Dead Son Rising
, November 14th, 2011 06:31
People sneered at former synth pop star Gary Numan when he started dating the head of his fan club in the mid-90s. He had fallen out of favour since scoring two number one hits in 1979 ('Are "Friends" Electric?' and 'Cars'), clowned by the press, crippled by debt and seemed incapable of releasing anything other than arid funk rock. But it was Gemma O’Neil (who told her careers teacher that she didn’t need to attend his class as she was planning on marrying Gary Numan), now the mother of his three children, who deserves a lot of the credit for pulling him back from the brink.
She was responsible for introducing him to American artists such as Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson who deified him as a pioneer and persuaded him to abandon his disastrous ten year flirtation with funk. She was also key to him being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. This form of autism, to put it politely, has been a double edged sword – while making him noticeably depressed, paranoid and isolated, it has also given him a fierce tunnel vision when it comes to music, something that has become thankfully evident in his work again over the last decade or so.
This album’s conception was sparked by demos written around his last two albums Pure (2000) and Jagged (2006). And it is interesting to note that Numan has now unequivocally the king of This Kind Of Thing. Nine Inch Nails have retired (notably Numan was a star guest at a handful of the farewell shows, coming on stage to perform 'Cars' and 'Metal' with Trent Reznor). Marilyn Manson has slumped into cocaine bleached self parody. Al Jourgensen of Ministry and Revolting Cocks stumbles from one ill-conceived schlocky album to the next. The Young Gods have sadly lost the spark that once made them true innovators. This leaves Numan, who is significantly older than all of them bar Jourgensen, weirdly as one of the only credible practitioners of industrial metal at this scale.
Of course this album is something of a stopgap before the long promised "bulldozer riff-fest" of his next album Splinter but it's by no means a throwaway effort. While it is clearly a compilation of songs rather than a cohesive whole, this is by no means a bad thing either. Working with right hand man, Ade Fenton, the emphasis is on moody other worldly techno ('Resurrection') and tantalisingly the spirit of Tubeway Army is resurrected on 'For The Rest Of My Life'. The kind of colossal industrial bangers that he's made his stock trade over the last decade get a look in as well in the shape of 'Big Noise Transmission' ("Come on little fucker you can let me out!") and the arena shaped 'When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come'. More unusually acoustic instrumentation such as piano and Spanish guitar make more of an appearance on Not The Love We Dream Of. One card in Numan's strong suit is that he has a formidable way with melody, riffs and refrains - admittedly the strength of this gift seems to depend entirely on what genre he's working in but as this album displays he still has no problem in recording stone cold anthems like 'Dead Sun Rising'. Like many, I'm keen to hear Splinter but am content to relish in this satisfying compilation with its lugubrious and luxurious electronic introspection created by an artist once again near the height of his powers.