It is also the third BLANCMANGE album to be released in 2020 after the ‘Nil By Mouth 2’ instrumental collection and the ‘Waiting Room (Volume 1)’ outtakes compendium. During their initial London Records phase, Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe only released there albums between 1982 to 1985. With Neil Arthur continuing to fly the BLANCMANGE flag, who have thought there would have been triple that number in less than ten years?
As with recent albums, it is co-produced by Benge and Neil Arthur continues to give his morose take on the world although he maintains “It’s not all bad, but I’m observing stuff and looking for other worlds at the same time we’re living in this one, several things at once and questioning how people react with others, how they’re feeling about themselves and how that impacts on other people.”
Beginning with staccato piano and layers of guitar, the ‘Mindset’ title song offers a Velvets pounding that could also be seen as a NEU! influence with an art rock edge; “So much for giving, so much for taking…” our hero ponders while looking for the truth, but could he also be sardonically quipping “so much forgiving…”?
With the deeply sombre scene set, Neil Arthur’s delivery is anything but a ‘Warm Reception’, although this is all countered by the enjoyable cutting sharpness of the synths which add to a most excellent electronic track. With spacey sweeps, ‘This Is Bliss’ continues the tread as a close relative to ‘Warm Reception’, but a variety of percolating patterns and a deeper trance bass resonance are apparent with a repeated ranting chorus.
The superbly titled ‘Antisocial Media’ references to “Orwellian Thought Police” and captures more of Arthur’s dismay with fantastically primitive synths recalling the early Fast version of ‘Being Boiled’
‘Clean Your House’ is also very synthy with a bubbling bassline and gated pulses, lyrically reflecting on events of recent times but could easily able to applied to more personal relationships with the necessity for the occasional life laundry.
The ‘Mindset’ is played with further on ‘Insomniacs Tonight’, as a “tunnel train of thought” with “long rails on trails” is accompanied by a big rigid beat.
The midtempo minimal synthpop of ‘Sleep With Mannequin’ echoes THE HUMAN LEAGUE in their poppier phase with clean digital drums and analogue passages, but a marvellous concoction reveals itself as KRAFTWERK meets FAITHLESS on the mutant electronic disco of ‘Diagram’ with Arthur repeating like a preacher on how “I want transparency” in his sharp Northern lilt.
‘Not Really (Virtual Reality)’ vents with a rockier musical aggression and pounding drums but closing proceedings, the downcast ‘When’ calls for the truth among the screaming and shouting. As the chorus goes “When is anything about what it’s about?”, there’s the sound of a two note panic alarm recurring to symbolise a state of panic and anxiety.
Neil Arthur’s grim but humourous take on the world continues, but with a lot of choruses and more structure on ‘Mindset’, there are potentially some singalong elements which could rouse audiences at future live shows alongside ‘Living On The Ceiling’ and ‘Blind Vision’.
Strange but accessible pop music for our strange times, Neil Arthur’s dark ‘Mindset’ is only reflecting what many are thinking and it will be on that level which will connect people with this album.
Other recent works by BLANCMANGE are available as downloads direct from https://blancmangemusic.bandcamp.com/
BLANCMANGE 2020 ‘Mindset’ tour includes:
Newcastle Riverside (17th September), Hull Welly (18th September), Leeds The Wardrobe (19th September), Shrewsbury The Buttermarket (24th September), Birmingham Institute 2 (25th September), 26 Liverpool Grand Central (26th September), Bristol The Fleece (1st October), Harpenden Public Halls (2nd October), Brighton Concorde 2 (3rd October), Norwich Arts Centre (8th October), Colchester Arts Centre (9th October), Cardiff Portland House (10th October), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (15th October), 16 London Under The Bridge (16th October), 17 Northampton Roadmender (17th October), Exeter Phoenix (22nd October), Gloucester Guildhall (23rd October), 24 Southampton The Brook (24th October), Manchester Gorilla (8th December), Glasgow Oran Mor (9th December), Edinburgh Liquid Room (10th December)
Text by Chi Ming Lai
10th May 2020, 11th May 2020