Review: Blancmange – Blanc Burn

It seems like every band we’ve written about in our Bands We Miss series over the past few years have reunited and returned to the scene. Too often these reunion efforts, while entirely welcome, are also underwhelming as compared to the built up anticipation. Rare is the “come-back album” that actually manages to capture what made the artist great in the first place let alone actually improve on the older work.

Rare but not unknown as it turns out.

Blancmange were a quirky synth pop duo that released three crackerjack albums between 1982 and 1986. They knew their way around a great hook but were equally known for their dabbling with “world music”, particularly Indian music that gave them a truly unique sound replete with tablas and sitars. They petered out after the underrated Believe You Me though a startling number of various best-of collections continued to pop up, keeping the band in the public eye to some degree.

Now all these years later Arthur and Luscombe are back with album #4, and it’s a real wonder, better than it has any reason to be given the length of time away from these scene.

All the hallmarks are there. The quirky song titles, the literate, erudite lyrics, the odd melodic patterns, the heavy Indian influence. In many ways this album could have been released a year or two from Believe You Me and it would have felt like the natural extension of the band’s catalogue without missing a beat. Only the years have added a maturity as songwriters, a wisdom that has turned them into a smarter, stronger musical force. While we were anxious to hear what the band had in store for a comeback what we hadn’t expected was the strongest electronic release thus far in 2011.

The story begins and ends with The Western. A better, harder-charging electro blast you will not hear this year. Eastern sounds are everywhere, as are the sometimes-too-clever-by-half but still imaginative lyrics (“I’m having a battle with myself/I’m losing every round to dignity and health”). The chorus is a scatter-edited vocal pastiche that cut over the ever-present sitars sounds like nothing else on the scene right now and it’s nothing short of delightful. There’s also the vintage synth plodder “Probably Nothing”, the Kraftwerkian “Radio Therapy” and “Ultraviolent” and the more straightforward pop of “Drive Me”, and each one works beautifully. Each track draws on a unique, separate strength known to this band but as different as they all are these tracks just sing.

Sure there are weirder songs that seem to be there for weird’s sake (“Don’t Forget Your Teeth”, “I’m Having a Coffee”), but it wouldn’t be a Blancmange album without them. There’s something utterly charming about knowing those things that made a Blancmange album unique and awesome sound-wise and lyric-wise are still present even after all these years.

The year’s biggest surprise, what we thought would be nice distraction, a nice cast back to the days of yore instead sees a fully formed, incredibly realized brilliant electronic album that does the memory of a pretty great band proud and shows they could have a long healthy life ahead of them yet should they be so inclined to keep the bizarre party going a little while longer…

Watch: Drive Me


3 Responses to “Review: Blancmange – Blanc Burn”

  1. WhatIsThatIDon’tEven!

    What an awesome surprise! I want this RFN!

  2. Nosferatu Says:

    Wow “Drive Me” sounds EXACTLY like Hot Chip who sounds like Blancmange. How excellent it is to have Blancmange back!!!!

  3. […] so I thought. They released a new album last year when I wasn’t looking: Blanc Burn. The Guardian gave it a fair review, too. I’ve been listening to it on YouTube, and I just […]

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