"Six," Mansun's second album, revels in a vision of modern existential dystopia that members of Radiohead might find bleak. The band's last album was unquestionably mediocre -- bratty, blandly assimilated Britpop, Blur-Radiohead Lite -- and the influences haven't changed noticeably on the new disc. Trying to explain why "Six" turned out so good, then, is about as frustrating and fruitless an endeavor as those described throughout the album.
Draper's vision is overblown -- especially when it's reiterated over the course of 13 long songs. This quality should detract from the album's charm, but it doesn't; rather, it suits Draper's 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 Tchaikovsky's "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 -- you'd think several, very brief and very different songs had flashed by if the CD player weren't keeping track. Draper and company keep this craziness under reasonable control with their consistently thrilling guitar lines, astounding pacing and totally unexpected rock & 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, it's all well in hand.