ARTIST: Gary Numan
YEAR RELEASED: 1979
CHART ACTION: #124 US, #1 UK
SINGLES: Are ‘Friends’ Electric? (#1 UK), Down in the Park
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Me! I Disconnect from You, Praying to the Aliens
LINEUP: Gary Numan, Paul Gardiner, Jess Lidyard
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It’s a Tubeway Army album, or a Gary Numan album. Either way, it’s the beginning of Numan’s career as an otherworldly observer using electronics to convey his message.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For this second album (first to be credited to Numan by himself, though that would be on a later issue – it’s all kind of confusing, really), Numan and his band crafted a very bleak, cold, icy sonic landscape that Numan put hooky synthesizers and melodies over. For the most part, it was a chilly masterpiece.
The first half to two-thirds of the album is quite strong, Numan uses acoustic drums, electric bass and electric guitar to bridge the gap to his electronics. Tracks like “Down in the Park” and “Praying to the Aliens” are spookily cold, while “The Machtman” is a bit warmed due to the use of guitar. The album slows down at the end; the instrumentals sound like building blocks for other songs, but need Numan’s vocals to become interesting.
This album shows Numan’s vision and versatility and his ability to conceptualize his ideas into something that coheres over an album. It’s well worth checking out even if you only know his big US hit.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bands as diverse as Marilyn Manson and the Foo Fighters have recorded “Down in the Park”, and “Freak Like Me” by the Sugarbabes used “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” as its base.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with B-sides and outtakes, and another with early versions and remixes.
GRADE: A-: Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re into electronics and wonder where some of the origins are.