If things are indeed cyclical, then Gary Numan is due for a resurgence – another resurgence. It’s been 17 years since his last surge, with 1994’s Sacrifice and 1997’s Exile, and the two sterling tribute cds, 1998’s Random 1 and Random 2. And before then, it was the two that started it all: Pleasure Principle and Replicas (both 1979).
His latest, Dead Son Rising, is an admitted odds-and-sods release of remnants, demos discarded from previous albums, now reconstructed, polished, and packaged to resemble a completely different, non-demo animal.
The result is a still a hodgepodge, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t the pinnacle that will catapult Numan back to the electro big leagues. In a reverse Kung Fu maneuver, he becomes a Master Po figure, seen on tracks snatching at the pebbles that a phalanx of grasshoppers (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, et al) snatched from him.
The opening instrumental, “Resurrection,” creates a dystopic atmosphere, announcing the rise and revenge of the machines. It is effective and very easily could also be a portfolio piece for following in Oscar-winning disciple Trent Reznor’s footsteps into soundtrack work. Not a stretch, as after the UK riots, there were rumours about Numan heading to Tinsel Town, and much of Dead Son Rising showcases his ability to create aural landscapes and moods.
Throughout, the atmosphere and pace continually alters and adjusts, which can be seen as refreshing because some complaints about his recent output fixated on his unwavering beats per minute and overuse of the same drum beat.
Introducing something metal-hinged and gritty, “Big Noise Transmission” lives up to its name, and stands as the album’s strongest track. The title track vies for this honor; however, Numan’s inability to refrain from overusing the closing “And I’ve watched the dead son rising” refrain weakens the song by its tedious repetition. After its fifth utterance, I was regretting having to push the forward button.
Another noteworthy piece (and there are a few), “The Fall,” uses a glorious hooky guitar riff as its launching pad before the synths take over to create captivating industrial rock with a catchy chorus. Granted, a petty indulgence, but I would have loved for the re-emergence of that guitar riff weaved throughout the track to create some serious synth-rock interplay. Hopefully a remix is in the works.
Dead Son Rising may not be the album that wins (back?) fans, but it will solidify the ones still on-board, which gives Numan momentum and foundation from which to step away from polishing castoffs to concentrate on new(er) material. It has a distinct place in my rotation as I impatiently wait for the 2012 release of Splinter.
–Chris “Gutter” Rose