Album Review: Gary Numan

dead son rising

Now here's a question ... Is it possible to remain distinctive over a 30-year-plus career and yet at the same time manage to sound not only contemporary, but also make music that could easily be the soundtrack to the future? I think in this case the answer must be a resounding "Yes".

Early this month saw the release of Dead Son Rising, Gary Numan's 20th (!!!) studio album. The LP grew out of a set of demos the singer had left from previous projects, but as he explains:

"The original ideas that sparked off these songs are now barely visible. It’s grown into another animal, something more experimental."

This is one record that certainly rewards listening to with shuffle turned OFF - not so much a narrative as such, or some kind of 'concept album', but from the opening track, you know that a journey is underway. Resurrection leads into the proceedings with a moody electo feel building up with wall-of-sound blasts that are reminiscent of material from Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine (see the trailer below), which is no surprise seeing as Numan has been closely linked with the band over recent years. A collaboration that has without a doubt enriched the output of both artists.

Big Noise Transmission and the title track follow on a similar theme but with a more 'Bowie-fied' slant. You get the feeling that there's going to be something on this LP that takes the concept of I'm Afraid Of Americans, updates it and outdoes it. Which in all honesty is a great summary of this record. No danger however of accusing Numan of borrowing too heavy from others; From the outset, Dead Son Rising has Gary's stamp all over it - it's not difficult to imagine the songs behind the modern production and effects belonging to any era of his history.

Moving on, When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come is somewhat more 'songy' and shows up just how little Numan's voice has altered, remaining just as clear and eerie as ever, something that perhaps could not be said about the majority of his contemporaries. For The Rest of My Life is just a little bit creepy, and the reprised version later in the running order (along with Not The Love We Dream Of) is a more mellowy piano number but not without a certain wistful malevolence lurking in the background. Sat in the middle of the album is The Fall, opening with a distorted guitar line that could almost be The Stooges, and which then evolves into a huge dark thumper of a track - fantastic single material, and a great video to accompany it to boot!

Thing get curiously odder towards the LP's conclusion, We Are Lost having a syncopated beat that you could probably dance to only whilst on heavy medication and Into Battle (perhaps a reference to Numan's recent work with Battles?) with its resonant chants and obscure noises keeping the 'feel' of Dead Son Rising dynamic and interesting. In fact, that's probably one of my favourite aspects of the album - many of the textural samples and effects are gorgeous and immersive, in a way that makes me think of really decent 'head' techno such as Eat Static or System 7.

A stripped down piano-only version of Not The Love We Dream Of finishes of the album nicely which only leaves me to come up with some kind of objective criticism of the record for the sake of balance...

Who am I kidding? ... Nope, can't think of anything - A Great LP - go buy it!