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Blancmange - Wanderlust

  by John Clarkson

published: 26 / 11 / 2018

Blancmange - Wanderlust
Label: Blanc Check Records
Format: CD


Thought-provoking and challenging ninth album from seminal synth pop act Blancmange, which shows an increasingly uneasy relationship with technology

“I smashed your phone last night/Oh joy,” sings Neil Arthur on Blancmange’s ninth studio album ‘Wanderlust’, before adding later, “I tore your world apart.” Seminal synth pop act Blancmange have shown an increasingly uneasy relationship with technology since they reformed in 2010 after an absence of twenty-four years, initially with both Neil Arthur and bandmate Stephen Luscombe back on board, and then after Luscombe retired because of ill-health Arthur on his own. While ever conscious of humankind’s (as well as his own bands) dependence on technology, Arthur’s records, both with Blancmange and side project Fader, have shown a steady unsettling by it, and in particular people’s inability to communicate with one another except through machines. Both Blancmange’s last two albums, ‘Commuter 23’ (2016) and ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ (2017), revealed an exhaustion and world weariness, a sense of ennui and detachment created by living in the computer age, but this has been replaced on ‘Wanderlust’ by a feeling of anger, and a want for something better and also more. On ‘Wanderlust’ Arthur and Blancmange are raging both against the greyness of the times, but also the dying of the light. Songs generally start starkly, minimally but conclude in a rush of dance beats. ‘I Smashed Your Phone’ shows its protagonist’s guilt and shame at having caused a domestic incident, “the consequences of which will reverberate until eternity,” but, as the tune becomes increasingly cinematic and widescreen, it is clear that he also feels a sense of euphoria and renewed hope at having done so. ‘In Your Room’, which is about being away from the world, seems on the surface upbeat, yet it implies that its characters can only spend so long removed in this way before needing their fix of internet, television and texts. But there is little relief to be had there too. The bleak, mournful ‘TV Debate’, about channel-hopping, reveals a monotony of scaremongering political debates (namechecking Jacob Rees-Mogg in the process) and brain-dead celebrity reality shows. The stand-out track, ‘Grand Drivel Syndrome’, which is a smouldering mix of stubby funk beats and spiralling synth loops, is a tale of misplaced social climbing at any cost, and the type of person, who undoubtedly having created for themselves a mass of Facebook ‘friends’, is always looking for a better offer. ‘Wanderlust’, however, while often hard-hitting, is never nihilistic. The echoing, slow-burning ‘Talking to Machines’, which like the rest of the album was written on computers and electronic equipment, acknowledges with sly, self-deprecating humour Arthur’s own dependence on technology for both his career and personal life. The soaring five minute plus closing title track, sung in part through a Vocoder, meanwhile looks for something beyond the constrictions of the 21st century and Arthur’s own need for new experiences. Neil Arthur’s output has been prolific since Blancmange’s return in 2010, six studio albums with them and also ‘First Light’, the debut of Fader earlier last year, yet his music has been fused throughout as has this album with a strong quality. ‘Wanderlust’ is thought-provoking, challenging and offers no easy solutions, and both gripping and totally enthralling.

Track Listing:-
1 Distant Storm
2 In Your Room
3 I Smashed Your Phone
4 Gravel Drive Syndrome
5 Talking To Machines
6 Not A Priority
7 TV Debate
8 Leaves
9 White Circle, Black Hole
10 Wanderlust

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