Review Summary: Delightfully fulfilling without stomping over well tread ground, Gary Numan is once again in top form.
Creating a followup to Dead Son Rising
seems a daunting task. The early 2011 album was filled with a lack of urgency, opting for a slithering pace that relied on atmosphere and the vocal prowess of Numan to bring the audience back into its little world. This emphasis was well received and felt incredibly right
in the current musical landscape, but also left the question as to where the man's sound was to go afterward. The answer is found within Splinter
, an amalgamation of the best of the works that came before and the new ideas that touched its creators mind. Featuring more of a staccato bite instrumentally, Splinter
finds Numan on a vocally impressive pedestal, with his soft croons and distinct delivery in full form.
A simple yet masterful use of delays and a few other choice effects enhance this presence ("Here In The Black", "The Calling") yet never become the focus or seem over used. Though many layers are often present in each track the entire album seems to be a neigh perfect mix of instruments, be they vocal or otherwise. It's refreshing to listen to something so simply put together, and while Numan breaks out new sounds and devices (such as the distinct bass found in singles "I Am Dust" and "Love Hurt Bleed") they don't overstay their welcome or outshine the other aspects of the album. This allows the room for the smaller moments to shine and become memorable, elation educing moments. From the ghostly backing vocal on "Everything Comes Down To This", to the sudden and unexpected string buildup in "The Calling" every track has something that each listener will latch onto in a different way.
This extended focus on ambiance and atmosphere makes Splinter
seem a tad of a blur on first listen, for while the singles are placed in just the right spot nothing else initially grabs you by the ears. This is an album that years and demands a listen right after the first, the kind where you find yourself moving and humming along to melodies that just moments ago really didn't seem special or unique. Too immediately great to be considered a true "grower" the album nonetheless sits a bit behind it's predecessor, requiring more time to enjoy. However this is also where it shows Numans growth as a strong song writer, as well as his aptness to write catchy singles. The choice of "I Am Dust" as an opener is perfect, showcasing bits and pieces of what has yet to come without giving everything away. The slow intimating bassline allows for an excellent progression (one mirrored both within the track and album), making the guitar stabs and Numan's distinctive wails prominent aspects of the tracks evolution. "Love Hurt Bleed" follows a similar path but feels much more upbeat, to the point where it could easily see playtime in a darker venue. Its driving and somewhat ethereal melodies play and weave through distorted filters and guitars, all the while urged forward by Numans simple but compelling lines. The sounds used recall the mans older work, albeit twisted to suit a darker soundscape, and are a refreshing change of pace.
Simply put, Splinter
lacks one single standout track. There are numerous highlights, but not one song ever rises above and screams for superiority. While similar to the approach used in Dead Son Rising
Numan has honed his craft to produce a polished and fully developed ebb and flow, one that leaves the audience desiring nothing while delivering on everything. Numan feels as if he's on top of his game with the release of his twentieth studio album, poised to ascend to even greater heights. Oft overlooked or forgotten in the wake of his peers Numan shows that he is more than able to hold his own while sticking to a style and form that others left years ago; Splinter
is delightfully fulfilling without stomping all over well tread ground.