Gary Numan: The Android and the Apocalypse
The rock and roll android who plugged himself in to human music in the 80’s has stuck around for the apocalypse.
A couple weeks ago, I saw Gary Numan perform at the Neptune here in Seattle. Sometimes when you see someone perform, your brain changes a little bit. As if by seeing their performance, your brain undergoes a software update, and you emerge slightly new and improved.
My brain changed after seeing Gary Numan’s performance. And now I need to talk about it. To my fellow Gary Numan fans: let’s geek out together here. To all of those who have yet to dive in to the brilliance of Gary Numan: I will make Numanoids out of all of you yet.
I wish my words could do justice to Gary Numan’s live sound. I wish the YouTube videos I’ve included here could capture the feeling of it. I’ll do my best to describe it… It’s all consuming. You don’t just hear a Gary Numan show. You feel it vibrate in every cell of your body, as if your blood type changes as a result of the frequencies. The bass fills you, the synths rearrange your brain circuitry, his voice cradles your soul. I know all of this sounds dramatic, but I’m afraid the reality is it’s not dramatic enough.
No words are capable of accurately and truly describing what it’s like to hear Gary Numan’s music in the flesh. And I mean in the flesh. Because you hear and feel it in your flesh and down to your bones.
Here’s another reason why my brain feels rewired after the experience: Gary Numan didn’t just play a concert, he transported the audience to a different place. A different world, a different time. No, it wasn’t just a concert. It was theatre.
Music as science fiction: Gary Numan has always had a sci-fi tale to tell, starting from the very beginning of his career.
Gary Numan started as an android.
At least, that was the character he portrayed when he got his start. Watching videos of his performances from the 80’s is like watching a robot who just developed sentience and was trying his best to be a normal, everyday rock star. The result was utterly weird and extremely cool. Where Black Sabbath left off with creating a musical version of the horror genre, Gary Numan created a musical take on sci-fi.
Gary Numan’s ability to inhabit a character and transport his audience to other worlds is not just the work of a musician alone, it’s the work of a skilled actor.
And in the performance I saw a couple weeks ago, it was evident that his bandmates were his fellow players! His lead guitarist and bassist had this otherworldly way about them… they had these little moments of strange movements and behaviors that made them seem like beings of a post-apocalyptic world who had lost touch with how to be fully human. It was like the whole stage was crawling with Calibans holding guitars.
And no one, not even Numan himself, said a word between songs. The fourth wall was not broken for a moment by this cast of characters.
Now the android, decades later, is a prophet of the apocalypse.
While Gary Numan’s aesthetic has changed and his music has evolved (I’d even say he’s a better artist today than he ever was), I’m personally convinced his character is the same android from the 80’s inhabiting the stage, a continuation of the same science fiction story Numan began telling decades ago. Now, instead of exploring the robotic oddities of the 80’s, the android explores our world in ruins.
Hundreds of software updates later, the android is stuck here after our apocalypse. Gary Numan’s music today, specifically his latest album Savage (Songs of a Broken World), takes us to a dystopian wasteland of a future. And what’s probably most profound about this visual is - now more than ever - it doesn’t feel too far off.
The android will outlive us all.
I highly recommend listening to Gary Numan’s latest two albums, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and Savage (Songs of a Broken World), which go hand in hand like volumes in the same book series. It’s as though Splinter introduces the broken mind of humankind, and Savage explores the destroyed world we leave behind, creating a full dystopian sci-fi story with room for another sequel.
I’ve had these albums on repeat for the last year or so, and I’m dead serious when I say this: they are masterpieces. Dark, metallic, industrial masterpieces.
Any fellow Gary Numan fans out there? Or is there a particular artist who you feel deserves to be talked about more? Tell me in the comments!
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Hey there! I’m Steffi, creator of Moda Misfit - a lifestyle blog that aims to inspire you to embrace who you are and express your creative self through decor, fashion, & music. We're all Moda Misfits here!