Mansun Edinburgh: Assembly Rooms, Sun 5 Oct.
Mansun are old fashioned. That’s not to say they’re retro at the expense of originality — stand up Oasis Weller Scene. It’s not as if they insist on recording in the hallowed studios of the rock lore. It's not even that they dress like restoration dandies (although it has been known). But in an age of hype and cynical pop marketing, Mansun are a success because of two old fashioned tactics - constant touring and quality songwriting.
When Mansun’s debut album Attack Of The Grey Lantern charged into the charts at the top spot everyone was shocked. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Four weird blokes with no fixed sound or image had come from Chester, Blighty’s most un-rock ’n’ roll town, and beaten Blur and the Spice Girls down to Numbers Two and Three. The kids had spoken.
’We didn’t really celebrate,’ murmurs guitarist Chad. ’We just phoned each other up and said "well done’”.
As an old fashioned band, Mansun strongly identify with the heroes of the rock canon. The lead track on new EP ’Closed For Business’ was written with Howard
Mansun: freshly old-fashioned
Devoto of Buzzcocks and Magazine.
’lt's a real compliment for Howard to get involved,’ says Chad. ’He heard that our singer Paul was a big Magazine fan and so he gave him some lyrics and we wrote a song around them. He's also given us a new song, so hopefully something more will develop. He might come into the studio and play guitar some time.’
Mansun have also built bridges with another two pop giants. The cover art on the new EP is by fifth Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe who died of a brain haemorrhage in 1962. Chad has also been approached to help with a movie about dead Rolling Stone Brian Jones.
’He’s a hero of mine,’ explains Chad, who looks uncannily like the great man. ’I got to know Pat Andrews, the mother of Brian Jones’s first illegitimate son. She gave my name to the film company, so maybe Mansun will end up recording something for the soundtrack.’
Mansun are certainly steeped in rock lore, so much so that Chad insists on revealing who would be on his dream Top Of The Pops. ‘It would have to be Jimi Hendrix, The Velvets, Johnny Marr doing a solo spot, Suede, Nirvana and definitely The Pistols. Oh, and Jon Pertwee would be presenting it as Doctor Who.’
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The Pastels: sand kickers and string pickers
reckons Stephen Pastel. 'Chord changes establish certain moods and, from there, we try to push it out a little. This then takes you into new areas.’
His statement is borne out by the fact that The Pastels core trio — Stephen, Aggi and Katriona Mitchell — is augmented by radical free jazz musician Bill Wells. ’Bill’s work is a development of my own tastes,’ says Stephen, adding ’things like Sun Ra and releases on the Impulse label. Like us, he works outside of a closed musical community.’
Wells’ obvious empathy for The Pastels’ quiet rebellion is immediate and one of this record's many unexpected pleasures. Other collaborators on Illumination include Norman Blake and Gerry Love from Teenage Fanclub; Dean Wareham, formerly of Galaxie 500 and Luna, as well as the guitarist Jonathan Kilgour. They all add colour to an
INDIE The Pastels
Invrgorated from recent appearances at the CMJ music bl? bash in New York, The Pastels have a new album and, in the inimitable and unliker words of Stephen Pastel, are ready to ’kick sand in the music industry's face.’
Their new album Illumination opens with 'The Hits Hurt’, a delicate yet assured ballad which teases towards a haunting chorus and informal
expressive coda. This song alone would give the set the stamp of greatness but, as each piece unfolds so too does the sense that here, at last, is the music that the group has only hinted at. By the time the guitar descants ’On The Way’, the past decade makes sense. Beautiful melodies blend into impressionistic soundscapes to create an atmosphere that is both focussed and open-ended.
'There is a sense of explanation,’
already porgnant selection. The closing track, 'Mechanised’, even boasts a whiff of The Band at their most rustic without even sounding like them and where faint echoes of other talismen can be heard from the revered Brian Wilson to the obscure Souled American, Illumination is nonetheless contemporary and uniquely Pastels. (Brian Hogg)
I Illumination is out on Domino on Mon Oct 7.
Celtic Fiddle Festival
Glasgow: Riverside, Wed 1; Edinburgh: Caley Brewery, Tue 30.
Formerly of both Silly Wizard and Relativity, as well as being the fiddling brother of Phil, Johnny Cunningham is back in Scotland for a quick, three-gig visit. He’s playing as part of the Celtic Fiddle Festival — the name of the four- strong group completed by master fiddlers Kevin Burke from Ireland, Christian Le Maitre from Brittany and guitarist's guitarist Soig Siberil, also from Brittany.
US-based for a decade or so, Johnny explains his route back to his roots: ’I was in the Raindogs for some of that. The big-time rock thing. Then Dylan’s band, some Hall and Oates, and other stuff. Some of that was a nightmare, really, but a great lesson. Now I’m in the studio a lot, producing other people’s albums (Cherish the Ladies, Solas), and writing music, but I'm also getting away from that, out on the road, touring with these guys — who‘re so good to play with, and be with.’
Portobello’s favourite fiddler also has another string to his bow — as a songwriter and, er, poet. ’Well, just the one poem. It’s read by Martin Sheen on this Christmas double CD that we made. The writer Thomas Moore wanted me to collaborate on a project for Christmas,’ explains Cunningham. 'He felt he wanted the honesty and Spirit of celtic music, so he got the writers and actors, and I brought in a whole bunch of people — lris de Ment, Cherish the Ladies, Cathy Mattea, and that’s just a few. Then we did it as a live concert which was filmed for broadcast in the States later in the winter.’
By which time Johnny will happily be in LA, performing in an award-winning stage adaption of J.M. Barrie's Peter And Wendy, the novel the Scots writer produced seven years after Peter Pan, the play. ’It’s been running on Broadway — I’m musical director and wrote the music and lyrics, so I get to play in the show while it’s in California, in the sunshine,’ grins Cunningham.
Yes, it’s not hard to believe Johnny when he says he's 'having a great time.’ (Norman Chalmers)
Johnny Cunningham: ferocious fiddler
26 Sap—9 Oct 1997 TIE LIST“