Saturday, 17 September 2011

Gary Numan - Dead Son Rising

Gary Numan's career has taken an unusual path. Starting as a fully fledged number 1 single selling pop star in the late 70s, he had a string of top 10 hits for the next 3 years, before gradually losing his commercial appeal. As this happened, he lost his artistic way quite spectacularly.

It took until 1994 for him to start to crawl his way back. He ditched the session musicians, and produced and recorded the "Sacrifice" album himself. This gave Numan his voice back, and although the sound itself was a little muddy, it was a step he needed to take. 1997's "Exile" improved on this further, but it wasn't till 2000 where he discovered his true sound. Influenced by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, he released the super heavy "Pure". A few years later "Jagged" was released. Both these albums were epic heavy masterpieces with anthem piling up against anthem.

Now, in 2011 it's time for "Dead Son Rising", a collection of reworkings of songs that he had originally shelved, but after speaking with producer Ade Fenton, decided to rewrite and record these all from scratch, breathing new life into them. Numan doesn't see this as canon, and sees the forthcoming "Splinter" album as the natural follow up to Jagged, however it fills the role extremely well.

The album starts with 'Resurrection'. Within the first few seconds you know you're listening to a Numan album. The atmosphere builds; strange noises make you uneasy, before the first huge booming synth chords hit. Numan wears his influences on his sleeve, and this has a real Nine Inch Nails feel to it, reminiscent of 'Hyperpower' from the Year Zero album. It takes an interesting twist, with sampled vocals giving it an exotic edge. The track builds and we're getting ready for the first song proper.

"Resurrection" (and Down In The Park)

'Big Noise Transmission' (it's title having being changed form the original Captured Underground Noise Transmission, possibly to avoid an unfortunate acronym - I think that's a shame...) is up next, with a sample that is reminiscent of 'Crazier'. This song sounds like it's borrowed a lot from Numan's own 'Dead Heaven' in the verse, but has huge crashing guitars before hitting the chorus which banishes the previous association from your mind. I've seen this song live and it's a big one.

"Big Noise Transmission"

The (almost) title track 'Dead Sun Rising' is a melancholic, hypnotic minimalist anthem. It has a singalong quality to it. It drifts through your mind: "I've watched gods bleeding. I've watched worlds burn. I've watched stars falling and I've watched a dead sun rising". It's one that will float inside your head for quite some time.

"Dead Sun Rising"

'When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come" starts with a mournful worried vocal line over a bed of experimental sounds before moving into a Jagged like rock out chorus which is surprisingly catchy. This is another track that mentions "the sky bleeding" and "oceans burning" and could well be a natural follow up from the last song.

"When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come"

'For The Rest Of My Life' is a mid-tempo track that sits nicely at this point in the album. It's a bass guitar and synth fuelled beautiful, melodic love song.  This is probably the nearest Gary comes to pop in this album.

"For The Rest Of My Life"


The album moves down another gear with 'Not The Love We Dream Of'. Starting with Numan accompanied by a solo piano, this track is the vulnerable Gary, stripped down to the basics; this nicely sets up the killer track on the album which comes next.

'The Fall' has been one of Gary's live standards for a couple of years now and it's great to hear the final version. It's another anthemic monster, again with NIN style breakdowns. If there is one thing Gary knows how to write, it's a massive anthem!

"The Fall"

Massive drums along with a sharp saw-like synth line introduce the startling 'We Are The Lost'. Numan's drum sounds can sometimes be seen as a little predictable, but this takes us by surprise. An unusual vocal line comes in, leaving us unsure where this is going to go. Unfortunately the vocal melody gets lost a little along the way. The drums keep pounding, leaving us hypnotised again, and it ends with a nice saxophone solo (maybe it's a synth, I don't know) that wouldn't be out of place on Dance. I like to think of it as a subtle tribute to Mick Karn.

"We Are The Lost"

'For The Rest Of My Life' is then reprised, with the synth and bass stripped away, leaving us with piano and acousitc guitar. This is a mainly instrumental track with Gary singing the chorus towards the end and would have been a perfect way to end this album.

