It’s a long time since Gary Webb dyed his hair, bought an Ultravox! album and made synth-pop the central plank of 1980s music. Since then he’s gone from being pop’s reviled Tory boy to a respected pioneer of industrial rock and an influence on, apparently, everyone.
And with hindsight it’s not difficult to see. What at the time looked like flaws – Numan’s melodic skills, devotion to sound and his lack of irony (it wasn’t cool to write those lyrics and be that man) were exactly what enabled him to keep going after the Radio 1 bans and the crappy parodies. Even at his most comic (the Japan-obsession, the trilbies), he wrote great songs that sounded amazing.
Now, on his 20th album, Numan has the sound down to a T – slabs of guitar and synth like shattered cliffs, hysterical peaks of noise, relentless melodies, bleakly romantic lyrics – but allied to a voice that maturity has given an edge. Songs like the (almost) title track Dead Sun Rising and the almost melancholic Not The Love We Dreamt Of are as good as anything he’s ever done.
There may be better Gary Numan albums, and there are a few similar ones, but Dead Son Rising is now and it’s excellent.