May, 1979. It’s an ordinary Thursday evening, which means it’s time for Top of the Pops. Amidst a zeitgeist of punk and disco, the show suddenly appears to be interrupted by a transmission from the future. A luminous synth riff echoes out, a beat drives on and up steps an otherworldly figure – part robot, part alien – to deliver an enigmatic lyric depicting some kind of android existence in a dystopian future. It’s Gary Numan fronting Tubeway Army for their breakthrough hit Are ‘Friends’ Electric?.
Fast-forward to January, 2021. Numan’s first single Intruder (from the Intruder album) pulsates ominously as if it’s soundtracking an imminent threat. It’s visionary and venomous, with a narrative that imagines the Earth growing angry at mankind’s actions, and more than willing to fight back.
Those two songs show how Numan has consistently fought against the grain to stick resolutely to his creative vision. In a career that spans over forty years, the music evolves and the themes change. Having touched some momentous highs (as well as a few lows), Numan’s achievements have been remarkable for someone who never made any concessions to mainstream success – seven Top 10 singles, including Are ‘Friends’ Electric? and the debut solo hit Cars; eight Top 10 albums, three of which topped the charts; and huge critical acclaim, most notably with the Inspiration Award at the prestigious Ivor Novellos.
Numan toured the Intruder album at over 80 shows around the world in 2022 and there are still more shows to come in 2023. Before that gets underway, though, he’s already back in the studio writing and recording his next (and 23rd) album.
Is This World Not Enough
Song by Gary Numan
Is this world not enough?
Tell me, will you stop
When everything lies broken in the dust?
My tears are the rain
The whispers of the sane
Your way to God is pain, but this you know
But this you know
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