Song for the day

Song for the day 10/12/21: Paul Draper, “Omega Man” (feat Steven Wilson)

What’s this? Paul Draper nonchalantly sneaking in with the Single of 2021 just as the year is closing? Yes it is!

I’m not going to lie, the sight of Paul Draper in this video, wandering the bleak Chernobyl exclusion zone in a black leather jacket and gloves, set my creaky old Mansun fan heart a-flutter. This is something we have not experienced in a long, long time: barring a quick glimpse in “Fool”, the last time we saw Paul exude his rock star cool in a vid was “Electric Man”, 21 long years ago. The fact that he’s now willing to appear before the cameras again suggests an exciting shift in his attitude to his solo career, and as someone who spent many hours watching Mansun videos in my youth, I am more than ready for him to be an on-screen rock god again.

But as if that weren’t exciting enough, this song is BLOODY FANTASTIC. From its opening robotic bleeps, draped in a few warm key notes before the icy synths kick in with a sweep of desolate chords, it’s clear that the Draper means business. The sheer confidence radiated by this track is monumental, and it is thrilling to witness.

“Omega Man”, according to the YouTube notes, is a song inspired “the isolation and fears of lockdown”, and it sure as hell delivers on its promise. Steven Wilson beams in with his verses like a ghost from another dimension bringing a message of despair, before Paul’s unmistakable voice takes on the chorus with its tale of compulsive thoughts and claustrophobic confinement. The contrast between the two vocalists perfectly captures the strange unease of lockdown, spiraling between blank apathy and obsessive desperation.

Steven Wilson’s contribution here is excellent – the dispassionate vocal style only emphasising the song’s sense of detached desperation, at watching life slide away from you irretrievably. But I am, of course, a Mansun obsessive, and so it’s Paul’s sections of the song that thrill the most, and here he’s doing what he does so brilliantly: singing of isolation and despair with a voice that seems perfectly designed to express every conflicted nuance of the turmoil that the last year and a half brought us.

It may sound like a criticism to say that I find myself thinking “Omega Man” sounds like it could be a Mansun B-side. But when you consider that includes such wonders as the agonized beauty of “When The Wind Blows”, the restrained chaotic fury of “Everyone Must Win” or the stark brutality of “No One Knows Us”, that is high praise indeed. This song stands up alongside some of Paul’s most brilliant work, and I am truly excited to find out what else he might have in store for us in 2022.

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