The Wanton Bishops

Under The Sun
Sortie le 17 novembre 2023
Label: Gnu Roam
Under The Sun is the new album from The Wanton Bishops, a band by every definition of the word, but primarily the vision of one very eclectic man – Nader Mansour. The album is an exploration of identity and ultimately a love letter to his hometown Beirut, capturing Nader’s kaleidoscopic life journey through a melting pot of musical influences: primarily gutsy blues-rock but with tinges of psychedelia, surf-rock, dance, as well as the Lebanese flavours of Nader’s homeland. “It’s Lebanese Rock”, adds Nader, “a new genre, a blueprint for future music. It’s not fusion, it’s confusion; it’s not world music, it’s rock music – from the world, for the world”.
Under The Sun is the new album from The Wanton Bishops, a band by every definition of the word, but primarily the vision of one very eclectic man – Nader Mansour. The album is an exploration of identity and ultimately a love letter to his hometown Beirut, capturing Nader’s kaleidoscopic life journey through a melting pot of musical influences: primarily gutsy blues-rock but with tinges of psychedelia, surf-rock, dance, as well as the Lebanese flavours of Nader’s homeland. “It’s Lebanese Rock”, adds Nader, “a new genre, a blueprint for future music. It’s not fusion, it’s confusion; it’s not world music, it’s rock music - from the world, for the world”.

Following the release of The Wanton Bishops’ debut album ‘Sleep With The Lights On’, a Delta blues record inspired by the likes of RL Burnside and Muddy Waters, Nader journeyed to America’s deep south to experience the roots of Mississippi blues. The experience spawned a musical epiphany for Nader, as he returned home to Lebanon a changed man with a newly inspired musical vision. Nader’s music slowly emerged from the Delta swamps into the Lebanese mountains, and the music of The Wanton Bishops began to reflect Nader’s homeland, his people, and his personal journey. To quote Nader, "I’m finally getting to the core of the music I want to create, and that core is scarily confused, yet uniquely special, much like our own identity as Lebanese people living in Beirut, that eternal cultural crossroad."

A riff driven pure rock n roll banger - straight to the point and simply infectious. Thematically, the track challenges the clichés historically expected of an ageing rock ‘n roller. This song is perhaps the most straightforward and ‘on the nose’ of any on the album. It’s important to remember that playing rock music is sometimes simply an expression of energy and it need not be a multi layer cake of subtleties. The rest of the album’s songs provide the depth and nuance. This song quite simply kicks open the doors for the other tracks.


An ode to an eternal city, to its people and their oftentimes difficult way of life. The thing about living in a place with so much adversity is that it tends to scar, the kind of scars that never heal. But like many scars, it’s often a self-inflicted wound and thus ones own fault. We’ve done her wrong, Beirut! For decades. Ripped her to pieces. Eight times destroyed, eight times resurrected. Beirut today is a weary lover who might’ve lost the ability or willingness to love. The only option I have is to offer her more love – and then even more, without expecting any reciprocation, in the hope that maybe, one day, the city will trust again and begin to love back. Musically the track is set in a tight drum and bass structure, rhythmic guitar chops filling in the groove, all serving as a bedding for the lead synths reminiscent of the old belly dancing licks used by the heroes of the genre, the likes of Ihsan El Munzer and Baligh Hamdi.


“Do What You’re Told” is a journey into political mass manipulation, hypnotic technology, and endless consumerism, all of which are preventing a true and meaningful sense of belonging and connection. The whole song is a political speech, one we’ve heard hundreds of times around the world every day, triggering fear to achieve results and leveraging these insecurities as a means of gaining control. It casts a light on the exponential effects of politics on the people of the Middle East in general and Beirut, Lebanon in particular.
This song is a dance rock track with hard hitting riffs, a hip hop beat structure and vocal delivery, all sprinkled with a hint of the Orient.


