Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
In adversity comes the greatest of challenges, to overcome adversity twice, albeit for two very different reasons is a mark of greatness. There never really should be any doubt that Blancmange bring a mark of greatness to the table that cannot be fully appreciated unless you took the band for the every word in the respective periods they have come to be associated with. Two eras separated by time, by complication and inconvenience and exemplified wonderfully by the new album, Semi Detached.
The 1980s was a decade dominated in some quarters by the advent of the new breed of music that had come out of places such as Sheffield and Essex, The Human League, ABC, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode and Yazoo all grabbed the headlines. Together with groups such as The Eurythmics, they all gave a certain style to counteract the drabness that had dominated the previous ten years. Some bands though arguably didn’t get the full appreciation from some quarters and despite being hugely popular, Blancmange were unfairly placed into a second stream of musical consciousness, a certain inconvenience that still rankles with any Blancmange fan.
With the tremendous Blanc burn being released in 2011 all looked as though the past could be amended, could be updated and improved upon, if such a thing to improve on quality is possible. However with the one half of the band in Stephen Luscombe falling seriously ill, complication happened. Two different decades, two distinct moments in which adversity became a nasty by product of wanting to entertain a fan base that never went away.
Semi Detached sees the highly agreeable Neil Arthur take the band on, with help of other musicians to a stage that might have been inconceivable 30 years ago. This is an album of intensity, produced from a feeling of loss heightened but not giving into the issues and of a struggle waiting to be overcome, defeated and relegated to the confines of a small biscuit tin in which to rot. For Neil Arthur, for Blancmange, this is not rebirth but continuation of a great sound and one in which to admire.
The double C.D. features songs that the avid listener will know to come from the house of Blancmange but the slight difference in delivery, in production and in play will have them wondering with a huge smile upon their face, just where the extra dynamic and assurance has come from.
In songs such as Paddington, I Want More, Like I Do, the brilliantly cutting Useless, That Worm and the outstanding Acid, Neil Arthur retains the link with the previous eras but moves the Blancmange sound on a step. It is exciting, tremendously brave and overall something in which you cannot help but rejoice in.
Adversity is only a boulder in the way of the way of the path, some go round it, losing an essence of themselves by compromise, some turn back and never reach a feeling of growth, others like Blancmange crash right through it, taking it apart like Alexander the great with caustic vinegar. The road may be different, the destination not the one that was originally aimed at but by fair means of foul, the result is the same and for Blancmange and the album Semi Detached sees the boulders destroyed.
Ian D. Hall