When I think of the mid to late 90’s era of Britpop, I gravitate towards a select few bands. Sure, I love Oasis, Blur, and Pulp. But my absolute favorite bands from the scene were the ones that were just a bit more slightly off kilter. Suede, Strangelove, My Life Story, and of course…Mansun. A bit glam, a bit prog, a bit Britpop – Mansun took those disparate elements and made them all their own. I remember driving to the Princeton Record Exchange in Princeton, NJ (of course) to buy any release I could get my hands on. Each EP had quality b-sides that were the equal of their album counterparts. In fact, I think there are more non album singles & b-sides than total album tracks. After 3 studio albums & multiple singles / EP’s, the band called it a day. A posthumous box set was issued in 2004 comprising the 4th album sessions along with assorted b-sides & rarities. Singer Paul Draper participated in one-off collaborations with artists from a variety of genres in the intervening years, but really announced his return to music with his work with The Anchoress in 2014. Now we have the 1st Paul Draper solo EP, fittingly titled EP One.
EP One sounds like no time has passed at all since we last heard Mr. Draper singing with Mansun. The band consists of Paul on vocals, guitar, piano, and keyboards, Jon Barnett on drums, and Ben Stack on bass. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame co-wrote a song and adds many elements to the song he appears on. Catherine Anne Davies of The Anchoress appears on two songs whilst we are also treated to a remix of a song by Andy MacFarlane of The Twilight Sad. Take these elements and it adds up an experience that reminds the listener why we loved Paul Draper w/ Mansun but also points towards a bright future of new musical masterpieces.
Feeling My Heart Run Slow leads off the EP and is the lead off single. It is a perfect song to reintroduce the world to Paul Draper. Reminding me a bit of the vibe from Mansun’s debut album Attack of the Grey Lantern, the song grooves and sways w/ electronic underpinnings. Of course we are treated to Draper’s emotive vocals w/ a hint of darkness bleeding through in the words. “You fucked my head up and it turned to dust / Can’t even reason right and think straight / I just see black when I should be so grey / for my sins I’ll pay but in a cruel way”. Of course the verses lead to a positively explosive chorus. A perfect song. No Ideas features Steven Wilson and mellows out the vibe a bit. The lyrics are funny & sad, a lament on googling what comes up when you have no ideas. But the vocal delivery sells it. A recurring surf guitar refrain is a nice melodic hook, as are the additional vocals by Catherine Anne Davies. The Silence Is Deafening is a perfect song title, and fortunately the song lives up to the title. The most “Mansun like” song on the EP, it is a quintessential slab of Britpop – with a dash of prog for good measure. Again, some dark lyrics on this one. “Practice being uncomfortable for the sake of someone else’s life / The silence is deafening / Just because you’re absent here doesn’t mean your presence isn’t felt / The silence is deafening”. F.M.H.R.S. (The Twilight Sad Remix) adds some sinister synths to Feeling My Heart Run Slow and some Kraftwerk type drum machine sounds. Washes of ambient sounds around the 3 minute mark sound inspired by Brian Eno. I usually am not a huge fan of remixes, but this remix really adds a nice element to this release. A perfect way to end the EP.
You can follow Paul on The Social Network here. You can catch the latest news at his official website, pauldraperofficial.com. The EP is available now on all digital outlets w/ physical copies & special packages also available through the store section of Paul’s website. An EP that will be playing in your head long after the music has stopped. Highly recommended.
Verdict: A Masterful Return
For Fans of: Mansun, The Raveonettes, Suede, The Twilight Sad, The Cure