Album Review by Mark Bayross
Gary Numan’s return to the fray has been nothing if not strident. Having spent much of the nineties in the wilderness after his early-to-mid eighties heyday, he reappeared in 1997 with the critically-acclaimed EXILE and sell-out tours of the UK, Europe and America.
Now with 25 albums reaching the Top 75 (five of them hitting number one), Gary Numan has finally won the credit we all know he deserves (but from which he has publicly shied away) for being one of the founders of the electro-industrial genre. After the RANDOM tribute album, he has enjoyed endorsements from the likes of Billy Corgan, Marilyn Manson (who covered “Down In the Park”) and Trent Reznor, who has recorded a cover of Numan’s “Metal” on the forthcoming NIN remix album.
One of his two number one singles, CARS has also had something of a renaissance, first on account of a surprisingly straight cover by Fear Factory, and then after DJ Armand Van Helden cut the song up and remixed it, sending it Top 5 last year.
Now, with everyone from Korn to TLC dabbling in futurist cyber-chic and THE MATRIX inspiring everything from computer games to adverts, the time is right for darkwave electro-industrial to make a play for the common consciousness. But while established bands like Front 242 and Ministry will always remain left of the mainstream, Gary Numan has a big enough profile to pull it off and sell records at the same time.
And, boy, has he pulled it off! PURE builds on EXILE to provide a supremely confident affirmation of Numan’s status as the “godfather of industrial music”. Each of the eleven tracks seethes with layers of electronics and serrated guitars, accompanied by beats laid down by ex-Curve drummer Monti. Every song effortlessly combines catchy hooks with keyboard lines to die for and taut, caustic production.
Techno-rock stormers like RIP, LISTEN TO MY VOICE and I CAN’T BREATHE waste no time getting under your skin and pummelling your insides to pieces, while WALKING WITH SHADOWS, ONE PERFECT LIE and the haunting LITTLE INVITRIO combine eerie gothic ambience with claustrophobic trip-hop to mesmerising effect.
Numan’s distinctly eighties voice may take a bit of getting used to, but it suits the music well, sounding like he’s trapped inside all this machinery. It’s dramatic without coming across as hammy, and at times, mournfully moving.
This is a stunning album that navigates its way somewhere between “Pretty Hate Machine”-era Nine Inch Nails, Stabbing Westward and Killing Joke. I love it even more every time I play it.