Named after cult leader Charles Manson, purveyors of New Romantic, army, and women's fashion, and creators of a bewildering 70-minute prog rock sophomore featuring former Dr. Who's Tom Baker and references to Swan Lake and Taoism, it's no surprise that Chester-based quartet Mansun always seemed like the misunderstood outsiders of the mid-'90s laddish Brit-pop era they emerged from. While they unsurprisingly might not have spawned as many radio-friendly staples as the likes of Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, and Dodgy, their unique and uncompromising sound has certainly stood the test of time far more than the '60s pastiches of their contemporaries, as evident on their first official hits collection, Legacy: The Best of Mansun. Compiled by lead vocalist Paul Draper and guitarist Dominic Chad, this 17-track compilation is a tour de force in dark, eclectic, and grandiose indie, which showcases the band's melting pot of Manic Street Preachers-esque glittery glam rock, Suede-inspired sexually ambiguous lyrics, and the challenging proggy leanings of early Radiohead. Six tracks appear from their debut, The Attack of the Grey Lantern, a half-concept album based on a suburban superhero, which knocked Blur off the charts in early 1997, including the band's first Top Ten single, "She Makes My Nose Bleed," the comical baggy-influenced "Stripper Vicar," and the psychedelic indie-disco anthem "Taxloss," famous for its chaotic cash giveaway video. But it's the haunting and epic "Wide Open Space," arguably one of the '90s best singles, and the string-soaked potential James Bond theme "The Chad Who Loved Me" that provides the album's highlights. The four singles from their 1998 critics-dividing Six make the cut, including their highest-charting hit, "Legacy," the frenetic metal of "Being a Girl," and the punchy title track (the Arthur Baker remixed version), the latter two are heavily edited from their original eight-minute running times. Reflecting the mixed response and difficult recording process of their record company's interference, and thus their swan song, only three tracks are selected from 2000's Little Kix: the breezy acoustic singalong "Electric Man," the melodically eerie "I Can Only Disappoint U," and the Bowie pastiche "Fool," which the band have since dismissed as their least favorite track. Elsewhere, there is debut single "Take It Easy Chicken," previously only available on the U.S. edition of their first album, the lead track from their 1997 Seven EP, "Closed for Business," and two songs ("Getting Your Way" and "Slipping Away") that were intended to appear on their fourth album, Kleptomaniac, which was eventually released as part of a box set a year after their 2003 split. While some of their complex and ambitious sound is lost amongst the single edits, Legacy is still a representative introduction to the unpredictable, bizarre, and unashamedly pretentious world of Brit-pop's most inventive and underrated band.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien