Album Review by Mark Bayross
While most of the current generation of pop connoisseurs only know Gary Numan through various recent chart hits built around samples from his songs (Sugababes, Basement Jaxx, Armand Van Helden, etc), the former robo-geek of synth pop has been busy re-inventing himself. Buoyed along by the return-to-form of 1994’sSACRIFICE and 1997’s EXILE albums, things finally came together in 2000 when he joined the ranks of Marilyn Manson, Trent Reznor, Fear Factory et al – all of whom cite him as a major influence – with the astonishing PURE album, one of the best industrial rock albums I have ever heard.
Incredibly, it has been 25 years since Tubeway Army’s first single, and to commemorate this quarter century, Numan has released SCARRED the first of a series of live albums, and HYBRID, a collection of tracks, some early classics, some of the fantastic recent songs, plus three new songs, reworked in collaboration with his “dream team” of old hands like producers Flood (U2, Depeche Mode) and Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins), new acts like Sulpher and New Disease, and DJ Andy Gray.
The results are outstanding. Rob Holliday and Monti of Sulpher stamp their pulsating electronics and searing guitars all over BLEED, TORN and DOMINION DAY, as well as reconstructing PURE into new song HYBRID and burying it under an avalanche of processed guitars. Monti, on his own, even turns the classic DOWN IN THE PARK into a slow-burning epic much like his band’s monumental ONE OF US.
Alan Moulder mixes ME! I DISCONNECT FROM YOU into old skool analog space rock before adding his guitar to Curve’s respectful rendering of DOWN IN THE PARK, while Rico goes all Front 242-meets-The Prodigy on his thunderous version of LISTEN TO MY VOICE. The only track that jars Flood’s reworking of CARS into what sounds like a Depeche Mode B-side.
But perhaps the most impressive contribution comes from DJ Andy Gray who has had a hand in nearly half the tracks here. With the exception of the effects-heavy RIP, he pretty much repeats the same trick for every one – covering thumping beats with layers of keyboards and processed guitars – but when the results are as amazing as his majestic take on ABSOLUTION or his explosive versions of DARK and A PRAYER FOR THE UNBORN, who’s going to complain?
In addition to HYBRID, the new tracks cover similar ground to PURE. CRAZIER (produced by Rico and Andy Gray again) is another slab of molten industrial rock, while ANCIENTS is a string-drenched ballad of astounding beauty. Numan has also brought M.E. bang up to date with a 21st century makeover of distorted guitars and pounding bass.
This is a fantastic album. As an opportunity to listen to masters of their craft weld addictive electronic textures to explosive guitars, it is pretty much faultless. And as an opportunity to hear a brilliant acts like Sulpher and Rico apply their sense of dynamics to a songwriter of Gary Numan’s calibre, it is unmissable.