Review Summary: Gary Numan dreams of electric sheep
A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Gary Numan.
Numan is now of course the massively famous and influential electro-pop pioneer best known for 'cars'. You know the one:
"Here in my car, I feel safest of all, I can lock all my doors, it's the only way to live, in ca-ars. du duh da duh."
You'll know it when you hear it, he is one of those people whose influence is far more substantial than the man and the works he made himself. Although he did pop up on the mighty boosh and his songs have been sampled (famously by basement jaxx, not going to sing that one) and covered numerous times. In many ways, a cult hero.
But in 1979 him and his friends found themselves swept up by punk's appeal and the creativity one could find in post-punk, so they set up the band 'tube way army'. Their first release was a guitar based punk album, their second was this. Synth heavy post-punk songs that paved the way for the synth-pop bands of the early 80s, supposedly written on a mini-moog that had been left in their studio - it was about to be thrown in the garbage!
A MINI-MOOG FROM 1979 WAS GOING TO BE THROWN IN THE GARBAGE. Sorry I thought that was worth repeating.
Fate intervened and, inspired by Bowie's Berlin period and krautrock synth bands like kraftwerk, Numan and co. (pretty much just Numan) fashioned that signature sound.
It is a concept album, the story stemming from a sci-fi book (because let's face it every synth pop band was obsessed with science fiction), Numan could never write, about androids who take care of humans under orders by shadowy officials. And here comes the old Philip K. Dick presence, although he didn't take the name 'Replicas' from the android's names of 'replicants' as this only featured in the film 'blade runner' which was made three years after the release of this album - so there's that myth put to rest.
The music on the album can be perfectly summed up by the hit single 'are friends electric' a great and catchy song that propelled Numan into the public eye, and set him up for his first solo debut. It's a synth heavy affair, the mini-moog pounds away gorgeously (I LOVE SYNTHS) accompanied by the standard drums, bass and guitar. Whereas it would be easy to talk about the synths all day (I LOVE SYNTHS) and the basic yet hugely influential and catchy textures they create throughout the albums (lengthy) run-time, it would be a crime not to mention the band: They expertly accompany the moog, and the fusion of the two gives the album a heavy Berlin Bowie feel to it. This backing isn't ALWAYS the backing though, on tracks like "You Are in My Vision" and "It Must Have Been Years" it is very much guitar orientated, but it's that synth that gives this album that sci-fi and glorious layer to play with.
And they are glorious aren't they" so much so that Numan's next effort (solo album 'the pleasure principle', considered his best normally) had no guitar at all, and that lead him to the aforementioned cars - you know the one:
"Here in my car etc etc."
The catchiness and crispness of the synth lines and the comfort and easy-to-like sounds of the band just make this such a likeable, enjoyable (danceable even) and classic album. Numan's off-kilter vocals just add that touch of quirkiness to the hugely likeable tracks, geeky yet effortlessly stylish. It's just one of those easy listenable albums that still manages to stay with you, a sense of huge fun amongst the morbid sci-fi subject matter is always present and tracks like 'when the machines rock' just add to this factor.
So one to dig out and sing along to, I love the album and it's just a classic example of really really fun yet influential music. So when Cars comes on some advert or someone absentmindedly hums it...
"here in my..." remember!
he made this too!
Seek it out or rejoice in its existence either way Numan is your electric friend, and when he interweaves synth amongst the superb backing band you get one of the absolute magnificent gems of Post-Punk's mighty sub genre. Rejoice in the synth!
Gary Numan felt better, and fixed himself at last a cup of hot, black coffee.