Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) (Mortal Records)
Electronic legend turned potential rock legend, Gary Numan, is back with his long awaited new album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
Firstly, let’s get the Nine Inch Nails comparisons out of the way. ‘Splinter’, having the same power and raw feel that NINs ‘Year Zero’ album did, makes it slightly ironic then that the new NIN Album, ‘Hesitation Marks’, should actually sound more electronic. Seemingly, both artists have swapped style. The true test though is are they successful? The latest offering from Reznor, Ross et all was reviewed by Louder Than War here, but you can probably make your own mind up about that – but what of Numan and his harder, rockier edge?
The answer is really quite simple, Numan is clearly a perfectionist. Every guitar lick, every drum snare, even every curl of that characteristic snarl is timed and placed into each track with precision. ‘Splinter’ is very clearly a labour of love. Theoretically three years in the making and worth every single day of the wait.
You can probably guess what’s in store from the opening of album lead, ‘I Am Dust’. Slowly juggernauting into view, analogue bleeps, groaning bass-lines, clear thumping percussion and ‘that’ voice. That voice that has shaped generations, often subject to pathetic copies, never beaten. Unmistakably Numan, sounding fuller and stronger than ever, the voice has aged incredibly.
Similarly, ‘Here In The Black’ continues that post-industrial sound that Numan can easily make his own, complimented by a massive sounding orchestra, it again roars along and can only fail not to move the most comatose of souls. There’s also a quite moving string arrangement on ‘The Calling’ which is unexpected and expected at the same time whilst piano loops to an eerie end.
The vocal on ‘A Shadow Falls On Me’ also shows the range of his voice, which is backed by a more techno beat, and, what is particularly impressive about the album is that not only are there strong choruses, but there are also melodies and musical interludes that are equally as impressive – none more so than on the fine single ‘Love Hurt Bleed’.
Let’s also not forget the title track which could quite easily nestle itself in amongst its contemporaries on ‘Replicas’ as its sheer spiralling brood weaves its way around an escalating backdrop.
Album closer, ‘My Last Day’, is nothing short of dramatic. Initially putting on the brakes and providing a haunting piano with an intimate voice, it slowly builds, rising and falling until a quite anthemic close with rolling drums and precise violins appearing again before ending abruptly and fading into the abyss.
The hype around ‘Splinter’ seemed never-ending, and quite rightly so. After releasing material in every one of the last five decades, Numan shows no signs of his unique talent subsiding. ‘Splinter’ is nothing short of a triumph.
Best album of 2013? It’s certainly up there. Genius.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.