Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Apocalyptic Premonitions of Gary Numan

Spoiler Alert – The Humans are the ‘Intruder’

Gary Numan is a household name; his career spans over 40 years and counting. Most known for his chart-topping song ‘Cars’; he has come far from the analogue synthesizers of the late seventies and eighties, embracing a more gothic, electronic sound similar to that of Nine-Inch-Nails.

The passage of time can be a battle for some; for Numan, it’s an opportunity to explore the depths of his creativity. He not only adapts, but willfully moves on from past projects, with an avid disdain for nostalgia. This genuine appreciation for advancement, evolution and technology, is key to what has made him one of the musical giants of our time.


Intruder’ is an austere album, a grim embodiment of the earth’s struggle with humankind and the threat we pose. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post Numan stated that “because the pandemic came along it did reinforce this idea that if the Earth was to fight back a virus is probably the way it would do it. As an idea it was weirdly timed.”

This album is dark, and not a far cry from the previous album 'Savage'; it’s similar in its discourse but the ideas have been streamlined: they are stripped back and subtler than before. Numan truly continues to grow every release, and yet he maintains a consistency of mood and tone. 'Intruder’ brings up a bleak view of the political and ecological states of the world, and the name suggests a familiarity with the concept of feeling encroached upon in your own space. This social dilemma is one that Numan is no stranger to. He often openly talks of his Asperger’s being a hurdle, one that made being in the limelight tough. Asperger’s is a form of autism that notoriously can impact one's ability to interpret and respond to social cues and standards.

However Numan has also spoken of his autism in a very positive light; in an interview with The Irish News he said “I think having Asperger's has been a good thing. It's given me a slightly different view of the world and I truly believe it helped get me through some hard times. I'd never wish it away”.  This has allowed him to disassociate from potentially harmful criticisms, and approach his own work with an objective flow. It also seems to give his music an atypical angle, with distinct meaning and original sound.


‘Betrayal’ begins the album with an ominous, wavering cry, not unlike the ‘Adhan’ or call to prayer heard at specific times of the day in Islamic countries. This worldly touch is artfully continued throughout the album. It is not new territory for Numan, and a testament to the Arab and Eastern influences included in the prior album ‘Savage’.

The use of these musical styles comes from the concept behind the albums ‘Savage’ as well as ‘Intruder’; the concept that the eastern and western cultures become one in the effort of survival following a climate apocalypse. These heavy topics are complemented by the dark, laden beats, almost trip-hop-like and entrancing. After which you have ‘The Gift’ a creepy, uneasy track, written in the time of the chaos brought on by the global pandemic, a poignant repeated phrase “take your breath away” is heard throughout.


‘I am Screaming’ and title-track ‘Intruder’ are currently the most listened to on Spotify from the album, the former a discordant lullaby, the latter an angrier fast-paced track. ‘Intruder’ encompasses what the album is all about, essentially a monologue from a personified earth. This is where Numan’s unique vocals really stand out, a controlled almost breaking effect, at 63 years old the timbre of his voice has changed but has matured in-depth; suiting the dark environment of his latest works. It’s almost a spiritual album, although Numan is a self-proclaimed Atheist, he certainly shows his love for fantasy and sci-fi, and the parallels with the state of the world as he perceives it.


Now and Forever’ is a punchy track, a solid reminder that Numan’s use of repetition is not out of laziness but a statement, one that becomes almost a mantra to the listener. This technique is a staple of Numan’s stylistic approach, the entire album weaves together almost alien, cold, industrial sound effects, with eerie, melancholic vocals, ranging from fast-paced and angry, to slower and more ruminative. The album contains two versions of the track ‘The End of Dragons’ showing the two sides of this coin, it’s inspired by myths and legends, suggesting that dragons once existed and were made extinct. This is yet another parallel Numan draws to the fragility of human existence, and not as I had initially thought a reference to the popular series ‘Game of Thrones’ although there could be some influence.


This album is a sonic landscape of how, if we as a race continue to live as we do, will face the consequences, although perhaps not in as stylish or catchy a-way as captured here by Gary Numan. Fans old and new will have something to enjoy here, he is truly an artist that transgresses generations, a timeless classic.


Helena Pliotis


Image: Intruder Official Album Artwork

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