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Gary Numan Song Reviews


Tubeway Army (1978)

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Tubeway Army

Listen to the Sirens 8.5/10

When listening to the first Gary Numan song ever released on a studio album, you're going to have to make sure you "Listen to the Sirens." You know, just in case there happens to be a tornado around... Alternately, there probably won't be a tornado, so you can just listen to this song. It begins with a pulsating synth rhythm and then Numan pipes up with some robotic vocals. Soon, the song builds up a bit (adding new rhythms and instruments and subtracting along the way). Numan manages to make this sound pretty fresh throughout although you still get the feeling that your senses are getting slightly bored. I'm being as nice as possible. This is an interesting song, but it's not incredibly inspired.

My Shadow in Vain 7.5/10

This sounds like he's using the riff from "My Sharona" but for more repetitive and robotic effect. This one tends to get a little more monotonous than the previous track. The primitive melody is OK for what it tries to do, but you still wish that his melody was a little more interesting.

Life Machine 9/10

This is a tad bit poppier and more streamlined than the previous two tracks, but that's not saying much!! The groove is hypnotizing, the vocals are robotic and the groove is disjointed. But as far as I'm concerned, this one really works. It's simple but it's catchy in an abnormal sort of way. Those glassy synthesizers he stacks on in the middle of the track are kind of neat!

Friends 9.5/10

A neat song. It's still overly simple and repetitive, but he's using heavy guitars to prove his point instead of synthesizers. He even lets the guitar do a little bit of improvising here. So this ends up being one of the more "flooded" songs. Numan's vocals even sound flabbergasted here, at times. Well, just for that this song gains my endorsement!

Something's in the House 7/10

His chord progressions are so simple they're awesome. That's pretty much all you can think about! But that doesn't mean that he can capture our attention with an overly simple and peculiar progression. His melody doesn't do much but follow it, and the instrumentals don't change much at all until about the 90 second mark. Then, the instrumentals take on a new groove (featuring a kind of neat synthesizer and heavy guitars). But then they just return to that same old groove. There is a considerable attempt at creating an atmosphere, but it's too little and too late...... I'm not even letting myself get hypnotized........

Everyday I Die 6.5/10

A bit more delightful. And when I say that, I mean the instrumentals are of a higher register. Funny that the lyrics are about *ahem* pleasuring yourself. Honestly, the music itself is pretty similar to the previous songs. The groove is disjointed, and the chord progression is simple. The distinctive bit about this song is the ghoulish vocal effect he uses at the end. Honestly, this song isn't that capturing... I'm really trying...

Steel and You 8.5/10

Numan's getting rather creative, which I appreciate immensely. It begins with a very very dark and heavy synthesizer, and some saw-synths pick up... Slowly a rather catchy and disjointed groove using heavy guitars begins to fade in. The guitars and a drum beat are the only instruments, so this can still be considered "minimal." I generally like this song not just for the intro, but there's some nice soloing bits he does with the guitars in the middle of the track... (Power chords, eh? That's getting rather pompous, isn't it? That's OK with me, man!!)

My Love is a Liquid 8/10

The harmonic progressions are more varied, which makes the structure a tad more interesting. The groove is very disjointed, but it's somewhat interesting to hear it run through this progression. Numan's vocals are clearer and a little more bizarre here. I'm not too enthusiastic about those "atmospheric" sections that just seem to consists of a wavey synthesizer. But all the elements combine to make a pretty interesting song to sit through... Who knows about that synthesizer, which just seems to be wasting time...

Are You Real 7.5/10

This predominantly uses some pretty heavy electric guitars. This gives the song nice body ... but just as the groove was finally starting to get old, he brings in some crazy sounding synthesizers to make this sound weird!

The Dream Police 7/10

A pretty neat groove, and it's a bit of a shame that I'm not enjoying it more than on the base level. Well, I guess I'll have to come to terms with the fact that little (if anything) Numan does warrants being taken to heart! Nothing about the song is catchy though, and even that strange groove gets old rather quickly.

Jo the Waiter 9.5/10

Numan decides to be robotic with an acoustic guitar here. Just when that gets a little bit dull, Numan gives this a bit of an instrumental "explosion." The instrumentals are engaging and I like what the bass guitar is playing. This turns out to be one of the best songs from the album not just because the melody is catchier (though that's certainly true), but the instrumentation is unique and varied --- Yes, Gary Numan can be brilliantly creative after all!!

Zero Bars (Mr. Smith) 7/10

And the final song is one of those overly robotic tracks. Though he certainly does pretty well to vary up the effort throughout, but honestly not enough. Its novelty wears off pretty quickly, and there's nothing engaging about the groove or melody. He slowly fades it out, and... the album is over. (Unless you're going to listen to the bootleg concert section, which I'm not going to review.)


