Gary Numan ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ Review: The progenitor of electronic rock makes a killer comeback.
Gary Numan is one of the godfathers of electronic music. But like many pioneers, he’s more revered by musicians than the public at large, the exception being Numan’s new wave megahit Cars. But his influence on electronica and industrial music can’t be understated.
Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor has long sung Numan’s praises, and the two are currently touring together.
This is a true case of beautiful serendipity, as both their new albums share sonic touchstones and deal with mortality and the challenges and rewards of family life.
And with Splinter; Songs From A Broken Mind, Numan has crafted one of his finest albums since landmark album The Pleasure Principal.
It’s also his most personal. Whereas past efforts had him adopting a cold, robot persona, Splinter recounts his turbulent period of mid-life crisis and depression with his fear of mortality and a strained marriage (his wife struggled with postpartum depression herself).
But through such shared misery comes a beautifully crafted album;
I Am Dust kicks off with a lurching, quantized darkwave beat that recalls Depeche Mode at their sleaziest.
Here Is The Black has Numan whispering ominously against typewriter percussion and middle eastern synth tones.
Love Hurt Bleeds is the album’s catchiest, most propulsive track, with a snarling sexy synth opening and a squelched guitar chorus that recalls Nine Inch Nails Closer, with Numan misanthropic musings punctuated by his icy choral refrain; Everything bleeds.
The rest of the albums plods in a slower, more gothic vein, with the naked confessional Lost showing him at his vulnerable when recounting his frayed marriage;
When you think back to all we’ve been through does it make you cry…to feel my fingers walk across your skin/With a kiss to end/ To listen to you say that you love me like you used to do/Like I need you to/But we’re lost.
Joining Numan on Splinter is Nine Inch Nail’s guitarist Robin Finck, adding further industrial connective tissue. His sand blast guitar is used to great effect throughout the album, especially on the apocalyptic track We’re The Unforgiven.
Splinter closes on the reflective track My Last Day, a touching ode from Numan to his children and to mortality;
Wait to see a sunrise I will never see…soon I will wish you sweet dreams that I’ll never see–ooh it comes…my last day.
2013 is truly the year for aging artists confronting the ticking clock, whether it be from protegé Reznor, or Numan’s musical hero David Bowie’s album The Last Day.
Numan resides in the center, taking from influences old and new, and making them his own. These may be songs from a broken mind, but it’s still a very fertile, clever and inventive one, with perhaps more to say than ever before.
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