thu 22/02/2024

CD: Blancmange – Semi Detached | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Blancmange – Semi Detached

CD: Blancmange – Semi Detached

Neil Arthur returns and raises his game with a singular vision

Blancmange return with barely a wobble

After waiting a quarter of a century for Blancmange’s last album, 2011’s Blanc Burn, this new offering, effectively a Neil Arthur solo project, almost feels like a rush release. There’s a much changed visual aesthetic – gone is the stylised, Fifties cover kitsch, replaced by something much more stark and impenetrable. Now, I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but what about CDs?

This new collection is certainly darker, but, before we address that, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way. Don’t worry, it really won’t take long. So… “Useless” sounds like the Wedding Present trying to get into the Blitz Club, with the resulting success you’d imagine. “Acid”, while fun, and the most “Blancmange” moment here, is too quirky to bear repeated listening – imagine eating marshmallows until your teeth hurt. Then there’s the cover of Can’s “I Want More", where everything has been faithfully transposed from the original, except the groove. The inspired reworking of Chic’s “I Want Your Love”, which features on the two-disc expanded edition, would have been a far better choice to include here – as it stands, it’s like having Paddy Considine understudy Dean Gaffney.

As for the rest, Stephen Luscombe’s departure has coincided with a reduced palette of sounds, and that’s all to the good. Sawtooth synthwaves and fizzy top notes are much in evidence, particularly on opener “The Fall” which bounces along like the less damaged sibling of “WFL” – at least until the singalong chorus comes in – and in the catchy, Kraftwerk-y squelch of instrumental “MKS Lover”.

Elsewhere, Neil Arthur’s lyrical USP of absurdist juxtaposition peaks on the impressive, eastern-tinged single “Paddington”, where he intones, “Figure of eight, figure it out” (I’ll give it a go mate, but I wouldn’t hold your breath). “Like I Do”, meanwhile, is a brilliant pop high point, with a bitterness drenched in the passing orange glow of a streetlight on the back seat of a taxi home at 2am.

Add to that the brooding, reflective furrow of “Deep in the Mine” (basically a folk ballad that’s swapped its arran sweater for modular synth) and the delicate, fractured beauty of “Bloody Hell Fire” and you’re looking at an album that manages to all but eclipse its predecessor – and much, much more besides.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Paddington"

 

 

This is an album that manages to all but eclipse its predecessor

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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