Label: BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited
It may surprise you to know Gary Numan has never stopped releasing albums and touring, be it new material or reworkings of his classic early records. You can dismiss him as a poor man’s Bowie (or latterly a poor man’s Trent Reznor), but as a pioneer of synthpop and more recently an elder statesman of goth, Numan’s legacy stretches a long way past ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’.
You may also be surprised to find that Numan hasn’t released a bad album for a long time, and after the welcome commercial success of 2013’s ‘Splinter: Songs from a Broken Mind’, there’s nothing on thematic follow-up ‘Savages’ to challenge that opinion. The result of a successful PledgeMusic crowdfunding campaign, the album was delayed by almost a year following a family bereavement. The extra fermentation period allowed for a further layer of studio polish courtesy of long time collaborator Ade Fenton, and the resulting album is refreshingly free from clutter.
‘Savage: Songs from a Broken World’ stays within the boundaries of the sonic template Numan has been steadily perfecting since 1994’s ‘Sacrifice’ – bass heavy keyboards, paving slabs of processed guitars, piano-led melodies and a Pixies-esque soft/loud dynamic that owes an open debt to contemporaries of the industrial scene, primarily Nine Inch Nails. Numan’s been happily influenced by musicians who were influenced by him over his last half dozen albums, picking and choosing his favourite ideas and combining them with the trademark elements of his sound – metallic, filtered synth leads and his iconic vocal style.
Given how he had to be persuaded to stop burying his own vocals under layers of backing singers and effects, it’s always welcome to hear him sounding so crisp and central to the songs, soaring to emphatic heights on the choruses to singles ‘What God Intended’ and ‘And It All Began With You.’
It’s another focused, hook-happy collection of tunes – lyrically dark as ever for a performer with such low self-confidence – this time with an Eastern lilt to the melodies to fit the visual aesthetic of the package. ‘Savages’ is a concept album built around a culture clash in a world devastated by global warming, and the bleached, desert chic of the promotional artwork makes this the lighter counterpart to the scuzzy, Victorian cybergoth of ‘Splinter’, even if Numan remains a little guilty of staying within his comfort zone in terms of songwriting.
While not as experimental or electronic as ‘Dead Sun Rising’ or remix album ‘Hybrid’, or as crushingly heavy as his comeback album ‘Pure’, tracks like ‘My Name Is Ruin’ have enough beef to showcase the maturity of the modern Numan sound. You may also have heard a rough version of ‘Bed of Thorns’ on the soundtrack to the 2017 live action Ghost in the Shell, a perfect fit for his style.
If you didn’t like Numan before, you probably still won’t. If, however, you mourn the industrial scene of the 90s and wish more people made records like the good old days of labels like Wax Trax, TVT and Nothing, then you’ll be glad to know Numan has a stack of quality offerings for you, starting with this one.
‘Savage’ is out now, with Numan on a UK tour starting 30 September and continuing throughout October.