Review of Blanc Burn Album by Blancmange

Having not released a record since 1986 and seemingly missed the boat for the eighties revival by half a decade or more, one could be forgiven for thinking Blancmange had completely disassociated themselves with the music industry and all its trappings. While more peripheral figures than leading lights of the new romantic scene such as Soft Cell, Yazoo or The Human League, the duo of Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe undoubtedly helped pave the way for bands like the Pet Shop Boys while the new breed of post-millennial artists like La Roux and Fischerspooner have cited their music as having a pivotal influence in their own career development.

Blancmange Blanc Burn Album

Both accomplished writers and musicians in their own right, Blackburn born frontman Arthur (hence the puntastic title) and Kent native Luscombe first met at Harrow School of Art in the late 1970s, and despite embarking on numerous projects, finally settled on a variant of synth pop that was sweeping the nation at the time from all angles. Initially signed to groundbreaking independent Some Bizarre before being snapped up by major London Records, Blancmange went on to record three albums during the early half of the 1980s spawning a handful of hit singles, 1982's 'Living On The Ceiling' undoubtedly providing their most renowned four minutes.

Since that all too brief period in the spotlight, Arthur and Luscombe may have gone their separate ways shortly after 1985's 'Believe You Me' long player but they've individually kept their hand in the business by recording everything from scores for film and television to experimental Asian dance projects alongside people such as Boy George and Asha Bhosle. Having resisted offers to reform for almost a quarter of a century, Arthur and Luscombe finally relented in 2010 and 'Blanc Burn' documents the results, albeit in a candidly mixed way.

While the sartorial humour of their early releases still rings true here, the likes of 'By The Bus Stop @ Woolies' and 'I'm Having A Coffee' operate on a level more akin to the cheese counter at Aldi rather than kitchen sink of a lavishly decorated penthouse, while the cumbersome 'Ultraviolent' pushes the vocoder-cum-autotune manufacturing of voice re-configuration into teeth grating absurdity.

However, 'Blanc Burn' does have its moments, such as on the pulsating ambient techno tryst 'Don't Let These Days' and laconic eurobeat of 'Starfucker', which actually gives messrs Tennant and Lowe a run for their money in the camp sarcasm sweepstakes. Better still is the delightful Eastern tinged 'The Western', which harks back to the halcyon days of their earlier material like 'Living On The Ceiling' and 'Blind Vision'. Mixing elegant synths with swooping tables complimented by Arthur's mercurial voice, it stands out like a Belisha beacon on an otherwise satisfactory but unremarkable album.

As with fellow eighties stalwarts OMD and The Human League's recent comeback efforts, 'Blanc Burn' isn't half bad but if anyone really wants to know why anyone cared about Blancmange in the first place, pick up a copy of the excellent 'Second Helpings' singles compilation instead.


Dom Gourlay

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