Album review – Blancmange


Blancmange -‘Blanc Burn’ (Proper)

I was really looking forward to reviewing the comeback album from Blancmange. Stephen Luscombe abd Neil Arthur produced some excellent hits in the first part of Eighties, even getting two entries in John Peel’s hallowed Festive Fifty with ‘Feel Me’ and ‘Living On The Ceiling.’

However, the first three tracks on this album are so awful that they do remind you why comeback albums can have such a terrible reputation. It is particularly the lyrics which let this album down. ‘By The Bus Stop @ Woolies’ (and yes, the ‘@’ is actually in the title!) has lyrics which may hark back to awkward teenage relationships but just sound silly.

As for ‘I’m Having A Coffee’… I can honestly say I wrote better lyrics as a thirteen year old. Certainly better than ‘I’m having a coffee/it’s in the pot/the kettle is boiling/I want it so hot’ is up there with Def Leppard’s execrable ‘I suppose a rock’s out of the question?’ for sheer naffness.

It’s not all bad. Tracks like ‘Don’t Let these Days’ and ‘the western’ work well. However, they are not strong enough to redeem the album, leaving the whole work feeling like a massive let down, especially to someone who was looking forward to it.

Shame. A Missed opportunity.


Blanc Burn is released on Proper on March 7.

The Western by blancmange

Everybody needs a 303


The latest issue of The Wire arrived today. Maybe it was the appearance of Julian Cope on the front – but my brain suddenly started obsessing about the Roland 303, that legendary squelchy synth, responsible for some of the best bass ever that wasn’t played on a, well, bass.

The Wire does some wonderful primers that have led to me seeking out all manner of wonderful stuff I haven’t really heard before whether it’s been digital reggae or psychedelic folk. So…in honour of one of the most legendary bits of kit ever, and based on some records I tracked down, ladies and gentlemen: fifteen classic cuts featuring the 303:

From the days when it was starting to make its’ presence felt; if only in the background…

Blancmange -‘Living On The ceiling.’ mp3

Paul Haig -‘Justice.’ mp3

Orange Juice -‘Rip It Up.’ mp3

It starts to come to the forefront…

Alexander Robotnik -‘Problemes d’Amour.’ mp3

Heaven 17 -‘Let Me Go.’ mp3

Shannon -‘Let The Music Play.’ mp3

It could’ve been a contender in the Hip-Hop scene, it just seems that (largely) it wasn’t…except for these tracks…

Ice-T -‘Squeeze The Trigger.’ mp3

Mantronix -‘Bassline.’ mp3

However, it really shapes early acid house…including these three tracks, generally recognised as being the first three tracks from that scene in the US…

Sleazy D- ‘ I’ve Lost control.’ mp3

Phuture -‘Acid Trax.’ mp3

Armando -‘Land Of Confusion.’ mp3

…and acid house comes to the UK, becomes the biggest counter-cultural movement since punk and frightens the moral majority.

Baby Ford -‘Oochy Koochy.’ mp3

Humanoid -‘Stakker Humanoid 12″.’ mp3

Into the nineties, the dance scene pulls in hundreds of different directions, and most people struggle to keep up with what’s what. Especially those of us who got distracted by grunge and britpop. But some classic stuff takes the 303 into the decade…

Hardfloor -‘Acperience.’ mp3

…and the dance music of the Britpop era…big beat!

Fatboy Slim -‘Everybody Needs a 303.’ mp3

Peel Slowly and see

Ah the legendary Mr. Peel. Famous quotes (many more of which can be found here
Peel’s compering debut on TOTP: “In case you’re wondering who this funny old bloke is, I’m the one who comes on Radio 1 late at night and plays records made by sulky Belgian art students in basements dying of TB.”

And of course, his comment about Aretha Franklin’s duet with George Michael ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’:”You know, Aretha Franklin can make any old rubbish sound good, and I think she just has.”

First up, from one of the greatest travelling albums of all time, Big Science, Laurie Anderson’s deeply spooky ‘O superman’
Laurie Anderson -‘O Superman.’ mp3 (1981 Festive Fifty no.34)

The Wedding Present had 47 entries in the various Festive Fifties between 1986 and 2004, including two entries in the millennium Festive Fifty as well as doing nine sessions. David Gedge’s other band, Cinerama had 13 entries in the Festive Fifty, and did ten Peel sessions. (When I have more time on my hands I will work out who did best out of David Gedge, Morrissey and Mark E. Smith)

Cinerama -‘King’s Cross.’ mp3 (1999 Festive Fifty no.18)

Throughout 2004, it was clear that Bloc Party were very definitely gathering pace, and they had three entries in the final ever Festive Fifty, including this:

Bloc Party -‘Little Thoughts.’ mp3 (2004 Festive Fifty no.44)

The stranglers were accused of being bandwagon jumpers during punk, Johnny Rotten labelling them short-haired hippies, but they did have some fantastic songs. Best of all was this:
The Stranglers -No More Heroes (1978 Festive Fifty no.33, 1979 Festive Fifty no.45, 1980 Festive Fifty no.58)

My all-time favourite single by The Jam:

The Jam-‘Strange Town.’ mp3 (1979 Festive Fifty no.27)

And a handful you might be a little surprised to see made the Festive Fifty. After all, weren’t they a little, y’know, poppy? What the hell, I think they’re great tracks and so did many of his listeners, evidently:

It’s easy to heap scorn on Gary Numan/Tubeway army, due to his sheer …what?, but he is slowly becoming critically rehabilitated over the advancing years, and this is a stellar track.

Tubeway Army – ‘Are Friends Electric?’ mp3 (1979 Festive Fifty no.39)

According to the website, Depeche Mode never did any sessions for Peel, nor had any entries in the Festive Fifty (nor did Erasure,, for that matter), but Vince Clark did score with two of his other, less-long lasting projects. The first ended up being a one-off, featuring none other than Fergal Sharkey on vocals (the Undertones had split up a few months previously)

Assembly -‘Never Never.’ mp3 (1983 Festive Fifty no.23)

…then the two albums only project that was Vince and none other than Alison Moyet.

Yazoo -‘Don’t Go.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.60)

Is this a guilty pleasure? Oh, whatever. I’m not the only one.

Blancmange -‘Living On The Ceiling.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.34)

This was the only entry Tears For Fears had, in those hallowed days of ‘new pop.’ It is a fantastic tune, and seems to have actually dated quite well, IMHO.

Tears For Fears -‘Mad World.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.5)

This is my 35th post this month, or something BTW. Hope you are enjoying them. Please leave feedback, I don’t bite!