Gary Numan’s debut album continues where Tubeway Army’s final album left off; basically it feels like it’s nearly the logical conclusion of what their second album suggested: a fusion of Synthpop and New Wave that sounds far more like New Wave than virtually all other Synthpop music of the time.
Think of this a little bit like Numan’s own “Berlin Trilogy” (which is a huge influence on this record), as Numan departs from more traditional songwriting on a bunch of these tracks, relying on impressionistic instrumentals some of the time, very much in line with what Bowie was doing a bit earlier than this. But, at the same time, Numan has managed to write some very catchy songs (and parts of songs), such as “Cars”, and the beginning of “M.E.” (which I swear has been sampled by somebody).
Though drums and bass as still very much here (though not on all tracks), this record feels closer to early synthpop than Tubeway Army. And it’s not just from the keyboards and electronic percussion, it’s also the use of those string instruments (presumably altered at least a little bit), which is an unconventional touch. There are still signs of rock music here, but they are very muted and feel at the service of the synthesizers.
But Numan still wears his influences on his sleave. So it’s hard to shake the feeling of deja vu, whether it’s for Krautrock, or Bowie or Eno or whomever. Fortunately Numan’s voice is distinct enough to often dispel that feeling, and his sound is in the middle of those things enough that it does still sound more like the ’80s than the ’70s. But I can’t quite bring myself to get as excited about this as I got about Tubeway Army, or as other people have gotten about this album.