Blancmange has had quite the curious past. The band enjoyed success in the ’80s with Living On The Ceiling and released three albums, but then disbanded in 1986. They reunited in 2011, but Stephen Luscombe suffered an aneurysm and was soon forced to leave. Since then the other founding member, Neil Arthur, has released five albums, with Wanderlust being the sixth, and the second with Benge as co-producer.
The album opens with the compelling dreamscape Distant Storm, with a thumping synth bass at its heart and some brilliant vocals from Arthur. The tone is quite dark, as we get the sense of introversion. This is really nothing like the Blancmange we knew from the ’80s. Similarly, In Your Room explores human isolation and has an eerie The Sisters Of Mercy feel at its core.
I Smashed Your Phone begins bizarrely with a sample of Wham!‘s Everything She Wants and then bursts into an overblown commentary of an argument underpinned by an angry and brooding synthscape. We get the sense that Arthur is at odds with how technology plays too huge a part in our everyday lives. This theme is also explored on Talking To Machines, with the languid beats providing a backdrop for the lament of how limited technology is making us.
Conversely, Gravel Drive Syndrome and Not A Priority explore human behaviour, the former being a pitch dark reaction to social climbing featuring some visceral lyrics and a sinister and urgent pumping bassline, while the latter forms an ambient melancholia exploring lack of self-importance or belief imploring the listener to be themselves, perhaps instead of getting lost in our modern day vacuum.
The album is quite the tawny commentary on modern society. Its journey is as cathartic as it is frustratingly real. The lyrics bemoan people being slaves to technology, but instead of actually harnessing it, they simply become muted zombies; TV Debate is a delicious swipe left at channel hoppers.
Although the dark tone of the album can be repetitive, there are some glimmers of hope. Leaves is beautifully atmospheric and White Circle Black Hole is a choral and joyous ode to new beginnings.
Wanderlust closes with the sanguine and futuristic title track. We are drawn in not only by the guitar riffs, but also the promise and craving for wanting something better and the wish to let go of the grief from life’s let downs. It ends a brilliant album from Blancmange, one reminiscent of the maverick and underrated Zero 7 album Yeah! Ghost. Here is dark and inspired comment on modern life, one that wills us to smash down these walls we have allowed ourselves to become imprisoned within.