Replicas (1979)

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Replicas

Me I Disconnect From You 9.5/10

Gary Numan writes songs that anyone could write? I doubt it. Hear this song. Would a normal person be able changes textures this much and still keep a smooth flow? I doubt it. Hear how it ends... I've been judging an amateur music contest for more than a year now (specializing in pop songs, naturally), and only a small faction of the participants can write great endings like this. It's absolutely nailed (and seems to suggest that Numan was influenced by early Philip Glass.). Plus, this is also a fine pop song. The melody doesn't have pop hooks in the sense, but it's interesting and still manages to catch my ear. The instrumentation is varied and keeps the song flowing well. You have Numan's robotic vocals, the usual boom-thwack drum machine pattern, and a wide variety of synthesizers that come in and out giving it a rather spaced out feel to it. Anyway, there's no way I'm going to be able to describe everything. This is greatness!

Are "Friends" Electric? 9/10

When I started listening to this album about a week ago to prepare for this review, I had this robotic groove going through my mind in one of my dreams. So, I have experience with this song in the dream world! The robotic groove is catchy, but it's difficult to know why... It would seem monotonous, but Numan knows exactly what to do to keep the effort sounding fresh. He changes the textures around, brings in a new synthesizer, introduces a new chord progression--- what have you. This isn't quite as interesting as the previous track, but this one seems to be Numan's more celebrated songs...

The Machman 8.5/10

This groove is pretty catchy as well, but it's hard to tell why. I know that it's not simply becasue it repeats so much, because it captures me from the moment it starts playing. Numan's singing seems to follow the groove around, which is appropriate but not spectacular. My only complaint is the scaling synthesizers seem less inspired here, though.

Praying to the Aliens 8/10

This is clearly not the best song of the album. The groove is a little less interesting, and the melody is rather bland and robotic. You still have the novelty of Numan's robot vocals, the spacey synthesizers and the sci-fi lyrics! ... I also like those calculator synths that he fades in and out of this entire thing...

Down in the Park 9/10

You get the whole "Warszawa" vibe going here except it's not nearly as compelling! Well, I guess that proves that nobody can properly reproduce those classic vibes from Low. But in any case, I don't want you to think I consider this a rip-off. I still a good song that does a formidable job at the atmospherics! This is certainly has more of an outer space feel to it, so it has a different purpose... This is a rather captivating song, and it's fun to hear his synthscape. This synthscape isn't too lush (it's a Low-ish synthscape), and it's utterly well done.

You Are My Vision 8.5/10

I believe this is the first song of the album to predominantly feature the electric guitars, which seems a throwback to their debut album! (I'm guessing the sheer lack of guitars in this album is why this "Tubeway Army" band broke up after this album... I'm not even bothering to do research.) Of course, the guitars are very welcome. They're playing so choppily that they'd might as well be exceptional sounding synthesizers! He's not doing any of those funny synthscapes with this track, but that's OK. The guitars are here, and they sound great!

Replicas 8/10

Again, this song creates a very dark atmosphere that's rather well developed. I don't find this one as captivating as other songs like "Down in the Park." It's hard for even me to realize how little Gary Numan bothered about hooks or melody ... and that wasn't the purpose of his music. But this one does seem to grow rather plodding...

It Must Have Been Years 9.5/10

Now this song is pretty dang neat. This marks the return of the electric guitars in all its glory (even featuring a rip-roaring solo). That robo-riff they're playing is really neat, and it's manages to catch the ear. Don't leave, band... please... OK, whatever.

When the Machines Rock 8.5/10

Here's Gary Numan's instrumental song, so I guess it's appropriate that this one seems to be slightly more instrumentally involved than the others. As I don't even have to mention, this is a robotic proto synth-pop song that fits that subject matter quite well. The melodic theme is alright even though Numan wasn't going for real hooks --- Well whatever the case, the theme manages to interest me! I like his funny sound effects throughout this... Again, he's an expert at changing up the textures of his songs at exactly the right times so that the song always feels fresh.

I Nearly Married a Human 7.5/10

This is also an instrumental, but I think that song title is hilarious! Anyway, this is Gary Numan's relatively epic (six minute) atmospheric song. It's not so much captivating as I would have liked, and I wish that I could come away with an awe-inspired feeling about it, but I don't get that impression at all I'm afraid. I do like how he structured this song in the technical sense... Bringing in those drum machines suddenly was an interesting idea, but I just get the feeling they were more of a distraction... that Numan wasn't really sure what he wanted to do. This definitely seems like he was aping the latter half of Heroes, but it just wasn't done extremely well... Those Bowie songs managed to give really deep, meaningful images --- this is just a bunch of dark atmospherics... It's still respectable, and I at least want to like it! ... Well, I do like it. Sort of.

