For a man with nearly 40 years in the game, Gary Numan still holds an impressive amount of sway. Starting out as a pioneering figure of electronic music in the '70s, the U.S.-based Londoner has straddled each decade since with a vigour that's ensured his legacy remains largely untarnished, despite the occasional clanger. And the perennial swathes of praise from today's hip young things further feed his iconic status.
Numan's 17th solo album, Splinter (Songs For a Broken Mind), continues to pedal the industrialised soundscapes and gothic structuralism that are the hallmarks of his recent material. Its contents, then, are as you'd expect; a series of dark, gloomy cuts that range from the searing machinations and piston-like percussion of "Here In the Black" to the more introspective "A Shadow Falls On Me" and the harrowingly austere "My Last Day."
From a songwriting perspective, Numan lays down lyrics with surprising candour. During the dark, synth-driven blast "Everything Comes Down to This" he wails, "I don't know how we let love turn to pain," while over the piano-twinkling glow of "Lost" he croons, "If I had one wish/I'd wish for one more time/To see you again/Your hand in my hand once again."
As someone more renowned for trading in utopian yarns, these are remarkably human statements.
Sadly, the thrust and thunder of "Love Hurt Bleed" and "We're the Unforgiven" resemble brutally overcooked Nine Inch Nails off-cuts, but for the most part Splinter is a solid and intriguing effort from an artist comfortable with his position in life. His legacy remains intact. (www.numan.co.uk)
First published here for Under the Radar