An electronic dance jam featuring the electric oud on the main riff, Ya Habibi uses guitar chops and synth pads come to complement the tableau into a cosmic reminder that we’re not stuck in our earthly reality. We’re not the victims of a pre-ordained fate. We are so much more than that! The real truth is that we are stars - Gods, pure consciousness, the whole bloody universe, breathing our way through a dystopian worldly dream.


A Lyrically succinct electro Rock shuffle, this song is a psychedelic spiritual experience delving into the sacred nature of the oriental Bayati scale and the Byzantine liturgic chants, to celebrate the ONLY true words that matter in this life: We Are One! The aim is to shatter the egotistical myth of individuality and to focus solely on what truly matters: we are not just our bodies, nor are we just our minds, we are all ONE under the sun, bits and pieces of the same magnificent life force temporarily poured into numerous recipients. The track is a prayer - a calling, if you will, to go back home, to that blissful Oneness.


The song is a satirical hip hop and rock brew, with lazy sarcastic vocals, delving into the world of internet charlatan healers and motivational influencers preying upon people’s anxieties to sell absolute rubbish for a ‘like’, a ‘share’, or a ‘comment’.
It is modern life caricature of ‘woke’ content consumption looking for space in an otherwise crumbling world. Repeat this mantra after me and I assure you that we’re gonna be juuust fine. If only.


Have you ever fallen for a falling angel? Or watched it happening to someone you know? It’s the kinda stuff that movies are made of, where right from the get go you can accurately predict how the story ends, leaving you frustrated, wanting to save your friend - the protagonist, from his inevitable fate. But still you watch it. Why? Not just because we are intrinsically sadistic by nature, but because somehow, you can relate! This guitar laden, surf rock delicacy paints a blood coloured panorama, and proves that there’s absolutely nothing that can be done to offset the blinding, blissful magic of love.


Right out of a Tarantino picture, this Morriconi-esque ballad evokes the power of love and separation and the explosion of emotions generated as an aftermath. The musical artillery used: wet reverb guitars, asymmetrical lush drums, horns, a greek Saz, an Indian harmonium, draped by an angelic, operatic backing vocal, all of which supports a main voice drenched in agony. It is a grand cinematic journey, right up to the psychedelic Sergio Leone ending.


A taste of home, if one’s home is the Levant, this song is the story of a wild mysterious lover seeking freedom and self exploration to escape the dusty shackles of the desert. Musically it exemplifies the Middle East as much as any track on the album. The song’s bridge will be a mystery to any English speaking listener that doesn’t know Arabic equally well.


“There was nothing sweeter, nothing felt as good, way more than anything should…”
Such are the pursuits of hedonistic pleasures and fulfilling desires for instant gratification, for a fix, for a fleeting moment, in order to numb the existential angst. And then what? It’s back to square one. Every single time. Standing at such a vital crossroad, the toughest personal choices have to be made, and of course, one knows that the road to recovery is always the steepest. Musically this track is pure psychedelia, wrapping you up like a warm wool blanket, like a soft dream, weaved with acoustic guitars, spacey vocals, wet harmonicas, and a superstar tambourine.

The Wanton Bishops’ second album, “Under The Sun” is a daring quest for identity. Whether it fails or succeeds to achieve its goal is almost irrelevant; the moral is in the process, in the search itself.
A little heads up before we start: this will be complex. Hang in there if you truly want to know.

There was a time, in the 60’s, when we, the Lebanese were beautiful. They called it the golden era. Beirut was dubbed the “Switzerland of the Middle East”. Local narco-religious godfathers, Arab Gulf fortunes, corrupt financial institutions, and shady western jet setters all floating around a Mediterranean paradise in decline.

