Gary Numan's latest venture 'Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)' was certainly an exciting prospect as he returned with producer Ade Fenton for a third time with a record that he described as both heavy and dark - well, he's certainly achieved that. He seems to have abandoned those days of being a 70s/80s chart sensation long ago and now just presses on with the kind of music he really wants to make.
'Splinter' became Numan's most successful album in 30 years with a spot at number 20 in the UK Album Chart and even managed to garner attention overseas with a chart spot in the US for the first time since his 1981 album 'Dance'. I have to say, it's really no surprise.
The album kicks off with 'I Am Dust'; a good choice as it encompasses all aspects of the record. It is one of the particularly heavy, industrial tracks on there - so much so, in fact, that it's almost mechanical - with a menacing feeling about it that is very apparent on every single track. Track two, 'Here In The Black', happens to be a favourite and is where producer Ade shines most; his TV and film score background is so clearly evident on the powerful, cinematic soundscape. Numan's whispered vocals are chilling and tormenting - the classic Numan dance beat introduced later gives major relief for the trembling listener.
The other three highlights couldn't be more different from each other which is what makes them stand out from the rest. The distorted bassline of 'Everything Comes Down To This' forces you to turn the volume up a little (these kind of songs can't be played quietly!), while the last two songs 'Who Are You' and 'My Last Day' eases you out of this album gently as the former is much more upbeat and the latter provides a comforting but mournful piano tune that is pretty steady-paced compared with the rest of the record.
Probably the most spooky track on the album (aside from 'Here In The Black') is 'The Calling'; one can't help but be reminded a little of Charles Bernstein's theme tune for 'Nightmare on Elm Street' for the first part - enough to keep anyone awake at night. However, by the time you get to the title track (not even halfway through!) the eeriness gets a bit boring and predictable - you even get some rather cheesy ghostly 'Woooooooo!'s on this track! You don't scare me, Mr. Numan!
For an album so strongly rooted as an industrial/dark wave masterpiece, it's amusing to hear flashes of other genres in there. 'Love Hurt Bleed' is about as close to metal as it gets on 'Splinter' and 'Lost' sort of sounds like it's going into indie territory; I'm not kidding, it's the soft vocals and soppy lyrics that do it. If anything, that sudden change is as creepy as it gets.
One thing that is consistent throughout, however, is that each song is extremely well-crafted. If you didn't know who the artist was, you could easily assume they'd been doing music for a long time as each song knows exactly where it's going. It is all a bit too spooky, however, and verges too often into corny Halloween music territory. Nonetheless, you'd be hard-pushed to find another album this year that could chill you to the bone and yet still be enchanting and beautiful.
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