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Album Review: Savage (Songs from a Broken World) by Gary Numan
Very Good, Based on 5 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Music can be a potent escape from the pressures and anxiety associated with the real world. But it can also be the exact opposite, acting as a mirror of society, reflecting its flaws. Gary Numan is doing the latter, confronting the dangerous, divisive times we live in and the long-term effects they might create. On his 21st studio album, Savage (Songs From a Broken World), the 59-year-old synth legend has created a post-apocalyptic world that has become barren as a result of global warming.
Yet Numan makes it feel naturally easy. With Savage (Songs from a Broken World), his twenty-second album no less, he’s created a literal soundtrack for dystopian times, as his resurgence continues with even more pulsating electro beats and behemoth sounding melodies.
The industrial sound that’s worn throughout perfectly encapsulates the barren landscape Numan envisions for our future. In fact, spurred on by the election of Donald Trump, the dystopian "broken world" he describes doesn’t feel too far away in reality, and with such a widened mind pulling out frankly rather realistic scenarios of separation and life it’s hard to not get completely encapsulated by the album..
It’s fair to say that, having clocked up over four decades in the music industry, been recognised as a pioneer in the field of electronic music, named as a major influence on the likes of Nine Inch Nails‘ Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson and even introduced a brand new generation to the magic of Are Friends Electric? via a sample on a Sugababes song, Gary Numan has earned the right to do whatever he wants to do. And what Numan wants to do is release a concept album set in a dystopian, post-Apocalyptic version of the Middle East that’s been destroyed by environmental neglect, melding a lot of Arabic music influences into his traditional futuristic synth-pop as he does so. In many ways, it feels like a record out of its time, one that won’t sit easily as individual tracks on a Spotify playlist, but you get the feeling that Numan is more than comfortable with this.
Once a fading 1970s synthpop star, Gary Numan’s career has been gradually revitalised since Sugababes’ 2002 smash Freak Like Me mashed up his Are “Friends” Electric? and Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson hailed him as a pioneer of electronic industrial gloom. There’s plenty of the latter on his 21st studio album. Guitars and keyboards crash like falling slabs of granite, percussion pulses throb and synths purr ominously.
Before we address the content of Gary Numan’s new record, we need to deal with that cover art. I understand that this is a concept album set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic version of the Middle-East, where eastern and western cultures have mixed and Numan himself is some sort of strange hybrid between Mad Max and John The Baptist. But, at the end of the day, it’s him dressed up in what looks suspiciously like a traditional Bedouin garb next to the word ‘Savage’ spelled out in faux-Arabic letters.