Yeah, we were drowning in hedonistic pleasures, money, and glamour; we were fucking magnificent!! But we weren’t perfect. The Gods might’ve blessed us with one of the most beautiful countries in the world, yet something intrinsically evil was just built-in. An inevitable storm was brewing upon us, one that will spare no one, no one at all, for decades and generations to come…

1975 the civil war officially breaks out. The country quickly becomes a laboratory for a micro proxy war between the two biggest world powers: The United States and Russia. Internal allies pledge their respective allegiances, and the war claims the lives of more than half a million innocent, and less innocent people. Millions immigrate and create lives somewhere else, anywhere but here!
New weapons are tested, intelligence techniques, strategies, and at the time, the new-born concept of media war was first introduced. It was television’s first real war. Western journalists, spies, and diplomats flocked into the city. Then came along herds and herds of foreign troops with doomed peace-keeping missions, preferring to frequent the ultra-liberal clubs and cabarets. And loyal to its reputation as a party destination and eternal melting pot, Beirut indulged. One massive “Danse Macabre”.

My generation was born in the early 80’s. Formative years in the shelters, we grew up to the sounds of Feyrouz and Oum Kolthoum when bombs didn’t hit too close or too loud, and since we didn’t know any better, we weren’t exactly unhappy. It’s true that we were raised in a constant fear of the other, but we still managed to play together, of course, good guys bad guys, and we would alternate. Will we still be here in the morning?? Was a question everyone asked. We lived day by day; Dreams were a luxury we couldn’t afford.

Unable to militarily annihilate each other, the Tai’f ceasefire agreement inaugurated the 90’s: warlords turned politicians then devised a meticulous plan of distribution of the country’s wealth and reconstruction contracts, veiled in a fake cold-war status-quo that kept us fearing each other, and kept them in control. Business needed stability, and they guaranteed that.

In come the 2000’s, these same figures can still be found in today’s Lebanon, only older, bolder and morally bankrupt. Oh, and much much richer!
They say the winner writes history. In our case, no one won. Or might I say, THEY did. A class of the finest corrupt pieces of shit sucking the country dry, artfully titillating our post-war traumas whenever we ask for a better life, or simply basic human rights!

All that to say that as people, we never had common ground! The notion of a nation never really existed. We belong to different religions, sects, neighborhoods, aesthetics, and political parties, as well as cultures. Beirut the city perfectly mirrors that. Take one wrong turn in the city and you’ll end up in a completely different world!
We are culturally confused. We’re absolutely fucked.
But is that such a bad thing?
Well, not entirely.
What if, just what if, this confusion IS the common denominator we’ve been looking for? What if IT becomes ground zero for the new Lebanese identity? Crazy right? But hear me out:

We are the post-war generation, children of the gun, and it is our responsibility to give closure and direction to the future generations.
Between the war-ghosts, and the internet millennials, there’s a massive gap, and we are the link! We understand both worlds. The Stockholm syndrome and the total disconnect. We are both.

Since we identify with so many different things, why don’t we pick the best and construct a new model? Why don’t we embrace our differences, our confusion, and concoct some sort of best-of compilation in culture, music, religion, art, politics, economics, and way of life and paint the foundations of the new Lebanon?

It could end up being total gibberish, but we could also be on to something here, something even bigger, something that could apply to all of humanity on the large scale. This could be the start of a new hybrid human being, a cross-cultural specimen promoting and practicing tolerance, acceptance, and love. Quite frankly, our survival as a species rests on it…

It’s futile to dissect “Under The Sun” and analyze using genres and styles; it is everything! It’s oriental, electronic, blues, rock n’ roll, psychedelic, surf, synth pop, dance… It’s Lebanese Rock, a new genre, a blueprint for future music. It’s not fusion, it’s confusion, it’s not world music, it’s music from the world, for the world!

Last but not least, I want to address you Beirut, my love:

I know you’re numb by now, you can’t feel a damn thing. We loved the idea of loving you so much that we ended up hurting you a great deal for the last three decades. We made you incapable of love. We made you cold. Then we hated you. But then we hated ourselves. The only way out is love, again, bigger, and better. Pure and selfless love, with absolutely no expectations, so that one day, you may be able to trust and forgive us again, and perhaps love us back.

I’m not saying it to hear it back, but I love you!