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

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