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Time to Become a Disciple of Paul Draper’s Cult Leader Tactics

Where to start?…Neil Young battling Spotify. The #Brokenrecord movement fighting streaming services’ pittance of remuneration. The airwaves filled with more and more identikit music-by-numbers. Into this battlefield strides Paul Draper with the sonic satire bomb that is Cult Leader Tactics. His first since 2017’s Spooky Action and his second full solo record since the acrimonious dissolution of the rather magnificent Mansun all those years ago.

And if you thought Draper had said all that needed to be said about the music industry, his experiences in Mansun or the state of the world in general, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Opener ‘Cult Leader Tactics’ does more to dismantle the romantic myths about the music industry in three minutes than any 500 page biography or internet search ever could—our unnamed narrator declaring they ‘want to be a dancing star’ and more concerning ‘I’m prepared to do almost anything’ to get it. Your wish is the music industry’s command, it would seem. Making someone a star is all ‘illustrated with graphics’ and eventual it will ‘monetise these classics’. Draper is immediately pulling no punches, holding the practices of the industry up for judgement and finding them sadly lacking.

After a discordant blast of ‘Rule Britannia’ (itself a cheeky dig at Britpop?) Draper continues the assault, this time with self serving politicians and politics in his sights. America’s Trump and Britain’s Boris Johnson are both torn apart by Draper, asking ‘are they different from the fuehrer himself?’ Draper is a man on a mission. It is Johnson himself who comes under sustained heavy fire. With a snippet of the man himself repeating ‘Follow The Rules, Follow the Rules,’ the song gets to the heart of the matter—putting an overgrown manchild in charge will have serious consequences for us all. It’s a heated sonic barrage.

‘Dirty Trix’ however is ice cold. Starting with swirling synths that wouldn’t have sounded out of place being pumped through the sound system of USCSS Nostromo. They soon give way to the realization that playing by the rules gets you nowhere and that you have to be a ‘moral free zone’ and use ‘Dirty Trix’ to succeed. At this point it feels like an honest assessment of the implosion of Mansun as much as it does a great pop song.

Speaking of which, the prelude to the stunning ‘You’ve Got No Life Skills, Baby!’ is all Attack of the Grey Lantern era strings before dismantling the pampered rock star life. Our heroine from the album opener returns to kick her useless man to the kerb as she continues to use Cult Leader Tactics to achieve her life goals. This and the following track ‘U Killed My Fish’ both use a different weapon in the Draper arsenal—humor. Over the bubbling of a fish tank and the chant of ‘Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish’ Draper’s narrator laments the loss of someone who turned out too good to be true. There’s shades of an abusive relationship here that is deconstructed with the blackest of black humor.

‘Everyone Becomes a Problem Eventually’ is all pounding disco synth and blackly humorous lyrics. A socially distant disco in which everyone dances two meters apart whilst keeping one eye on their dance partner, lest they ‘become an expert using CLT’. Trust no one indeed.

‘Annie’ seems to be Draper’s Only Love Song. A churchified organ and a seemingly honest appraisal of a relationship gone wrong. It all sounds Little Kixx-era Mansun and I am absolutely down with that. It feels honest, earnest and full of sorrow but with Paul Draper, you can never be sure.

Doing a sonic 360, ‘Talking Behind My Back’ is all speedy paranoia with the disarmingly honest lyrics about the end of a (musical?) relationship. The song conveys the sense that words and whispers are more destructive to musical relationships than any lawyer or cop.

Recent Single ‘Omega Man (feat. Steve Wilson)’ is moody electronica with Wilson’s almost whispered vocals offset by Draper’s soaring voice. The not so subtle nod to the last man on earth movie of the same name probably gives us some insight into how Draper feels about his past and musical Legacy (no pun intended).

And that’s it.

Almost.

There’ still time for one more Draper take down. This time the most honest, brutal and visceral of all. ‘Lyin Bout Who You Sleep With’ sees Draper singing about much maligned and much discussed Mansun album Little Kixx and how ‘the tunes weren’t f***in nicked’ and asking the unnamed target of his ire (Mansun fans will no doubt be able to hazard a guess) ‘Does this song make you cringe?’ before finally declaring ‘at the end of the day, just let there be love’.

Draper as a solo artist goes from strength to strength. The choice of packing up some heavy themes (both socially and musically) into a pseudo-self help manual is inspired. It allows Draper the freedom to take aim without dragging the album into bitterness, something that—with this release—Draper no longer seems to feel about his past.

Written by Matthew Campbell

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  1. Shame he’s got a record of being a constant and ongoing unwelcome factor in the lives of women that dare sever ties with him, creep tactics

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