Guest review by Stephen Sheehan
two titles signal the end of Beggars Banquets campaign to
reissue the first eight Gary Numan albums. Originally released in
1982 and 1983 respectively, these CDs feature expanded booklets,
extra tracks and remastered sound. Unfortunately neither of these
titles hold much weight in Numans canon other than exhibiting
his interest in white-British-boy-early-'80s-pseudo-electro-funk.
I mean, if this interests you thats fine but you might as
well go straight to the Human Leagues Dare and eliminate
the middleman along with the peroxide.
Numan was criticized
early in his career, as far back as the Tubeway Army days, as sounding
too close to Bowie, to the point where some wondered if he indeed
possessed his own sound and vision. Tubeway Armys excellent
second album, Replicas, (which today sounds like it could
be the Holy Grail to fans of The Faint despite the fact that it
was released in 1979), proved that they and Numan had mastered the
art of frosty detachment using robotic beats, icy synthetics and
monotone vocals. By default, Numan had become the harbinger of Cold
Wave and was no longer considered an imitator. His career exploded
on The Pleasure Principle, his first solo album released
soon after Replicas in the same year, which featured the
huge hit "Cars."
But back to these reissues,
Although Numan remains
content to heavily emphasize synthetic sounds and beats on both
albums, its the elastic, boingy bass guitar that does most
of the driving. So what we have on a lot of these tracks is Numan
sounding somewhat like David Sylvian, while the backing tracks sound
like iffy outtakes from Sylvian's innovative art rock band Japan.
Problem is most of these tracks just aren't very interesting and
even fewer are vaguely close to memorable, especially with all the
sad-ass sax playing and occasional harmonica.
The one track from across
both of these discs that brought me back for more was "We Take
Mystery To Bed" from I, Assassin, which contained a
couple of elements missing from most of the other stuff: fun and
joy. Seriously. Prince would be envious. Its six minutes of
bass-slappin boink pop featuring a descending melody line
that immediately recalls "Cars" without appearing too
obvious. Its easy to visualize a dance floor filled with white
folks boogying to the groove while wearing poofy shirts, wide vinyl
belts and acid wash jeans, elbows bent over their heads as their
over-sprayed towers of hair remain hard as helmets. Pass the mirror,
On musical merit alone
I can't give these reissues a "yes," but they will be
christened with a "yes" based on the effort to properly
present Numans back catalogue. And with this thing called
electroclash that we're hearing about, why not look over our shoulder
to someone who was doing it back in the day without knowing it or
realizing the influence he'd carry?
Posted Jan. 4, 2003.
Copyright © 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
easy to visualize a dance floor filled with white folks boogying
to the groove while wearing poofy shirts, wide vinyl belts and
acid wash jeans, elbows bent over their heads as their over-sprayed
towers of hair remain hard as helmets."