Celebrating 45 years of BLANCMANGE, ‘Everything Is Connected’ is a new career-spanning “best of” collection curated by co-founder and front man Neil Arthur covering between 1979 to 2024.

With Neil Arthur being one of the most prolific artists in the UK and BLANCMANGE having now released more albums since 2011 than in their hit heyday, it is appropriate that this compilation is a double and split into two distinct chapters.

The first half gathers tracks from when BLANCMANGE were originally a duo comprising of Arthur and Stephen Luscombe. They self-released their first EP ‘Irene & Mavis’ in 1980 where the duo took on the personas of the pensioners pictured on the artwork. Experimental in nature and very lo-fi, it is appropriate than a Eno-esque instrumental ‘Just Another Spectre’ ends this section.

But starting is Chapter One is their breakthrough ‘Sad Day’; a solemn instrumental with an almost-countrified guitar line and a bassline borrowed from Brian Eno’s ‘The Fat Lady Of Limbourg’, it was far more hook-laden than anything on ‘Irene & Mavis’. Pointing to how BLANCMANGE were developing, it was chosen for inclusion on the now-seminal ‘Some Bizzare Album’ which also showcased other then-unknown acts such as SOFT CELL, THE THE, B-MOVIE and DEPECHE MODE. It was support tours with the latter and JAPAN that led to BLANCMANGE signing to London Records in 1982.

Photo by Paul Slattery

The London Records phase is more than well documented, leading to three albums ‘Happy Families’, ‘Mange Tout’ and ‘Believe You Me’ as well as a string of hit singles. ‘Living On The Ceiling’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ brought in exotic Eastern flavours thanks to Luscombe’s love of music from the Indian sub-continent having lived in the London’s Southall.

‘Feel Me’ and ‘Blind Vision’ crossed TALKING HEADS with disco, the former remixed in 12 inch form by American dancefloor specialist John Luongo and the latter produced by him. Famously ‘Waves’ allowed Neil Arthur to indulge in his Scott Walker fantasies complete with string backing and drove Julian Cope round the bend in the process!

Photo by Deb Danahay

Meanwhile having immersed themselves in a cassette of ABBA’s ‘The Singles – The First Ten Years’ that Vince Clarke’s girlfriend had brought along while they were all holidaying in Tenerife, Arthur and Luscombe hit on the idea of covering the penultimate track; achieving a higher UK chart position than the original ABBA single, ‘The Day Before You Came is included on ‘Everything Is Connected’ in its superior 7inch single version produced by Peter Collins.

To put things into context, ABBA were considered passé at the time and not treated with the reverence they are today. BLANCMANGE’s take had more of a groove and added some cheeky Northern English melodrama. In some ways, this 1984 can be seen as the seed of the upturn in ABBA’s credibility and Clarke himself was to cover ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ with his new project ERASURE in 1985.

Arthur and Luscombe decided to amicably disband BLANCMANGE in 1986 and while both continued in music, it wasn’t until 2011 that a new album they had quietly made together ‘Blanc Burn’ was released; from it ‘Drive Me’ and ‘The Western’ showed the duo had not lost their touch. But almost immediately, Stephen Luscombe had to leave due to health reasons, unable to tour or work. It was mutually agreed that Arthur would continue with BLANCMANGE solo and so began Chapter Two.

The main selling point for fans here is the inclusion of ‘Again, I Wait For The World’, a song written in 1979 by Arthur’s art-school band L360; a vibrant slice of synth punk, it is a worthy addition to the BLANCMANGE tradition. Another treat is the previously unreleased ‘Wish’. The highlight though is 2018’s ‘Distant Storm’, an unusual but brilliant tune with its incessant dance beat, reverberant Moog bassline and dreamy processed vocoder aesthetic presenting an almost spiritual quality.

This solo phase of BLANCMANGE actually began with 2015’s ‘Semi Detached’ album, Neil Arthur’s first new material recorded without Stephen Luscombe and from this technostalgic offering is ‘The Fall’ which actually references Mark E Smith’s cult combo. Coming off 2020’s ‘Mindset’, ‘This Is Bliss’ provides a variety of percolating patterns and a deeper trance bass resonance with a repeated ranting chorus.

In 2022, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records with 15th long player ‘Private View’ and this occasion is best represented by ‘Reduced Voltage’; echoing CAN in its groovy kosmische precision, although sequencer driven, the guitars get turned up during the second half.

Since the hiatus between 1986 to 2011, Neil Arthur has issued 12 albums as BLANCMANGE, while also undertaking side projects such as NEAR FUTURE, FADER and THE REMAINDER; ‘Everything Is Connected’ provides a chance for those who liked BLANCMANGE’s hits back in the day to catch up with those 21st Century songs, while it also acts as an entry point into the highlights of the back catalogue for younger listeners. That this compilation is able to be a packed double CD is a wonderful achievement.

‘Everything Is Connected’ is released by London Records on 10 May 2024 as a 38 track double CD, 38 track download + 10 track coke bottle green vinyl LP, available from https://blancmange.tmstor.es/products

BLANCMANGE 2024 UK tour with support from THE REMAINDER:

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Wylam Brewery (16 May), Glasgow Saint Luke’s (17 May), Birmingham O2 Institute (18 May), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (23 May), Leeds Brudenell Social Club (24 May), Manchester Academy 2 (25 May), Colchester Arts Centre, (26 May), Bristol Trinity Arts Centre (31 May), London Islington Assembly Hall (1 June), Hove Old Market (2 June), Southampton 1865 (3 June)





Text by Chi Ming Lai
7 May 2024