Off the top of my head I can name at least 5 significant musical artists/groups that really helped to shape my life. These are artists outside of my favourite bands or bands that I discovered for myself, these are artists that I grew up with, that were played in my house by my parents, that will always take me back to moments of my childhood, and that I can’t really imagine not having in my life. Gary Numan is one of those artists, he is someone my dad grew up with and idolised as a teenager, and as such someone that I was introduced to and something that created a bond with me and my parents, which is something I am thankful for.
I’ve always found that with all of his achievements and contributions to music, that he is still a somewhat looked over and underrated figure in the annals of musical history.However, much like a phoenix, Numan is someone who keeps rising and changing just when you think he is down and out. That is no more evident than on his recent album “Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)” which is unbelievably his 20th album, yet shows that even this far into his career, Gary Numan is still on the cutting edge of the music scene.
The first thing you notice when you listen to “Splinter” is just how dark it is. I know there has always been an element of darkness to everything he has done over the course of his career, but there is something under the surface, very sinister and insidious about this work. Take ‘Here in the Black,’ for example, which paints a picture of depression taking on the form of the monster under the bed. You can hear the isolation of depression in the cracking of the vocals, it’s taut and claustrophobic. It’s probably the one song on the album that will haunt you the most after you have finished listening to it, and is a real centre piece to the album.
Its refreshing then, that the following track ‘Everything Comes Down To This’ has a moody, retro sounding synth as its backbone that really takes the listener back to the days of ‘Replicas’ and in particular tracks like ‘Are Friends Electric?’ This is a real call back to his past and the sound that Numan built his career on. It’s a surprise as much as anything to hear something sounding that old school from such a forward thinking artist, but it works in the context of the rest of the record and allows the listener that little bit of familiarity to cling to.
‘Lost’ which is the most personal track on the album and is also the most unsettling. It’s essentially a ballad, that is keys and vocals, but it is so achingly beautiful not only in the sentiment behind it, but also in it’s simplicity. Without trivialising the meaning behind the song, this in some ways feels like Gary Numan‘s own ‘Hurt’ in many ways and for me personally it’s one of most well written and deeply affecting songs he has ever written.
The album’s first single ‘Love.Hurt.Bleed’ is a huge dancefloor anthem written in the vein of Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein– all pulsing synths, throbbing electronics and menacing vocals. It’s a great moment in an album full of them that raises the tempo and lifts the spirits. This is the kind of industrial anthem that Marilyn Manson wishes he could still write and get away with, showing that even after all of these years that Gary Numan still has one finger on the pulse and an ear for a good tune.
“Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)” is an album that will take many by surprise, I say and mean that in the best possible way. In an age where his songs have been sampled by the likes of Sugababes and Basement Jaxx, and people still just think of him as the weird bloke that wrote ‘Cars,’ it’s refreshing to see that Gary Numan is still able to deliver an album that can stand alongside not only his work, but also any of the best works of many of the artists he has inspired along the way.
It would be churlish for me to call this album a comeback because Gary Numan has never really gone away, but as a reminder of what a vital artist he is in musical history, as well as showing you that even 30 years into an already legendary career, he can still produce an album of the year contender that fits perfectly into today’s modern landscape. “Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)” really delivers the goods and is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, it comes highly recommended.