Sunday, May 1, 2011

Album Review: Gary Numan - "Tubeway Army" (1978)

Gary Numan
Tubeway Army

Gary's first LP... Damned good for a debut. Here we see Gazza and the Tube-Tones take a step from their more straightforward punk rock origins for a more melodic and synth-heavy sound. They still bring the heaviness though, and create an excellent cyberpunkish sound (inspired in part by Bowie+Eno and the Krautrock classics) with the electronics and jagged guitars. Basically, this is (logically, but very tangibly) a stepping stone between the sound on The Plan and what Gary would embrace on Replicas.

Lyrical content is... All over the place. There's a song about emotional loneliness, some usual Numan cyber-noir fodder, a song about the right to die, a song about a gigolo, a song about jerking off... Like I said, all over the place.

The sound is fairly diverse. There's some excellent pre-industrial-rock stuff in songs like "Steel & You" and "My Shadow in Vain", and there's plenty of good old post-punk weirdness all around. The boys create a good mood and it's a testament to their playing and production skills that they were able to make an album with three guys on it sound so rich and thick, like there should be a lot more bodies in the studio playing instruments or adding synth textures. Paul Gardiner's excellent bass skills are of course a highlight, and some of the electronic textures hit a more cinematic and creative high than in many of Numan's later albums (possibly just because they're being complimented and reinforced more than usual by the guitar as well).

While I can't think of too much outright bad to say about the album, some of the songs do kind of run together - and they're not even bad songs. It's just too much of a good thing. This album was immediately and mercilessly topped by the similar-in-style Replicas a year later, but it's not necessarily obsolete. While I don't think I would recommend this as a starting point for anything, if you're interested in new wave, post-punk, industrial, or anything related to those, then I recommend you check this out at least once, if only for historical context.

RATING: 3.5/5

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