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Gary Numan - 'Savage: Songs From A Broken World' Album Review


1. Ghost Nation

2. Bed Of Thorns

3. My Name Is Ruin

4. The End Of Things

5. And It All Began With You

6. When The World Comes Apart

7. Mercy

8. What God Intended

9. Pray For The Pain You Serve

10. Broken

"Gary Numan? Isn't he the 'Are Friends Electric' bloke? Is he still making music after all these years?"

Yes, that's him. He's also making music constantly since then, putting out album after album. He's not just that bloke who had a couple of big singles back in the Post Punk years. Numan is credited with having a serious influence on the Electronic world. Nine Inch Nails owe a great deal to him, covering 'Metal". Fear Factory had a hit with their reworking of 'Cars'. Hell, even Dave Grohl loves him, getting the Foos to cover 'Down In The Park'. And let's not forget the Sugababes lifting 'Are Friends Electric' for 'Freak Like Me'.

Whilst still respectfully nodding towards his back catalogue, Numan has seen his sound evolve naturally over the years, becoming heavier whilst still keeping an Electronic edge. He's managed to update his sound constantly without having to adopt a Bowie-esque reinvention every few album cycles.

His new album "Savage: Songs From A Broken World" started off going down the PledgeMusic route before being picked up by BMG and getting a full release in September. This is a good thing, it's a body of work that deserves to be heard.

According to his website "Savage" takes ideas from an unfinished science fiction novel he's been working for a while and turns them into an almost concept album. There's a theme of a post apocalyptic future where the earth has been devistated by global warming, it's inhabitants having to adapt to a harsh climate. I've got a strong love of sci-fi, especially where a dystopian future is involved.

There's a strong Arabian feel to the sound and the imagery involved with the album (anyone remember a time when an album's artwork was an important factor to it's release?). Opening track 'Ghost Nation' starts off quite atmospherically, all beats and twisted noises before Gary starts singing. The Numan of old relied on a cold, almost dispassionate voice reciting his lyrics of alienation. His voice now is almost used like an instrument, his vocal style shifts to suit what is needed by the song. What's surprising to me is how warm his voice has become , the timbre of his voice is comforting as the song explodes into the chorus, a series of warnings to the listener.

'Bed Of Thorns' again starts quite subtly. A gentle backing track featuring a soft wailing voice floats by, confirming images of a vast expanse of space. There's plenty of room for the vocals to wave their melodic way through the song. 'My Name Is Ruin' (the first single from the album) carries along a similar musical path. Even though there's space and dynamics to the instrumentation, there's tension and a great sense of scope. The choruses sound huge and anthemic.

On the subject of instrumentation, Numan leans heavily towards the industrial styles of Nine Inch Nails. There's a lot of treated instruments here, such as guitars and drums. Percussive sounds litter the rhythm tracks propelling the songs along nicely.

'The End Of Things' slows the pace a little. Numan's foray into soundtracks pay dividends here, his vocals sound different here to the other tracks proceeding them, almost sounding childlike and lost, questioning the world the song's character is inhabiting. It works well, especially when it's paired with 'And It All Began With You', again another grand sounding track. 'When The World Comes Apart' is all pulsing, squelching keys and treated guitars, a song that still manages to carry menace along with melody.

NIN comparisons continue with 'Mercy', swaggering along like it could have appeared on "The Downward Spiral". Trent Reznor has said how much Gary Numan has been an influence and it's clear that the sentiment is echoed. "Save me from the world/Save me from your hell" Gary sings softly on 'What God Intended' over swathes of rolling keyboard swells.

If the previous tracks swagger then 'Pray For The Pain You Serve' marches confidently onto the scene before becoming a more subtle beast altogether. Final track 'Broken' continues the Middle East flavour, marrying that up with some keyboards that sound as though they were last used on Vangelis' "Blade Runner" soundtrack. Again, you can imagine vast expanses of barren desert stretching out to the horizon before you. The vocals finally arrive nearly four minutes into the six minute song. As a closing coda to the album it sounds sparse and chilling. It's a fitting epitaph to the album, an album that challenges the listener in the right way. There's no immediate throw away songs here but the songs are great quality. It's clear the album has been a labour of love and has lot of attention paid to it at various stages. Producer Ade Fenton has done an amazing job, making sure the top class performances are given chance to breathe, allowing the songs to ingrain themselves on the listener not overwhelm them.

In a perfect world this album would sit amongst many end of year polls. The grand theme and sound deserve to be soaked up by as many people as possible. "Savage" offers up great songs and themes that pay you back with repeated lessons. It's an album that certainly lends itself to immersion and exploration.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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