Thursday, 14 May 2009

Are Friends Electric Gary Numan Pre 'retirement' - Gary Numan in General

Advantages: Gary Numan's Pre retirement synth sound is enjoyably distinctive

Disadvantages: It you are looking for a party don't listen to this

We were all happy in the 1970s then within the space of one, maybe two months in 1979, maybe that changed. At about the time Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister in the UK, Gary Numan, then in the band Tubeway Army, stepped up to prominence in British Music with a number one hit single Are Friends Electric. The song is steeped in notions of paranoia, loneliness and isolation. Anyone who has read any Numan's biographies will see parallels with his teen years, and the lyrics will seem 'clever' in that he has pasted his own life over the writings of Philip K Dick, whose themes Gary use throughout the period before he 'retired'. 
It is Gary Numan's pre-'retirement' period that I enjoyed best. I can very easily switch off to the lyrics of a song and just concentrate on soaking up the textures created by the music. I am not so keen on the eponymous 'Tubeway Army', but Replicas, Pleasure Principle and Telekon were in my mind great musical landspaces, rather than landscapes. Gary Numan was by no means a musician and I feel that his almost accidental introduction to the synthsiser created the perfect partnership between man and machine. Gary Numan is no artist, but definitely a technical creator, and this is where the marriage between him and this machine works! It would be fair to say that the synthesizer lends itself to anyone with just a little bit of knowledge to make good music, and the Human League are a great example of this, but hey, they make pop music, and very well too. 
Where the Human League continued the pop of the 1970s and too it into the 80s, Numan created something new (at least in the charts - John Foxx and Ultravox - pre Midge Ure - had been doing this beforehand). Numan's sound is distinctive, almost unique and anything pre-1981 is worth a listen. You might enjoy the stuff after that, but the sudden leap from doom laden synthesizer to fretless bass and saxophone was just a little too 'sophisticated for my ears.

Summary: Brilliant teen angst music

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