Artist: Gary Numan
Genre: Industrial Goth / Rock
Release Date: 21st May 2021
First, a quick recap of the life and times of Sir Gareth of Numan I think. A musician and cultural icon who has absolutely defined the word reinvention, he most certainly deserves the Father Ted style ‘The Three Ages of Elvis’ treatment. Starting off as a sulking, skulking sci-fi alien, in thrall to Bowie, he created a unique mix of chilling, synth pop-classics while all the time sounding as lifeless and robotically sexual as a washing-machine. He was huge. He was everywhere. He could do no wrong. And then he did wrong. All this ultra-cool was suddenly ditched in favour of saxophones and slap-bass and jumpers, and his fortunes rightly nose-dived into the abyss.
And so, he did what any good musical chameleon should do, and tried something new, one last time. Give it a go. Nothing to lose. It just might work. And work it did. Back came Gary, now an Industrial Rock-Goth titan, surrounded by buzzing, hook-laden guitars, a massive chorus here, a doomy, synthy ballad there, mysteriously bouffant jet-black hair appearing from a once barren cranium, and bondage gear completing the look-at-me now look. Career not only saved, but completely kicked up the black-clad arse.
‘Intruder’, then, wisely sticks to the plot, and continues the Gary Phase 3 that has built gradually into an increasingly sophisticated cottage-industry all his own. There really is no-one out there who sounds like him. There’s a patient easing in to this album with the spooky drama of ‘Betrayed’, a feeling that you know why you’re here, so no need to throw sand in your face. It’s a great opener, and eases into the scratchy twitch of ‘The Gift’, which really does sound like it could go off anywhere and be whatever it likes - it’s restrained, and all the better for it, the temptation to just crank things up and let rip giving this a real edgy, jittery sense of expectation. After 6 minutes, it wanders off, leaving quite the chill, despite sounding like it’s gone to find itself deep in a desert somewhere.
There’s almost a prettiness to ‘I Am Screaming’, a rather gorgeous and expansive pop-song, and by the title track, it’s apparent that those buzz-saw guitars are definitely not going to exclusively frame this collection of songs - there’s a lot going on here, synths are back on the menu, and melodically this is equal to anything from the TUBEWAY ARMY days of old. An eccentric squelch runs through the dystopian ‘Is This World Not Enough’ before it settles into a soaring chorus that admittedly could have graced any of the last several albums - but there’s always something interesting going on in the background, or a break, pause, strange tangent, to keep things afloat. There’s absolutely no lazy song-writing - or post-production - going on here, which is admirable.
And coming from a man who’s always doubted his own voice, it’s there, laid bare, on the piano-led ‘A Black Sun’, admittedly not one of the strongest tracks here. An urgency underpins ‘The Chosen’, albeit a fairly formulaic one, and then the piano and voice combination are joined by some skittering percussion for ‘And It Breaks Me Again’, another big chorus puffing out its chest just exactly when it should. Predictable? Yes. But hard not to love. Unlike ‘Saints And Liars’ which is pushing it a bit. But it too wags a knowing finger at your cynicism by pulling a soaring chorus out of the ragged bag - although, as heard occasionally on previous albums, falsetto is not one of Mr Numan’s strong points. Leave it out mate.
‘Now And Forever’ is simply gorgeous, if you allow yourself to relax into it, and ‘The End Of Dragons’ an album highpoint (so much so, there’s even a bonus version of it). The orchestration is beautiful - more of this please - the piano simple, and the song seems to grow organically, a strong melody holding together a complex whole. It ends in a tempest of feedback, and leaves you somewhat shell-shocked. Which is good. Just in case anyone out there is waiting for the saxophone, slap-bass and jumpers to reappear, our hero chucks ‘When You Fall’ onto the end of the album, a song so Gary Numan it probably wakes up and says ‘Good morning Gary’ each and every day.
There is no radical new direction here, and at times there’s a stubbornness to keep proving the point that this is his patch and nobody does it better. But there is also skilled song-writing here, and a creativity within an admittedly fairly narrow set of constraints, that shows a love for his craft and a respect for his fans. And for a musician and cultural icon well into his Third Age, this is nothing short of astonishing, and he absolutely deserves the renaissance he has created for himself.
02. The Gift
03. I Am Screaming
05. Is This World Not Enough
06. A Black Sun
07. The Chosen
08. And It Breaks Me Again
09. Saints And Liars
10. Now And Forever
11. The End Of Dragons
12. When You Fall
13. The End Of Dragons (Alt)
https://garynuman.com / https://www.facebook.com/GaryNumanOfficial
Total: 8 / 10