BONUS TRACKS

Hey, you've got to like the bonus tracks! Well, this one at least... "Do You Need Service?" has such a simple chord progression that it's brilliant... Oh, yeah... The development is rather interesting as well. He wants to try taking us places.

"The Crazies" is alright... It's getting a bit inconsequential now. His robo-groove is interesting for awhile, but he doesn't really keep this song fresh throughout. Well, it's a bonus track, and I appreciate it of course...

"Only a Downstat" has a much better groove than the previous track. It's has a little more inertia. This isn't an inspired song at all, and it's no surprise that it was a bonus track. Again, Numan doesn't really keep this song sounding fresh throughout ... That's a disappointment! Still, it makes a fine listen.

"We Have a Technical" is an eight minute long track. He's doing that "My Sharona" pattern that he was doing in his debut album! This song extends its welcome by quite some time, but there's some interesting textures here...

Did I say that this album was minimal? "We Are So Fragile" is even more minimal. Some of it only consists of a choppy bass synthesizer and Numan singing to it with his robotic vocals. Fortunately the electric guitars and atmospheric synthesizers come in!!

Hm, I guess he almost did it again... "I Nearly Married a Human 2" is a little better than the album version in my opinion. The only reason I say that is because he keeps the drum machine pattern constant instead of bringing them in and out. It's a little less awkward... But this is still a rather overbearing and boring song!


The Pleasure Principle (1979)

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The Pleasure Principle

Airline 9.5/10

This instrumental gets the ball rolling on a positive note, I guess. As you'd probably expect, it's a synth heavy song with tons of repetitive motifs. However, just as Gary Numan proved he was capable doing in his past albums with the Tubeway Army, he keeps the song evolving. It starts out with a mere synthesizer, playing whole notes and half notes it seems, with some hi-hat taps. Eventually, a bass synth comes in and the snare drums come in. The sounds are crystal clear and "high-tech," which was undoubtedly another one of Numan's aims. There isn't so much a melodic theme although somehow, those repetitive whole and half notes manage to be all it needed. What we're paying attention to is how the rhythms, tones and dramatics change throughout this piece, and it's enough to get me on the edge of my seat.

Metal 9/10

This artsy syth-pop is excellent! This one starts with a very simple and detached groove, and Numan manages to come up with a melody that's about as catchy as his robo-vocals can ever make it. The groove is utterly hypnotizing. Once he has your undivided attention, he layers on these thick, atmospheric synthesizers that slowly but surely gobble everything up. That was quite an idea!

Complex 10/10

Er, what? ... Violins? ... COOL!!! I'm going to have to say that this is the real shining star as far as instrumentation goes. It's not just the violins, but that buzzing synthesizer going off in all directions and that alarming, twinkly piano. It's interesting to note that his instrumentals are playing much richer melodies than Numan's robo-vocals. Although, his melody is certainly rather hooky. Everything about the instrumentation was done perfectly here. Wow. This track is a real gem, and my big complaint is that it's not nearly long enough!!

Films 9.5/10

He does a great job creating a sort of doomsday atmosphere with this track in particular. I know that's what these lyrics are pertaining to (although certainly a frustrated director might be feeling particularly stressed), but this arrangement and the atmosphere is quite effective. Numan doesn't sing much here, though --- he lets his dramatic instrumentals do all the talking for him. Brilliant!! That's the way it should be.

M.E. 8/10

This one tends to entice me less, and it doesn't help that the running length is past five minutes and, well, it gets boring. (Why couldn't he have extended "Complex," eh??) But don't interpret that as a panning of this song. The instrumentals do sound they're under a heightened sense of alarm. I think he did the instrumentals better, previously, and he doesn't change the textures of this one like he did so well previously. It's a well conceived song and artistic, but this is one of the album's lowlights...

Tracks 9/10

This starts out rather simply with a piano loop as Numan delivers his robo-vocals. Then, there's a synth orchestral explosion and a backing beat pops up. His simple synth-loop is rather interesting although it's not one of his finest. When Numan starts singing for the second time, the track does tend to grow dull, but once the synth instrumentals take over again to deliver thier mini-orchestra, the magic happens. How lovely!!

