Wanderlust by Blancmange – Album Review
By David Schuster
There’s a lot of love around at the moment for the music of the 80s. Witness the popularity of festivals such as Rewind, this year featuring OMD, Howard Jones, Heaven 17 and Flock of Seagulls, which could easily be the band listing for an episode of Top of the Pops from that era. Blancmange were at the forefront of this movement, reforming in 2011, though shortly afterwards Stephen Luscombe had to leave due to illness. Since then Neil Arthur has continued to perform and record solo as Blancmange and Wanderlust is his latest album release.
‘Distant Storm’ begins in moody tones with a fat base rhythm reminiscent of Yazoo’s seminal Upstairs at Eric’s. The vocals are low in the mix, giving the track a reflective and slightly threatening feel, as the title suggests. That’s also a good summary of the ethos of the whole record, Arthur say’s he wanted to demonstrate “wistfulness turning to anger; dislocation morphing into a powerful desire to be somewhere else”. There’s a good sense of the songs on the CD being considered together holistically, which I like. It begins slow, builds and evolves and then finishes as it starts, in mellow and reflective tone with the title number, ‘Wanderlust’.
When I was a student I liked music that echoed my concerns, with lyrics that showed the band understood how I felt. Tracks like ‘In Your Room’ and ‘I Smashed Your Phone’ could do just that for the millennial generation. “I smashed your phone tonight. Oh joy! The consequences will reverberate”. Who hasn’t in some way experienced that sinking feeling that follows a momentary flash of anger?
‘White Circle, Black Hole’ is a great indie-disco number. Managing to be both dark and danceable is a difficult trick to pull off. It’s been achieved by very few since New Order went on holiday to Ibiza, discovered club music and stopped producing heavily Joy Division influenced tunes like ‘Ceremony’. ‘Not a Priority’ is one of my favourites off the album. This also has an infectious but subdued dance rhythm and lyrics which offer very sound advice, so often ignored: “Please be yourself, you can’t be anybody else”. It could easily be a lost song from The Human League’s multi-platinum selling Dare.
Such comparisons are not intended to detract, this record will certainly appeal to those, like myself, who like 80’s electronica. For that reason, I make no apologies that the musical references here come from that period. The crux for Blancmange will be whether they can engage new fans. This album is certainly good enough to do just that.