Veteran musician Gary Numan has shaken up this critic’s list of the year’s best rock and hard rock albums with the release of his latest album, Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind). Numan’s new record, his twentieth full length studio release, takes listeners once again into the ever darkening world that he has crafted throughout his more recent releases. Numan grabs audiences right from the album’s emotionally desolate opener ‘I Am Dust’ straight through to ‘My Last Day’, which closes out the album’s dozen tracks and never lets go. It may not be the most uplifting album out there. But the sonic landscapes crafted throughout this near hour-long record make it worth more than just a couple listens. As a matter of fact, that landscape makes this album a darkhorse candidate to be one of the year’s best new rock or even hard rock albums.
Numan made the completely right choice opening his new album with ‘I Am Dust.’ There is so much that can be said of this song. The first thing that listeners will take away from this song is the different musical and vocal influences obvious throughout the song. Numan’s own vocal style in the verses conjures thoughts of Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer front man Maynard James Keenan. However, when he reaches the choruses, there is almost a mix of Peter Steele (Type O Negative) and Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) in his voice as he sings, “We are yours/We’re waiting for you/We are yours/We’re waiting for you.” The Fear Factory and Type O Negative influences can also be heard in the choruses in the song’s musical side. Numan’s nihilistic lyrics in this song echo that of Trent Reznor circa The Downward Spiral. He sings, “We all pray for the end/For the God to take us/We were falling down/One by one/We were weak/And the fear/Was all around us/The machines screamed from moon to sun.” The musical and lyrical combination along with the obvious influences from across the rock world collectively make this song the perfect introduction to Numan for those that might be new to his music and an equally impressive re-introduction for those that are more familiar with his music.
For all of the dark, brooding songs that Gary Numan includes in his new album, he also tackles relationship issues in his own way. He tackles the subject in the very Nine Inch Nails-esque ‘The Calling.’ Were a person to hear this song on the radio without knowing it was Gary Numan, one might actually think it was Nine Inch Nails because of how close it sounds to Trent Reznor’s work circa The Fragile. The string arrangements and electronics set against Numan’s brooding lyrics make this song one of this album’s key moments. Lyrically, there is little to this song. But even in its few lyrics, Numan captures the emotion of someone that realizes that he or she has been nothing but a pawn in someone else’s game. He writes in the song’s final verse, “You don’t love me/You don’t know me/Is this some kind of game for you/Is that why you’ve called me?” This is a situation to which plenty of audiences can relate. Not everyone has gone through the situation presented in this song.
Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) is front loaded with more than its share of impressive new material from Gary Numan. There is not one bad moment throughout the record’s near hour-long run time. One of the highest of the records high points has already been noted here. It isn’t the only of the album’s high points, either. ‘We’re The Unforgiven’ is another of this album’s highest of points. This song has a very obvious Nine Inch Nails influence both musically speaking and lyrically. What’s so interesting about that is the contrast of the song’s musical and lyrical sides. The song’s musical side is powerful to say the least. That is thanks in large part to the manner in which each verse crescendos before dropping back. That dynamic contrast alone would make this song work even without lyrics. But set next to the song’s lyrical side, both the music and lyrics come together to make the song this album’s best song. He writes about figures that were once great but are now pale shades of themselves. He writes, “Once there was life/And we were strong/Full of pride/Once we bread fear/And we would take the flesh denied/Once we were gods/And all things knelt before our word/or died.” Obviously, he is writing metaphorically here. But the message is still the same. He goes on, writing in the song’s chorus, “Now we’re just a ruin/We were our undoing/We’re the unforgiven.” This is a powerful statement. And again, set alongside the song’s musical side, it becomes even more powerful. Together, they make this song just one more of so many standout moments shared by Gary Numan throughout his new record. Fans overseas in the Middle East and Europe will get to experience these songs and many more live beginning February 10th in Tel Aviv, Israel. From there, Numan will make his way into Belgium and across Europe for the next leg of his tour in support of his new album. Fans can get Gary Numan’s latest tour dates, news, and more online at http://www.facebook.com/GaryNumanOfficial and http://www.garynuman.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.