WITH SPLINTER BEING powerful right from the start, I just wish Numan wouldn’t do that Alanis Morrissette voice yodel thing. It doesn’t go with my skewed idea of post-punk London scrambling to find its feet. Whoops – a bit guilty there of upsetting those who wave banners pro-new material by old artists. The diehard original alternative hippie-bashers who still think it’s 1979 will love me, however. But then they weren’t that big on Gary Numan, were they? They preferred something more au-naturel. At least Numan had the good sense to pancake his acne to make himself more presentable, which was the only reason he did it to begin with. Pretty soon, ugly teenagers everywhere had the perfect excuse to hide their blemishes and they didn’t even know they were doing it. Ideal stage fodder. Now all they had to do was learn to play.
And play, Gary Numan did. Mainly the system. I guess he pretty much accidentally brought electronic music to the masses via straight-faced hook-laden dystopian anthems that corralled heretofore facially uncovered kids everywhere. It wasn’t long before even continental groundbreakers who loved tepid transport pictures were also covering their faces. What had Gary begun? And did he have the music to back it up?
At the time I wasn’t convinced. But looking back, I say ‘yes’. I would never have believed that over 30 years later, Gary Numan would be making vital music as good as and better than a lot of the dross we’re fed today. Splinter has a lot to flip your bean over. (Ouch.) It may not sound as new as The Pleasure Principle or Telekon did in their day, but it’s classic Numan from the chorus hook of opener ‘I Am Dust’ down to the soaring synth strings of ‘Here In The Black’ and the faux-Japan of ‘The Calling’. (Do I refer to the country or the band? You decide.) Plus it’s his highest-charting UK album since 1983. But that’s neither here nor there.
So, it’s a shame about the sound of the record. Not the production as such which is colourful and potentially very dynamic, but the brick wall mastering that first stifles, then throttles and kills it clean dead. And these days the average punter doesn’t have eyesight good enough to see the blood, so they don’t know what they’re missing. You set it at a volume and it just stays there. Hopefully Numan will follow the lead of Nine Inch Nails and issue an edition of Splinter minus the brick wall with all dynamics intact. The music would really come to life then. But this is more a general complaint than just singling out this album. It’s so commonplace now that it’s probably no longer worth mentioning as it’s become so ingrained.
The album sub-title Songs From A Broken Mind seems a bit unnecessary. Shouldn’t that be up to the critic? Ha. Not that the words really kept my attention. As my late friend and Numan fanatic Paul Bezzant used to say: “I just listen to the whole melange”. It’s a mood thing with Numan, a trip back to the turn of a decade when it really felt like something was going to happen in music. For me, Numan’s music is imbued with the feeling of that era. You kind of don’t want it to change much. I don’t want to think of him as a word man. When it comes to lyrics, Gary Numan doesn’t usually flip my bean. And if he wanted to I wouldn’t let him. PETER KEARNS
Music = 3.5/5