Gary Numan – Splinter

There are certain constants in the world which make me feel better about things.  Harrison Ford is still alive, Pizza Hut exist, Koei will keep making Dynasty Warriors sequels, and old musicians are still around.

One of those is Gary Numan, an electronic pioneer from the late 70s who has been making dark synth music longer than anyone I can remember.  As time has moved on, Gary’s sound has become darker and darker, he now inhabits a sort of synth-industrial place, and it sounds to me as if he’s taken influence from those he influenced in the first place, Trent Reznor for example.

Splinter (Songs From A Broken mind) is not even a return to music, aside from a small gap around 2000 onwards, Gary has been making album after album since he started – there aren’t too many artists or bands who can sustain the energy for that long, although certainly examples exist.  It was released yesterday, I’ve had time now to listen through it a couple of times, and overall it’s pretty good – enjoyed it, here are a few quick impressions of the tracks.

  • I Am Dust – decent intro track with a nice industrial bite to it.
  • Here In The Black – this one could have been danceable, but there are too many quiet spots in there including a long opening, it’s got a catchy chorus and holds up well on repeated play.  Could definitely do well with a radio edit version.
  • Everything Comes Down – pretty decent track, reminiscent of the intro.  I like the verses on this one, it’s also the first time you really get to hear his voice without any other sounds to distract, and his voice has held up well over the years.
  • The Calling – pretty average, never really goes anywhere although it keeps sounding like it’s about to
  • Splinter – starts off with a slightly arabic tinge to the intro, I like this one a lot – it’s not very uptempo but it sounds like he’s talking to the audience on a more personal level.  I think it’s more in the presentation than the content.
  • Lost – a slower piano backed piece, the early part overstays its welcome a little, but the track improves near the end.
  • Love Hurt Black – definitely the dancefloor track of the album – it’s not as good as track two, but it’s more consistently uptempo.  There’s this sort of midrange sound in the chorus, from experience that part will really leap out of the speakers on a club sound system.  If I was still DJing I’d definitely use this one, but those days are 15 years behind me.
  • A Shadow Falls On Me – I liked this one, particularly the NIN-esque sounds coming from the left and right.  I think it would have been better in a different position on the tracklist, because you’re still coming down from the pounding of Love Hurt Black.
  • Where I Can Never Be – a little bland, got the filler track vibe from this one.  It doesn’t really distinguish itself – not actually bad but..  Yeah.
  • We’re The Unforgiven – AKA ‘Gary does Downward Spiral’.  Not much to say here, it’s solid and I like it, and I like that he’s almost collecting a debt with this one.  Fun fact – he did a surprise performance of “Cars” once during a NIN concert.
  • Who Are You? – tempo back up a little again, it’s saved from being a little repetitive by a short quiet section a couple of minutes in.
  • My Last Day – your standard album ending track.  It’s slow, it’s reflective, the piano came back out to play.  It’s nice enough, it works.

I haven’t read the lyrics yet (I’m one of those people who really tunes into the sounds rather than the words), but the sections where I found myself focusing on his voice more showed that his general outlook on life has changed as little as his voice.  So overall, if you like Gary you’ll probably know what to expect, and you probably won’t be disappointed either – I wasn’t.

If you’ve no idea who this man is and you care about electronic music, you need to go and find out.  There’s a reason so many newer artists cite him as an influence.  Start with the early Tubeway Army album and go from there, that and his first few albums are where his sound was really turned into it’s own thing.  It’s worth tracking down interviews too, he commonly gives very interesting and honest responses.