"For The Rest Of My Life"

The album does end, for me, with two rather disappointing fillers. All in all however, a really great album that starts Numan's second decade of top form. The album itself is on a par with as Pure or Jagged, but some of the individual songs outperform any songs from those two albums, especially 'The Fall' and 'Big Noise Transmission', but with the album as a whole let down by the two closing tracks.

Now the next thing Gary has to work on is his productivity. Hopefully we will get more than two albums this decade. Remember, you're not Kate Bush.

To finish, although it is nothing to do with this album, here's a great video of 'My Machines' by Battles, with Numan

'My Machines'- Battles

'Cars' - Bill Bailey

Friday, 9 September 2011

Do The Right Thing

It was so good to be back at The Phoenix after the traditional August drought. I met up with Sarah, Jack, Neal, and Simon beforehand and we waited patiently for the doors to open. Simon is moving to Birmingham on Saturday, so it was nice to see him before he abandons us.

I went to the first Do The Right Thing back in April which was a blast. DTRT! {dtrt} (that will never catch on) is a podcasted panel show with team captains Michael Legge and Margaret Cabourn-Smith and hosted by Danielle Ward. Each team has a guest, and in the first recording we had TV's Emma Kennedy and Rich Fulcher.

Michael Legge & Rich Fulcher
I've always been a fan of Emma. She has done some great work with Richard Herring in the past and I am currently reading her book "The Tent, The Bucket & Me" which is a very funny read. I've only recently discovered Rich Fulcher, and speaking as a non-Mighty Boosh fan, wasn't expecting much when I first saw him, but he is truly hilarious and his "Tiny Acts Of Rebellion" show was one of my favourites this year.

The point of the show is to give the panel some situations and have them tell us what the right thing to do is. Emma remained unconvinced that sex with animals was actually illegal and pulled out some lovely gruesome stories, leaving the panel wondering if this was a comedy panel show or a horror panel show.

We had an interval where I bid Emma farewell and she and Rich were replaced by Thom Tuck (introduced as Fosters Comedy Award Loser) and Danielle's fellow Dave Gorman sidekick and co-writer of "Gutted", Martin White.

Michael, Thom, Danielle & Margaret
In this show, we mainly learned that Martin is not gay, even though I did clearly hear him use the phrase "Your arse - my head". Anyway, moving on, this is a great little podcast, and if you enjoy a non-topical panel show such as "Would I Lie To You?" you should get downloading these as soon as they are released which will be sometime this Autumn. There is another recording on the 27th, so why not come along?

You can listen to the pilot episode here or get it on iTunes.

Margaret Cabourn-Smith & Martin White
Talking of the 27th, Michael Legge starts 3 nights at The Leicester Square Theatre. It may be the last chance you'll get to see the extremely funny "Curse Sir Walter Raleigh", unless of course, he decides to do some more. I have tickets to the 29th but may well go on the 27th as well before haring it to Oxford Circus in time for Do The Right Thing. See you there!

Monday, 5 September 2011 - Beer Pong & Board Games

Those of you who follow me on twitter have probably heard me speak about This is a mad project where Sanderson Jones has decided to book a ludicrously big venue and try to sell every ticket himself personally. After all, he has done this to smaller venues in Edinburgh; what's going to be so hard about selling one big one?

Mikey and Sarah
By the time of the gig (14th October) Sanderson will have personally met his entire audience and will be able to tailor the show to the crowd. He thought it wasn't fair that he will have met everyone but the audience won't know each other so he arranged a beer pong and board games afternoon in his local pub in Clapham.

I arrived fairly early and got straight into the beer pong. We were all fairly useless but I got a couple of amazing shots in. It was also my first chance to meet podophile chum, "Wet Sarah" (as Michael Legge has christened her) as she has just moved to London from Canada.

Action Shot!
After beer pong we played Calcozone (or something - I can't remember the title) which was a tile based board game where you had to conquer cities and rob farmers etc. It was all very geeky int he most funnest way, and I met some fun people too, though of course I can't remember their names - There was Alex, and Sarah of course, and the astonishingly flamboyant beer pong player and games organiser Mikey. There was also the sci-fi loving girl in a star wars t-shirt who has just moved to London and has so much to discover about the London comedy scene. I ended up ordering her to go to so many things!

I was looking forward to this show before, but now I'm looking forward to it even more. Sanderson is planning some more meet ups before the gig too. The next month could be a lot of fun!