I had always been a massive fan of Gary, right from the beginning and tailing off to nothing during the Beserker years, until I was given the Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) album in 2014. It took me 6 months to actually listen to it, worried that it would be full of syncopated noodling and dull synth self-indulgence, but the result was so powerful, it stayed on repeat in my car for the next six weeks after the first listen, and is a constant presence on my driving playlist.
So Savage had a lot to live up to. The next album after a hugely successful one always has massive expectations heaped upon it, and not necessarily good ones.
Out of the eleven tracks, I would say nine of them are strong, making up for the two which aren’t quite so powerful. Each has its own flavour, variably with Eastern-inspired wailing chorals, elegant strings, wafting melodies and irresistibly rhythmic drumbeats. The song structures are familiar; the softly softly build-up, full of Dystopian bleakness, before hitting the listener with throbbing mid-sections that lift each track into its own dimension. There are numerous references to God, but don’t worry, Numan hasn’t gone all Cliff Richard on us faithful Numanoids. In the Broken World Numan refers to, it’s a bit late for that. The future is bleak, thanks to global warming, and Numan gives us insight into what that could be like.
Stand-outs for me are Ghost Nation, the first track, giving an epic taste of what is to follow. Numan’s vocals are on point, soaring and breaking, with a depth that seems to only improve with age. And Bed of Thorns is bound to be a crowd pleaser, with its memorable chorus and deep echoes of the classic Down In The Park synth melody.
The song chosen for the single, My Name is Ruin, has grown on me with each listen. I love the sinuous, Eastern-influenced synth which offset the slightly shrill vocals. Daughter Persia’s voice in the background fits in perfectly on the chorus. It’s the only song where I feel Numan’s voice is being exercised to its limits, and it has taken a few listens to really appreciate it.
Some of the tracks sound familiar in other ways. And It All Began With You is a ballad with distinct Wicked Game overtones, yet saved from mawkishness by Numan, who makes a love song sound like the lament of a serial killer.
My initial feeling was that the album faded slightly after When the World Falls Apart. This is another strong track, arguably more suitable to be a single than My Name Is Ruin. I’m sure Numan fans will vigorously discuss this point long into the night. I still feel this is the weakest part of the album, during What God Intended and Pray For The Pain You Serve. This is all relative though, because there is a lot to compete with. Every track has its own tasty little riff or chorus to yell along to in the car. Yes, some of the tracks are similar, and a couple seem to merge into one, but if you enjoyed Splinter, and want more, then you won’t be disappointed.
The album picks up again with the last two tracks. Broken takes the listener to the dusty plains of Tattooine with soaring, atmospheric electronica that is just begging to be used as a film score.
“I’ve seen the whole world die,” he says at the end, but I really hope it doesn’t. Despite the gloomy lyrics and bleak message, this late bottled vintage Numan is a taste worth savouring.