Observer 9/10

One of the more bare songs of the album. It has a similar synth-pop loop containing just a drum machine and a simple, easily controllable synthesizers. That's the same sort of loop that characterizes "Cars." But this one also has the charming tendency to break into these mini, spaced out orchestras.

Conversation 8.5/10

As far as pop potential goes, I'd say a shorter version of this might have had nearly as much chance as "Cars." The interplay between the instrumentals was especially well done, and listening to this doesn't nothing if it doesn't dazzle the ears ----- through it's extremely simple means. He brings in a violin a few times for especially good effect. Of course, this is seven minutes long, so there wouldn't have been a mainstream radio station on the planet who would have played it. Even though Numan doesn't take extreme measures to change the general loop that he's using, luckily it's one that has a lot of shelf life. The instrumentals usually do a good job at keeping the effort spicey, but ....... well they probably should have done more if I were to up the rating. As it stands, however, this was exceptionally done and it does seem to be over before you know it. The "doomsday" sound the song takes in the last minute was especially well done. A perfect end.

Cars 9.5/10

This is the reason so many people call Gary Numan a one-hit wonder, but ... I do suppose that's true. This was popularly covered by Fear Factory recently, and they pretty much copied it verbatum even to the point where they're even trying to emulate Numan's accent. Their guitar tones weren't very well-chosen, either. So, I'm going to go right out and tell you that this original is about 100x better, and Fear Factory sucks. It's funny that Numan's able to make such a memorable song without really needing hooks in the melody. He uses a chord progression that's remarkably simple, as usual. He did seem to streamline the production of this one, though. There's a reliable backing drum machine throughout, and he doesn't feel the need to take this in any particularly bizarre directions. Certainly, the reason why this is so memorable is rhythms and the timing of the interplay between the instrumentals. He also continues with his charming tendency to layer on more synthesizers at the end to create quite a synthscape, so this has excellent forward progression. I'd say if Gary Numan had one international hit and one international hit only, this was a good pick.

Engineers 9/10

This is a nice closing! This is a particularly sci-fi song with these funny, fluttery sound effects going throughout doing whatever the heck it wants to while the rest of the instrumentals are very much prisoners. The drum is chugging along rather quickly, and there's a dark, pounding synthesizer keeping the song sounding "alarming." For the most part (until the end), these rhythms are stationary thoughout the whole song, and that produces a successful, hypnotic effect. The melodic theme is as simple as always, but it's effective. You're more interested in the synthesizer sounds he uses to play the themes!!

BONUS TRACKS

"Random" was an outtake from Replicas. It's marked as a "demo," but it's generally sounds like the music from that album. It features a very steady beat and a very out-of-control synthesizer pulsates in and out. Not so much enjoyable to hear, but it's a good one for the fans I suppose!

"Oceans" was another outtake from Replicas. It seems like it was another one of Numan's attempts to follow-up the latter half of "Heroes". Don't get me wrong, though. I think Numan's attempts at this are highly formidable (and you only have to hear the stinkin' imitations from bands like Spandau Ballet and Styx to appreciate what Numan is doing). I like this atmosphere because it's alarming, but I do think it should have been developed. Well, it's a "demo," and it sounds pretty good for a demo.

Now here's something. "Asylum" was the B-side of "Cars" and I can only imagined that it scared the pants out of everybody. Numan uses very unusual chords and creates a sort of horror movie feel. Very frightening! His twinkly piano is especially appreciated here, because they sound so freaking creepy!

Here is "Me! I Disconnect From You (Live)" the hit (in the UK) from his previous album. Numan has a reputation for his live performances! Here, the song seems to rock out more thanks to the meter being turned up. Of course, the studio version was better produced and more aesthetic, but this is fun for almost different reasons.

"Bombers (Live)" is a very stripped down song that was released as a single though not on a regular Numan album. It's a decent song though it does tend to be a bit boring. The synth loop isn't quite as intriguing as he's otherwise able to make it. I do like his space age sound effects in the middle --- he's quite good with sound effects and generally how to time them.

It seems like he's using the same rhythm for "Remember I Was Vapour (Live)" as he was on "Bombers." I hate to say it, but this song is pretty boring. It's still appreciated though ... I do like the fact that this song generally evolves by the end, and it does have that nice hypnotic effect.

What a neat cover! "On Broadway (Live)" Yes, this is the song you're probably thinking about --- the showtune. The instrumentals are as robotic as they're supposed to be, but Numan's singing that famous tune with it. The synth heavy instrumental interlude in the middle is especially well done, and it ranks up there with similar interludes like "Complex" and "Films" from the regular album. Either this or "Asylum" is the sheer highlight of the bonus tracks. This is just fantastic.


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All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.