Gary Numan is one of pop’s die-hard doomsday preppers. His albums long imagine robot-controlled dystopias or the end of days. And he’s learned a thing or two about survival after 45 years in the game. He was the suburb android that topped the charts David Bowie Jealousy, which successfully advanced beyond the wilderness years of the 90s to achieve its greatest commercial hit since the 80s (his 2017 “Savage: Songs From a Broken World” hit number two on the charts) and is cited as an influencing factor by everyone Tyler, the creator to Nine inch nails.
Numan’s late career glow progresses briskly with ‘Intruder’. It sounds like Greta Thunberg in the local Gothic disco and promotes his fascination for ecological collapse and heavy industrial electronics. Inspired by a poem by his 11-year-old daughter, his concept accelerates the bombing and explores global warming from the perspective of the earth, where the planet is angry, disappointed and ready to fight back. The track titles “Betrayal”, “I Am Screaming”, “And It Breaks Me Again” – they say it all.
On paper it might sound like it has the potential to be hugely naff, but “Intruder” unfolds as a cinematic experience that is threatened. It triggers the skilled artist tightrope act to sound fresh and ambitious while maintaining its core DNA. There are consistently large choruses (especially on Barnstorming’s single ‘Saints and Liars’), sloppy hymns, heavily analog synthesizers and countless references to his classic sounds.
Partly written and recorded during the lockdown, ‘The Gift’ is the rarity of a pandemic-influenced song that doesn’t tip its aluminum foil hat on conspiracy theories (a la) Van Morrison and Ian Brown), while its unsettling electronics make it seem like Trent Reznor is stepping into Eurovision. ‘Black Sun’ appears as a plaintive piano lawsuit before turning into a Depeche Mode-shaped howl of fateful despair. Numan is supported by his longtime producer Ade Fenton and conjures up a storm of noise and creepy dark soundscapes, be it the blast furnace percussion of the title track or the windswept love in the darkness of ‘Now And Forever’.
The author of this record always sounded a bit late – he was utterly futuristic in 1979 and then, in the midst of the electric boom of the early 2000s – inclusive Sugababes Reaching Number One by Selecting ‘Are’ Friends ‘Electric?’ – was one of the few acts that perversely didn’t try to sound like Gary Numan. But in the year 2021 and with ‘Intruder’ it coincides with the times – and sounds excitingly relevant.
Release date: May 21
Record label: Numan music