American music artist, Moby, who was responsible for ‘Porcelain’ which is one of the best songs ever by my reckoning, famously stated that Blancmange were ‘Probably the most under-rated electronic act of all time’ and you know, I believe he is right!
Blancmange have been a musical enigma right from the very start. Like Sparks, they have been ploughing their own furrow of slightly off-kilter electro-pop for themselves and if you too like it, then all the merrier.
Ever since I purchased the seminal ‘Some Bizarre Album’ (which contained ‘Sad Day’ by Blancmange) back in 1981, which featured a dozen songs by up-and-coming synth acts including Depeche Mode’s first ever release, I knew that Blancmange were going to get somewhere and I was on board for the ride.
I was fortunate to see them perform live a few times in those days including a brilliant gig at Xtreems (The New Regent) which used to be located at the bottom left of West Street in Brighton. I was right at the front of the queue for tickets when they went on sale and dutifully purchased ticket number 001. Which incidentally was only ever bettered by my (Factory Records artists) Stockholm Monsters concert ticket which strangely was number 000.
I went back stage after the Xtreems gig and congratulated the boys afterwards, they were both really decent chaps. You know sometimes you go to a concert and something just sticks in your head for decades, well at this particular concert I can remember Neil being in his usual jovial mood and uttered on the mic to his mate on the sound-desk ‘Count Basie John’. It was obviously some in-joke, but hey Blancmange are exactly like that.
Those days Blancmange were Stephen Luscombe on keyboards and Neil Arthur on vocals and if my memory serves me right, (however I could be mistaken but) I think that Neil was no stranger to Brighton back in those days as his girlfriend was studying at the art college in town. I can recall meeting him in Upper Gardner Street in town at the outdoor market, naturally at a music stall run by this chap called Terry.
Stephen and Neil did go on to dent the music charts with several decent single releases including ‘God’s Kitchen’ (No.65), ‘Feel Me’ (No.46), the legendary ‘Living On A Ceiling’ (No. 7) which still can be found on lots of compilation albums, ‘Waves’ (No.19) which is my favourite Blancmange song – to me it’s their Vienna, ‘Blind Vision’ (No.10) and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ (No.8). As for their excellent ‘Game Above My Head’ single, well that didn’t even chart. I mean what was wrong with all these people? These days you would believe that ‘Living On A Ceiling’ had got to No.1, judging by how well people remember it. And don’t get me started on their truly fab debut album ‘Happy Families’, which came out in 1982. That only got to No.30 – travesty! You know this album is sooooo good that it’s the only album I have ever bought three copies of – one for me to enjoy, one for my then girlfriend and one for my mother, who too loved their catchy music. This album has stood the test of time and was even updated four years ago and saw the light of day as ‘Happy Families Too’. So Moby, I do agree with you.
These days, Neil Arthur is surely on a mission, when it comes to releasing material under the Blancmange banner (six albums since 2011) and even with new found pal Benge of John Foxx & The Maths fame, whom Neil has recorded a decent album titled ‘First Light’ under the moniker of Fader, which hit the streets in June.
But tonight Neil and his two pals were playing Brighton at the Concorde 2 in support of the new 10 track Blancmange album called ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ which came out on 22nd September. This song based album has the usual experimental twists in its arrangements as you would expect from the band and yet it is considered their most forward looking work so far. My standout tracks are ‘Anna Dine’ and ‘In December’. The final track features John Grant on piano and backing vocals and John stated that ‘Blancmange has been part of the soundtrack to my life ever since ‘Happy Families’ was released.’ There you go more praise!
Tonight’s gig was opened by a post-pop Twin Peaks style artist going by the name of Curxes, along with her ‘support bear as she referred to her colleague’. Curxes is actually a lady by the name of Roberta Fidora who hails from Portsmouth but now has sailed across the water to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Roberta, who is no stranger to Brighton, having performed at The Great Escape music festival 4 years ago, was performing in support of her new single out tomorrow (6.10.17) entitled ‘ In Your Neighbourhood’ and her forthcoming 13 track album called ‘Gilded Cage’, which you can purchase from 20th October. Tonight her set was reasonably pleasant and shifted from dance to stance!
For more information on Curxes, visit: http://www.curxes.com/
After a short break it was time for Darwen’s finest Lancashire son, Neil Arthur and his keyboards and guitar mates. In total they performed 19 songs of which 6 were from the current ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ album.
The set started in a rather subdue manner with their cover of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’, then the title and second tracks of the current album got an outing, followed by the much underrated ‘Game Above My Head’. As the concert went on, Neil (as usual) likes to involve the crowd with some banter, which I suppose helps with the bonding and his confidence. He comes across as a really nice understated fellow and this comes across through his songs.
We were treated to ‘Anna Dine’ from the new album, which is one of my two standout tracks as well as some real corkers from the early days, including the omnipresent ‘Living On A ceiling’, ‘I’ve Seen The Word’, ‘Feel Me’, ‘Blind Vision’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’. Surprisingly, my fave Blancmange track ‘Waves’, was the second best of the night as I feel it was eclipsed by an aggressive ‘I Can’t Explain’. There was also an updated new version of ‘Running Thin’ too. They did two songs in the encore, one of which was the strange ‘Lorraine’s My Nurse’. Alas there was no ‘Sad Day’ today, just a happy evening!
For more details regarding Blancmange, go to: http://www.blancmange.co.uk/
Blancmange’s full running order for tonight was: The Day Before You Came, Unfurnished Rooms, We Are The Chemicals, Game Above My Head, Red Shift (Blame Thrower), What’s The Time?, Last Night (I Dreamt I Had A Job), Waves, Gratitude, Anna Dine, Running Thin (updated version), I Can’t Explain, Old Friends, Living On A Ceiling, I’ve Seen The Word, Feel Me, Blind Vision, (encore) Lorraine’s My Nurse, Don’t Tell Me
If you enjoy synth music like Blancmange, then the chances are that you will also enjoy the bands listed below. Simply click on each of the names and they will take you to our concert reviews on those bands:
Fröst, The Human League, The KVB, Digitalis, Battery Operated Orchestra, Halo Maud, Sextile, Gary Numan, Orbital, Pinkshinyultrablast, B-Movie, Covenant, AK/DK, Blue Hawaii, OMD, The Fin., Heaven 17, Austra, Vile Electrodes.