❉ Four decades on, the future of Blancmange is extremely bright, creative, innovative and delightful in equal measure, writes Ange Chan.
Back on their old label London Records after forty years, Blancmange have returned with their latest album, their sixteenth release, entitled Private View, showcasing the unquestionable talent of original band member Neil Arthur, in collaboration with the flair of producer/programmer/keyboardist Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards, and guitarist Davis Rhodes who also played on the band’s classic 1982 album, Happy Families. Collectively these individuals have managed to produce an album of cohesive, stimulating, compelling and futuristic sonic soundscapes, which has skilfully managed to sound both cutting edge and familiar at the same time.
We’re introduced into the album with a track which starts off gently then bursts into confident jagged melodic synth segues with Neil Arthur constantly questioning throughout the track “What’s your name?” which conveniently introduces the initial track’s title.
Some Times These follows and is a track which is reminiscent of the Blancmange we’ve come to know and love in recent years, as they develop their new unmistakeable sound. This is in no small part due to Arthur’s recent times collaboration with Benge who seems to bring out the best in Neil, both musically and lyrically, producing an avant garde sound with the unmistakeable vocals of Arthur.
Reduced Voltage makes the best of the synths within their arsenal. This is a track which has both modernity and nostalgia of the sound synths made back in the 1980s when Blancmange initially started out. The stark lyrics walk hand in hand with the hero analogue synths which are produced to stunning effect.
Here We Go Go is another stark synth opening, with Neil’s vocals slicing through the ice with his warm tones, singing of ‘how many hearts touch the sun’. Blancmange continue to produce music which is both timeless, and highly relevant in our modern age. The contrast between the harsh reality of life reflected in the music, is juxtaposed against the lyrics which remind us all that human warmth and companionship is what actually turns the hours into days into years. It’s a beautiful track.
The next track Chairs, picks up the pace once more, into a vivacious synth-driven number reflecting the trials of modern life lived out in public, with medical stimulants helping us along. Who Am I is a song steeped in introspection, questioning morals and values and the face we put on for the world on any particular day. It reminds me of a line in Alice in Wonderland thoughtfully pondering on not being the same person at breakfast, having changed personalities multiple times since then. We can all relate to having difference personalities depending on our circumstances and surroundings and this song reflects on that.
Everything is Connected has a funky vibe which lyrically discusses the mundanity of daily life, which is highly relatable, whilst musing that everything and everybody is connected in some small way.
I Tried To Be You again focuses heavily on an 80-esque synth aesthetic not unreminiscent musically of early Human League. The lyrics offer an interesting take on trying to step into the shoes of another, yet frustratingly failing despite their best efforts. It also appears that Arthur is singing as a woman trying to be a man ‘wearing themselves out’ trying to be the other person, which offers an interesting twist on the perspective.
The title track is also the penultimate track and continues pleasingly with creative sonic tropes, which draw you into each track compelling you to listen. It’s the aural equivalent of a bestselling page-turning book. The song manages to turn the mundane thoughts and feelings that we all have, into mysterious emotions with clear solutions. This in turn should break down the problem into simple components, and let it go.
We’re eased out of Private View with the final track Take Me, which is a serene song which morphs into the gentle vocals of Neal Arthur, reminding us that we’re picking up where we left off with their last album; troubles within a relationship being clearly discussed, and whether they can be overcome. Musically the gentle backing, crescendos smoothly towards the end of the song, gently progressing in line with the lyrics which have a hopefully edge tinged with bleak reality.
Having my first listen of the album I truly feel like Neil Arthur has taken me on an emotional journey as well as a musical one. The album is as accomplished as his previous few in recent years, which I also ranked very highly and is on frequent play. The future of Blancmange is extremely bright, creative, innovative and delightful in equal measure. Bravo to the band, for yet again producing an album of intense quality and meaning. In these transient and difficult times, it’s surely a joy to behold.
❉ Blancmange – ‘Private View’ is released on London Records on 30 September 2022 via the usual outlets.
❉ A lifelong lover of music and prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon), Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry.