Review: Blancmange – Wanderlust
One of the streaming revolution’s obvious casualties has been the lyric. Where album sleeves often offered them as sustenance for even the casual fan, these days, it requires a conscious effort to track them down online. Great lyricists are still out there, though, and one of the less celebrated remains Neil Arthur, whose recent work has been packed with striking imagery, enigmatic meaning and ultra-smart puns.
Wanderlust is no different, and Gravel Drive Syndrome, a subtly tense, motorik tune buried halfway through this ninth Blancmange album, is a fine example, dominated by suggestive word association: meetings on a moor lead to a reference to “a peak too soon” and another mysterious allusion, soon afterwards, to “climbing yon ladder to suck off success”.
Soft opener Distant Storm also shifts subliminally from poetic visions of breath “like a storm” to grubbier realms – “a car park by the chemist on the tarmac” – while managing to sound like Arthur’s improvising vocals over a loop Underworld left on in the studio next door.
He’s less playful this time, though, perhaps exhausted by recent activity: five Blancmange albums in five years, as well as another with Fader – his collaboration with Benge, who again acts as producer here – and Near Future, his duo with Gazelle Twin’s Jez Bernholz, who issued their debut this summer. But on In Your Room he remains one of the few capable of delivering the word “incrementally”, its dirtier take on early Depeche Mode accompanying his descent into darkness.
TV Debate, meanwhile, strings together seemingly disconnected phrases delivered in an early Brian Eno style – “Mummy’s boy/ People’s friend” – until a Rees-Mogg namedrop helps fill in their missing implication.
There are also moments of drama in Leaves’ explosive closing minute and I Smashed Your Phone, which matches dystopian imagery, underlined by references to Arthur C Clarke, to a menacing backing of wobbly, punched synths and occasional discordant sounds. It’s typically Blancmange: unconventional, but totally worth reading.
Written by Wyndham Wallace. Released on Blanc Check Records.