Review: Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)
Published on October 7th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Gary Numan went through a fair bit with his twentieth album Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind): his own depression, his wife’s postnatal depression, a near marital split and subsequent reconciliation.
That he’s emerged the other side of it all in sparkling musical form is not only heartwarming but entirely unsurprising. After all, Numan tends to glow in the dark.
Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) continues more or less in the vein of its immediate predecessors, 2006’s Jagged and 2011’s Dead Son Rising. For the most part, it’s even the most forebodingly cinematic of the three.
It’s one part monster movie, one part Gothic fantasy, all strung together by an emotional vulnerability that often veers into hopelessness.
Numan remains in touch with everything that ever made him great: dark, raging blasts of synth, mean fuzz bass and architecturally piled-up elements, all expertly deployed within a quiet/loud dynamic that drives creeping wilderness into explosions of electronic drama.
Many an imitator has laid the special FX on thick, but Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) is enriched by the humanity they so often neglect. Rich swathes of substance course through its electrified veins, but then t’was ever thus on planet Numan.
Opener “I Am Dust” is a whirring, screeching behemoth of electropop that burrows deep into your every sensory receptor, the antidote to the reams of flimsy catwalk electropop that remains so infuriatingly ubiquitous.
“Here in the Black” stomps with sheer malevolence in a manner not unlike Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. Numan’s seething whispered speak-singing in its verse paves the way magnificently for the eruption of a chorus, and oddly enough Rocksucker could imagine it being a hit.
Well, it’s got the hooks for it, but such eminence is probably no longer possible unless it soundtracks a blockbuster, which it easily could.
Losing itself in a wilderness of its own creation then beasting its way back out again on head-bopping drum machine, “The Calling” conjures quite the tension by underpinning its dramatic string arrangements with the distant grumble of bass, not to mention Numan’s forlorn repetition of “You don’t love me”.
The lyrics are similarly laid-bare and earnest throughout; “I don’t believe in the goodness of people like me” Numan declares on “Splinter”, while the arrestingly sparse “Lost” brings its formative woes to the fore with “When you think back to when we first met, are you sad? / And when you think back to all we’ve been through, does it make you cry? / And when you think back to all the love shared, d’you feel anything?”.
Elsewhere, “Love Hurt Bleed” could have stepped straight off the new NIN album, “A Shadow Falls on Me” tempers its relative lightness of touch with the quirkiest rhythm of the set, and “Who Are You” brings the sinister whisper-speak back out as one might the fine china.
Fittingly, closing track “My Last Day” is the most spectacular of the bunch, swelling epically and depositing us back out the other side strangely enraptured.
Few things this year will sound as downright otherworldly yet reassuringly human – and, come to think of it, reassuringly Numan – as Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind). To be on such form twenty albums into a career is beyond commendable.
Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) will be released on October 14th through Cooking Vinyl.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!