Blancmange ‘Semi Detached’ (Cherry Red)

Following his reappearance in 2011, Neil Arthur’s music just gets better and better the second time around

The words “Blancmange”, “deep” and “dark” aren’t seen together all that often, not even in cook books. But there are few better ways to describe Blancmange’s newest release, ‘Semi Detached’.

Neil Arthur’s first album without original bandmate Stephen Luscombe finds a totally “now” version of Blancmange offering up new possibilities for interpretation with every listen. Its depths – not in a Proust, roll-neck sweater, cigarette kind of way – will have you thinking about it for days. There’s just so much here.

‘Semi Detached’ is a journey downwards, both through the earth and through a psyche. This is an album of subterranean spaces, dark caverns hollowed out beneath the surface in which London’s Central Line becomes inextricably intertwined with a John Milton-esque landscape of Biblical reference, eternal damnation, and existential crisis. As we move from the funky eight-minute opener, ‘The Fall’, to the closing epic ballad, ‘Bloody Hell Fire’ (and I hope you get the ‘Paradise Lost’ link now), Neil Arthur drags us further down into himself as the underground imagery and the introspective lyrics intensify.

That’s not to say Blancmange have forgotten how to have a good time, and there are some great pop moments. There’s a brilliantly vibrant cover of Can’s ‘I Want More’ which, if we’re running with the ‘Paradise Lost’ thing, sounds pretty sinister coming straight after ‘The Fall’. There’s ‘Useless’, a tongue-in-cheek love song, and ‘Paddington’, the first single from the album, a track that manages to evoke ‘Living On The Ceiling’ and its Eastern synth riffs while being a totally different kind of hit.

And if it’s a record that’s hard to stop talking about, it’s really, really hard to stop dancing to it. It’s so perfectly structured – essentially a vinyl album with an A-side and a B-side – that once you reach the end of the last song you will immediatly want to start playing the album from the beginning again. But give in to that temptation and let yourself listen over and over. It’ll sound even deeper, even darker, and even more fun every time, I promise.

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