Blancmange: Mange Tout UK CD 
- Don’t Tell Me
- Game Above My Head
- Blind Vision
- Time Became The Tide
- That’s Love That It Is
- See The Train
- All Things Are Nice
- My Baby
- The Day Before You Came
Though I was officially a fan of “Living On The Ceiling,” I never have heard “Happy Families.” Even nearly 40 years later. My first Blancmange record was the USP 12″ of “Blind Vision,” a song that I had not even heard, but this was the first used Blancmange record I found in the bins where I lived. I thought the 12″ mix, at nearly ten minutes, was repetitive and too long by half. Even so, when a used copy of the album from which it would eventually come, “Mange Tout,” showed up in the bins at Crunchy Armadillo Records [r.i.p.] I seized a copy and back in the pre-CD era, I actually played any vinyl I bought as soon as possible!
I think I had seen a brief clip of “Don’t Tell Me” on an episode of MTV’s “London Calling” and I was immediately drawn to the song as Neil Arthur’s vocal performance was so charismatic and engaging. The way he drew out “I can’t get a grip on… yoo-hoo” in the bridge was surely smilebait of the strongest kind. The track continued in the Indipop vein of “Living On The Ceiling” but was far sunnier in its outlook.
“Game Above My Head” was a tense, underplayed deep cut that provided strong contrast with the gregarious pop that had preceded it in the program. The four minute version of “Blind Vision” that followed was a far more judicious timespan for the bombastic dance tune. Arthur’s vocal here was almost stentorian as he seemed to be locked in a battle with Tony Hadley for dominance.
By the next track, it was time for a complete change of scenery. I liked the eclectic drive already in evidence on this album! “Time Became The Tide” showed that the band didn’t need to be pigeonholed into a synthpop corner as strings, flute and percussion made for an all-acoustic dramatic ballad for the duo. Then one more single closed out side one with the relentless machine energy of “That’s Love, That It Is.” I can’t shake the feeling that both this and “Blind Vision” were attempts to use relentless machine energy to explore trancelike musical energy. Almost the same personnel filled out the sideman roles on these songs, and yet “Blind Vision” just fell flat for me, while “That’s Love, That It Is” remained endlessly enchanting to my ears. The latter had a better single sleeve, too.
Side two kicked off with an explosive bang as “Murder” was one of the finest deep cuts one could hope for in such a strong program. The song began with such a lurching, haphazard energy only to eventually careen downhill in a snowball of dark intensity. There was still their penchant for Indian flavoring to the music, but this was not the dance pop of “Don’t Tell Me” of “Living On The Ceiling.” This came closer to the burning art rock of fourth album era peter gabriel. Not surprisingly, Gabriel’s guitarist David Rhodes was all over this album; not just this bold cut. Arthur and Luscombe knew exactly what they were doing here and did it in the best way possible.
After Blancmange Go Acoustic, why not take it all the way and deliver an a cappella song? “See The Train” was just that as a folk song that featured stacked harmonies of Arthur multi-tracked into mass choral wall of sound. A brief, but engaging sidestep. Following it with the left field “All Things Are Nice” showed that the inventive arrangements of “Murder” weren’t just a fluke as this song also jabbed and darted in ways unfamiliar to their biggest hits.
Finally, the album ended with a daring cover of ABBA®’s “The Day Before You Came.” I had not heard the original yet in 1984, so I had to take this at face value. I now know that Blancmange brought greater dignity and restraint to it with Arthur’s assumption of the narrative center of the still amazing song. The ABBA® original, while being a masterclass in songwriting, still feels a little close to schlager territory with the original vocal.
So this was certainly a very strong sophomore album. Having never heard the debut, I still can’t imagine this as anything but a quantum leap over the first album. I have taken immense pleasure out of hearing this for the last 35 years and I finally got the CD of this when I saw it in Canada 27 years ago. What I need now is the DLX RM of the album, though I think there were snafus on the 2008 Edsel remastering. Good thing there was a 3xCD mediabook edition two years ago that looks like the one to get. Though Edsel Records is often a crapshoot of sound quality.
I think my reticence to hear albums one and three in the Blancmange 80s sequence comes down to finding “Mange Tout” to be such an zesty, eclectic album that offered me uncounted pleasures over the 35 years I have owned a copy. I should also mention that the best of breed cover design by Martyn Atkins’ Town + Country Planning was just icing on the cake of this album of powerful art-pop that made it look as beguiling as it sounded. You simply can’t go wrong with this one on your racks.
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