Blancmange - Unfurnished Rooms

September 22nd 2017
(CD Album Review)


The haunting sound of repetitive Electronica

A lot of people will remember the Pop / Synth Pop / Electronica band Blancmange for their hit single in the 80's 'Living on the Ceiling'. But they actually released three very good albums between 1982 and 1985, 'Happy Families, Mange Tout' and 'Believe you Me'. All of which when I was growing up, where regularly in my tape cassette player. Since the band have reformed in 2011, they have gone on to release a massive four album. Yes more than they released in the 80's, each of which where very interesting and extremely good. As well as these four albums they did a re-recording of their debut album 'Happy Families', simply entitled 'Happy Families Too'.

Like other Electronic bands of the era they are a duo, Neil Arthur (Vocals) and Stephen Luscombe (Keyboards). But sadly now only Neil Arthur, after Stephen Luscombe left are the bands reformation album 'Blanc Burn'. Actually the thing I always wondered was, why was this band not up their in the charts more alongside bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, OMD, Visage and the Pet shop Boys. They do have some very good, well written songs in their back catalogue. Stephen Luscombe might be gone, but Neil has brought in someone equally as good to work with Benge (Wrangler / John Foxx and The Maths, who also co-produced Gazelle Twin). I think he really adds his mark on the 'Unfurnished Rooms' album, you can hear it from start to finish.

The album opens with the title track of the record 'Unfurnished Rooms', which is actually one of the best songs on the album. Neil's vocals sound like other greats of the 80's, I think especially like Ivan Doroschuk of the underrated band Men without Hats. Yes! that band was more than just a one hit wonder to, I actually think the 'Safety Dance' was the worst thing like 'Living on the Ceiling' that happened to them. Because it meant that people didn't listen as much as they should have to their other material. 'We are the Chemicals' is a little dull and depressing, but has a good atmosphere to it. But at times I feel it is a little bit of a chore, and it is not an easy listen to. The album has a very haunting sound to it, think some of the work of Dave Sylvian (Japan) and you almost have it. 'Share it Up' is a landscape of sound, and instrumental ingredients, think Neil is trying to add some new sounds to your musical pallet.

I always like artists that like to try something new, and Blancmange are a band that most certainly to that. I think they draw on times from the Electronic Dance and Industrial scene on this record, and it is really interesting to hear. 'What's the Time?' for me is one of the most interesting songs on the album, it has a more up tempo feel to it, and I like the spoken word segments of it. But I think one of the standout tracks is 'Gratitude', which shows what the band can do... when they are not being laid back, I think they are too laid back on some of the tracks... like 'In December' and 'Old Friends', which just feel a little too much like album fillers. I think they more lively in the 80's, for me 'Unfurnished Rooms' is just too slow and depressing at times and as I said before a hard listen.

One of the only thing's I will say that I was not so keen on, was that some of the rhythms and words were a little repetitive at time and some of the songs could have been a little bit shorter. I think sometimes a good Pop song, needs to be quite short. I kind of enjoyed the record and would listen to it again, but I am not sure I would run out and buy it, but if I saw it there I would probably pick it... to add to my collection. Question is how many times would I actually listen to it.

Review by Dan Devour

Listen! to the Track 'What's the Time?' Below...


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