26 November 2013

Gary Numan - Splinter (Songs From A Broken Man)

Some artists do not want to play the fame game, they just want to keep on going on their own course; no compromise, not one iota given up in the pursuit of that moment which will make everything right (and if people are there, that is fine).  Gary Numan has been an enigma for many people, most people will still remember "Cars" and "Are 'Friends' Electric" (done with Tubeway Army) and he is rarely a man who looks backwards.  Apart from a tour in 2008 when he played his album 'Replica' to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the album being unleashed, he is not one for nostalgia; which is strange as he is steeped in the 80's so much that people will find it strange if he ever did a show without those hits.  I doubt that would happen, as he is a show man and likes to keep the public happy to a certain measure, but he is still going in his own direction.

'Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)' is an industrial album, so anyone expecting "Cars Part 2" will be disappointed (but you shouldn’t be).  The front cover of Mr Numan dressed in Victorian clothing and in a strange house is perfect for the music that is with this album. Opening with "I Am Dust" starts like a machine, you can hear the haunting vocals drifting over the music and making sure you’re in no doubt that this is going to be a total dark and bleak affair.  Lyrically dealing with our bleak journey toward our inevitable end, it seems like the grave is at the forefront of Mr Numan's mind at this point.  Next is the orchestral led "Here In The Black" which keep the bad times rolling with the dark wave leaning mixing well with Numan's natural 80's talent.  Whisper vocals carry this track to a very Nine Inch Nails ending, but NIN have been helping themselves to his stuff for years so it is just Mr Numan claiming back his property.  The machine is back out with "Everything Comes Down To This", by this point the themes of being lonely and in the dark are well embedded into the mindset of this album; Mr Numan is telling us he does not know how it is going to end but it will all come down to one point.  It is a sort of self defeating monument to the modern era, but done with a big wallop of style and charm.  So far, so dark....

"The Calling" is next with the hope register firmly on the floor, with large chunks of instrumental music making up the best part of this song, when the lyrics are asking why the singer is being called by someone who does not even register his existence.  At this point the album is on such a downward projection that it should come with a mood balancing pill; however do not take that statement to mean it is a poor album, far from it dear reader it is just a very black and inward looking album as is shown on the next (and titled track).  With an almost soft opening of minimal percussion, a haunting Arabic mournful female harmony and Mr Numan saying he believes in all of us, hopeless and lost, and he is seeing us in the state we are.  There is a very Bowie feel to this track, not something that might please Mr Numan but I am getting a feel for the darker moments of 'Outsider' when listening to this track and that is a very good thing indeed. Next up with "Lost" - it has a simple piano melody that holds the album together, feedback guitars and Numan stating that he would be lost without the person who the song is about.  It is a light (all be it brief and hauntingly dark) in the sea of black and industrial rock that is the main focus on this album - again, not a criticism; just an observation. "Lost" is actually one of my most favourite tracks on this album, it is very clever in its deliver and simple.

"Love Hurt Bleed" is a full stomping dark wave classic in the making; I can guarantee that this album will have the gothic disco set dancing within seconds.  It gives the album a shot in the arm after "Lost" and is up there with "Lost" for track of the album. "A Shadow Falls On Me" takes up the baton, asking the audience when will the pain end, the familiar off-kilter drumming has the world falling down around our ears.  So far, this is the first track where my attention has started to wonder. It feels like I have heard it before (and done much better as well) and it makes me sad to be honest.  "Where I Can Never Be" is another song about a love that is gone and can never be reclaimed, you can feel the enclosing atmosphere of a lost love and the song does not move above brooding for the most part - and this helps the song to a certain degree, but when it eventually does it is not in a big explosion which you would expect, it is a haunting mini solo which does not hurt the song but keeps that small piece of agony rolling.  A very effective moment which could have so easily been messed up.

"We're The Unforgiven" comes up like a dark shadow in the night, taking the listener to the side and reminding them that nothing they do is forgivable, and it starts to get heavy without you realising.  It starts off very slowly and builds up the layers piece by piece till the sound surrounds everything that is going on.  Not one of my favourite moments here, but again a very effective one.  "Who You Are" is next and is back in the dark wave disco and is wondering who the person the song is about really is.  This is another moment of genius placement on the album as it needed a little piece of excitement on it, not all songs can be brooding classics - no matter how well written they are and Mr Numan is too smart a cookie to let that happen.  This is due to the last track "My Last Day" being another slow and dark moment about the singer feeling his last day coming and how he would wish to see it played out.  A very morbid and haunting moment which ends the album pretty much as it began; in the dark and with despair hanging on every word.

So how does this little piece of darkness measure up?  Well, I love the imagery of this album (I'm a very big dark wave fan), Gary Numan brings his own leaning to the table like he has been doing with all his works since his chart bothering days.  When this album came out in the UK, it made number 20 which might not sound that high, but for this type of album that is a massive achievement (and is the highest place Gary Numan album since 'Warriors' in 1983.  Gary Numan has been treading this path for a while and this is a very accomplished album; for anyone who wondered what he had been up to since "Cars", what has kept you so long coming to the party.  This is a brilliant piece of work which crosses a few genres, well worth the effort, but tread carefully if you’re on a downer.

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Gary Numan Website here

You can hear the album on Spotify here

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