Gary Numan ‘Savage (Songs from a Broken World)’ Review: Electronic music pioneer gets political on dark, majestic release.
New Wave icon Gary Numan has never shied away from dark concept albums about future dystopian nightmares. But his latest release, Savage (Songs from a Broken World), feels more contemporary than ever. And that’s entirely intentional.
According to Numan, the new album (produced by longtime collaborator Ade Fenton)is set in a post global warming, apocalyptic, Earth in the not-too-distant future, Savage imagines the planet as a desolate, desert wasteland. It’s about surviving and coexisting in a world decimated by Global Warming and my reaction to Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord.
This post-apocalyptic subject matter lends the album a dark ambience that expands on his winning 2014 effort Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind), marrying his classic synth sound with shards of industrial dissonance and chunky metal guitars.
The clanging dark wave opener Ghost Nation sets the mood, featuring doom-laden imagery (Have you ever seen death with your own eyes?) and an unrelenting beat.
There is also a pronounced Middle Eastern influence on the record, from the female backing vocals on the soaring Bed of Thorns to the cinematic, droning The End of Things, featuring one of his most hooky, anthemic choruses.
Like Splinter, there is a subtle Nine Inch Nails influence that rears its head on tracks like My Name is Ruin, a dance-floor banger with a sleek automaton beat and textured synths, and When The World Comes Apart, which features a slamming guitar riff that compliments the electronic soundscapes and doom-laden prose like When the world came apart/Where were you?
Savage is Numan’s most politically minded album, which lends it a particular urgency. The singer noted in a recent piece for The Daily Beast that Savage was originally inspired by his unfinished science fiction novel. But when reality and fiction blurred together with the election of Donald Trump, his new muse beckoned. This makes the material all the more compelling.
Take the brooding dirge It All Began With You, which doesn’t pull any punches: It all began with you/and it ends for me/the day you leave.
Mercy is another case-in-point, with Numan’s alien wail proclaiming your politics are screaming while also attacking those who dismiss climate change as God’s will if you pray hard/maybe God can save you…No Mercy. It’s a standout track, hypnotic, gleaming and relentless. What God Intended is even more blunt, conjuring aural Armageddon over symphonic synths and cavernous percussion.
Savage ends on the appropriately mournful Broken, which takes on the tone of a meditation, noting with cold resignation: If you’ve seen what I’ve seen/you’ll scream like I’ll scream. But even here there is a defiant, unbreakable spirit, with beauty amidst the darkness.
Savage continues to prove that Numan’s inimitable sound (and voice) hasn’t dulled with age. It may be a dark album for uncertain times, but Numan is content to fight the good fight with one of his strongest albums to date.
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