For some reason I skipped over the debut record, even though its anniversary was last year and it was on my “to listen” list. I don’t really know what happened there but here we are, listening to the second record first once again.
Tubeway Army find an interesting middle ground between new wave and the soon-to-emerge genre of synthpop. (To the best of my knowledge, most synthpop bands either didn’t exist in 1979 or had yet to become synthpop bands – i.e. they were still using guitars. Most music made primarily with synthesizers was still being made by Germans, I think.)
I have heard Numan’s solo work before this band (but of course) and I must say that I think Numan improved as a songwriter later (as most songwriters do) and I’m not sure there are too many songs that really stand out to me in terms of their immediacy. But the lyrics are vert much of a theme – this might be a concept album and I just didn’t look that up – and feel very appropriate to the music, much of which must have sounded very futuristic or alien to most music listeners in 1979.
For me the real strength of the record is the weird niche it finds. Tubeway Army rely on synthesizers more than most new wave bands of their era and mix them far more forward than many of the other bands who were starting to use them. (Also, Numan uses guitar effects that make his guitar sound like a synth sometimes.) But this music is way too weird for what synthpop would soon become, full of new wave quirk, not just lyrically but with Numan’s very new wave delivery. I honestly don’t know of another band that sounded exactly like this in 1979, though there are obviously plenty of bands that would sound vaguely like this in the early ’80s.