ALBUM REVIEW: Paul Draper - Cult Leader Tactics

9/10

Paul Draper - Cult Leader Tactics

Paul Draper returns with his second solo LP, Cult Leader Tactics which includes a fictitious self-help manual that he wrote whilst recording the LP. This satirical LP, his first since Six, details how one reaches goals by acting in a Machiavellian manner and employing dirty tricks, aka "Cult Leader Tactics".

Whilst there is one theme, musically, Cult Leader Tactics brings Mansun material (especially Attack of the Grey Lantern and Six) into the 2020s. It sharpens and makes editing efficiencies to some of the ideas explored in Draper's solo debut Spooky Action whilst boldly embracing contemporary production soundscapes not seen elsewhere on previous releases.

While some of the songs resemble his debut solo LP, Cult Leader Tactics is no banal effort. Cult Leader Tactics is slicker, tighter, more compressed and more heartfelt as Paul opens up about his personal experiences of being on the receiving end of Machiavellian social behaviour. Draper also shows he is in touch with the zeitgeist regarding how messages are conveyed to people through the lyric "illustrate with graphics" on album opener "Cult Leader Tactics" whilst impressing with jagged guitars influenced by Ennio Morricone's Western movie soundtracks.

Of the songs which reflect the origins of Paul's solo career, the strength of the songs which evolve Mansun's material cannot be understated. "Cult Leader Tactics in E-Flat Minor" is a pure string instrumental collection of melodies from various songs from Cult Leader Tactics. Its strength lies in being unspoilt and is disturbingly superior to the timeless orchestrations Draper wrote on Mansun's debut LP, such as "The Chad Who Loved Me" and "Dark Mavis".

Next comes the upbeat and pop-rock catchiness of "You've Got No Life Skills, Baby". Using counter melodies, Mansun diehards will detect "Stripper Vicar" hints in the chorus and "Mansun's Only Love Song" across the verses. Furthermore, Paul provides superb lyrics, including "Let's have sex, so this don't end in war", about the inadequacy of the modern man in a woman's world, which enables this song to stand erect amongst his 90's classics.

"Annie" is a triumph for Paul, who recalls being told that he could never have a song on an LP called Annie. It is the most organic track on this album using vintage recording equipment such as a 1930's Eavstaff piano which Paul and collaborator P-Dub collect. Tracks like "Dirty Trix" were recorded at Draper's home studio, and P-Dub's Loft studio sees Paul venture forth into unchartered territory using Oberheim and Moog analogue synthesisers and a Drumtrax drum machine.

Paul's courageousness reaches a new zenith on "Everybody Becomes A Problem Eventually", which discusses "how to trick your lover when it comes to affairs of the heart" amidst infectious motifs. Drawing influences from Kraftwerk, Joy Division, and The Human League, this 80's backdrop provides a perfect soundtrack to a song where "The moral of this song is Cult Leader Tactics". "Omega Man" featuring Steven Wilson goes even further with the production soundscape and is a testament to how to overcome the barriers of recording during lockdown without being present in the same room with musicians, producers or sound engineers. From using sophisticated production techniques, Paul also demonstrates the power of simplicity. On "U Killed My Fish", Paul blows a straw into a cup of water which he records onto his iPhone.

Playout track "Lyin About Who U Sleep With" sees Paul Draper making his concluding statement to the ideas, application and benefits of "Cult Leader Tactics", surmising that is love is more important. Draper got fans to record themselves singing the lyric "let there be love at the end of the day" to prove this point. Paul narrowed it down to 226 fans with the most soothing cacophonies.

Cult Leader Tactics may have been over four years in the making, but it's a record with an overriding theme. It haunts and explores the worst of human behaviour whilst offering desperately needed green shoots of hope. Most importantly, Draper's sophomore solo effort brings an eclectic range of Mansun and his solo material into the zeitgeist whilst breaking free of the safety blanket of his past genius. Paul has demonstrated that he is no mere Jack of multiple diverse musical offerings; he is a master of all of them.

Listen to Paul Draper Talking 'Cult Leader Tactics' with XS Noize

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