A comic book hero who exists to stamp out immoral behaviour in an archetypal English village, whose inhabitants include a vicar with a proclivity towards plastic trousers, nylon tights and Revlon nail varnish?
My, there’s a concept for an album.
Mansun were an eyeliner-bothering indie band who appeared on the English music radar in the late nineties, confounding pop pickers with their brand of non-conformist songs about tax and the aforementioned transvestite clergyman. Their album, ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’, hung around the charts for nineteen weeks, a fact which, if nothing else demonstrates the British public’s lax attitude towards such activities. It didn’t do so well in the US, weirdly.
‘Dark Mavis’ is the closing track of the album and represents everything you need to know about the band and their peculiarly touching brand of introspective lunacy. First up, to call a heroine ‘Mavis’ is in direct contravention of cultural norms; the only Mavis most English people are aware of is Mavis Wilton (nee Riley) from Coronation Street. While it would be unfair to condemn Mavis by saying she failed to provide entertaining moments during her tenure at the Korner Kabin, she was hardly Wonder Woman either.
Still. Mansun’s Mavis has a sufficiently unusual life in the album to warrant the abstract nature of her moniker. Early on we learn that Mavis’s dad is a vicar. And a stripper. Unsurprisingly in a village environment, this gets out and Mavis’ opinion is sought; should they ‘report him to the cardinal’, or ‘egg him on to turn professional?’. Incidentally, the fact that this lyric is sung by three blond boys with floppy fringes, pale skin and perfectly straight faces only magnifies the overwhelming good cheer.
The album deviates a while from Mavis’s story at this point, taking in some ‘Naked Twister’ and nosebleeds (which may or may not relate to the Grey Lantern superhero person, whothehellknowsorcares) before we reassemble at her altar of misery for the closing track, ‘Dark Mavis’; a soaring elegy to our heroine, incorporating strings, ‘God Only Knows‘ harmonies and heartfelt references to smeared lipstick and grey pyjamas. Sadly, even when Mavis’ father turns up dead, clad only in ladies undergarments, the song makes no sense whatsoever in the context of the album or as a stand alone track, but having spent time with Mavis and her tribulations across the length of the album, it’s impossible not to feel a little pleased that she got a lovely send off – she’s had such a hard time of it recently.
The whole thing is just fabulous. Bewildering, but fabulous.