 12 October 2021 21:04 (two weeks ago) link

I actually saw both bands perform live ... and have relatively no memory of either occasion.

Alex in NYC, Tuesday, 12 October 2021 21:06 (two weeks ago) link

Kula Shaker, I'm still ashamed to admit, gave me that post-baggy neo-psychedlic summer fun whizz bang fizz feeling, plus, well, that irrational hormonal "oh my god, I want to dangle myself in your proto-aryan gene pool" thing.

christ almighty

Pfunkboy AKA (Oor Neechy), Tuesday, 12 October 2021 21:45 (two weeks ago) link

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