Thursday, 1 October 2009

Adenoid Android

I never liked Gary Numan much. There was something about him that I couldn’t stand. Actually, there were several things about him I couldn’t stand: his nasal voice, his Alien from Hackney persona, his jump suit, his aeroplanes, his hovercraft, his hair transplant, his retirement (and immediate re-emergence), his records with members of Shakatak, his success. But I do have to admit that he made some great sounding records early in his career.

Recorded by and named after his short-lived band Tubeway Army, Numan’s debut recording is essentially a punk rock LP, featuring a real group, real guitars, real drums, and even the occasional acoustic number. There are electronics, but these are used sparingly and came about by chance when Numan started prodding at a Minimoog left in the recording studio. The themes are endearingly adolescent: alienation, loneliness, masturbation, being different. ‘Listen to the Sirens’ sets the scene with a direct crib from Phillip K. Dick in the first line and oblique, angsty lyrics that don’t quite make sense and reek of disconnection.

On ‘Replicas’, the second and last TA album, the synthesisers take centre stage, but are used to grind out relentless riffs, as if Numan has simply swapped his guitar for a keyboard. A sci-fi concept album of sorts, the monolithic ‘Are Friends Electric?’ remains the best track, a million selling number one single that still sounds groundbreaking today, and although the rest of the LP doesn’t quite hit that peak, several tracks come close, especially the ridiculously titled 'Me, I Disconnect From You'.

‘The Pleasure Principle’ was the first album Numan released under his own name and is perhaps the crystallisation of Numan’s signature style, setting the template for the next few years of his career. Completely machine driven, it is an emotionally neutral record, but its massed banks of synthesisers and layer upon layer of electronics proved to be incredibly influential in a good way (Afrika Bambaata) and a bad way (Marilyn Manson). 'Films' and Basement Jaxx favourite ‘M.E’ are presented here: bleak, futuristic, nihilistic. Nasal.


the ring bearer said...

Considering numan has been without doubt one of the most influencial artist of the twentieth century,it still amazez me that people can still slate him from any imperfections from his early career,(6) top ten albums shed loads of singles,a MAJOR INFLUENCE on current bands(& past groups),also he will be doing a collabaration with trent reznor in the very near futre (early 2010).credit were its due without gary music would not have been what it has over the last 29/30 years or so.
Lets have a little more respect for the pioneer of electronic music.

King Modulator said...

Gary Numan? pshaw! John Foxx!!!

Unmann-Wittering said...

It amazez me too, ring bearer, but it's hardly a slating. You'll find a great deal of respect for the pioneers of electronic music here, but they all predate Mr. Webb by up to forty years so I reserve the right not to think him the alpha and omega of the movement. I think Trent Reznor is a twat, too.

Me, I disconnect from you.

Anonymous said...

Apart from the finesse of songcraft and looks, Gary Numan was a Bowie (Berlin period)clone.I was around at the time and that was the general view.However,his much more aggressive sounding approach to synth playing did give him a certain style of his own.Never trust a pilot though!especially one with mascara...