Blancmange – ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ reviewed

❉ Blancmange keep one foot in early 80s electronica, and one firmly in the 21st century.

The revived Blancmange return to the music scene with their second full album release since Neil Arthur decided to go it alone employing session musicians to help out.  Unfurnished Rooms was written and recorded by Neil Arthur and co-produced by Benge (Wrangler/John Foxx & The Maths and Gazelle Twin co-producer).  Benge also contributed percussion and analogue synth to the final sound. The pair have worked together before as Fader, releasing their first album First Light just a few months ago. Clearly, with a Blancmange release following so soon, the pairing has been very successfully creative, and given the quality of this release, I hope they manage to work together again soon.

Unfurnished Rooms keeps its feet firmly in early eighties electronica, and stays true to the Blancmange sound throughout, however that is not to say that it feels dated or old fashioned. Arthur effortlessly uses the sound as a quirky and memorable backdrop to lyrics that encompass life in the 21st century. The final product definitely is an up to date 2017 release.

Unfurnished Rooms consists of ten tracks, each one with the barbed and poetic lyrics that we’ve come to expect from Blancmange over the years.  Where’s the Time? directs the ire of its spoken word lyrics at the kind of nonsense questionnaires you find on social media. It also boasts a particularly infuriatingly catchy rhythm and an infectious synthesiser hook that make this a stand out song amongst the collection.

Anna Dine (Anodyne) treads similar lyrical ground to Julian Cope’s Charlotte Ann (Charlatan). It begins with quite a slow plodding beat before blossoming out into an magnificent slice of electronic pop.

Old Friends is very cleverly reminiscent of The Beatles I am the Walrus with its opening melody, setting an immediate aural time framework for the modern subject matter to sit in. Lyrics concerning Facebook and smart watches, married to a sixties vibe in the song create a strong feeling of the passing of time, and Blancmange handle this juxtaposition well, leaving a memorable idea behind.

Other tracks worthy of a mention are We Are The Chemicals which definitely reminded me of the Thompson Twins seminal track Hold Me Now and really displays how effectively Blancmange have recreated that authentic eighties sound.  Arthur’s slightly despondent vocal over the top, has a Jarvis Cocker quality to it and the resulting song is quirky and melodic.

In December is possibly the most quintessentially classic Blancmange track of the whole album, though it is an accomplished and grown up track.  It is perhaps vibe wise most similar to I’ve Seen the Word from the band’s earlier output.  This one I think could be a grower on the listener but could well become a firm fan favourite.

Overall Unfurnished Rooms has a strong coherent feeling to it, something not all albums manage to achieve.  It is a perfectly crafted, quintessentially Blancmange album, and while it may not win them any new fans, I think all their current fans will be very pleased with the result.

❉ ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ is released on 29 September 2017 by Blanc Check Records (BCR010LP/BCR010CD/BCR010DD).

Become a patron at Patreon!