Gary Numan is arguably the single most important figure in the history of popular music, as far as innovation in electronic music is concerned. His brand of cold, distant electronic rock music is something that is unmistakable. What Numan gives us all a glimpse of is the robotic future. A fully modern future composed of artificial intelligence where the world is long past conventional human emotions. This 1979 classic, his debut as a solo artist, is a perfect example of his artistic vision fully realized.
Now, most everyone knows the radio hit from this record, “Cars”. A bonafide synth-pop masterpiece, much of the rest of this record flows in much the same fashion. This record has a smooth, flawless flow to it. It never sounds unnatural for a second. One of the highlights of the record is the song “Metal”, which is sung from the point of view of a robot who wishes to be human. This song paints a world in which artificial intelligence is a prevalent force, but is perhaps imperfect. Numan seems to perpetrate a very cynical worldview and the robots and other mechanical things that he sings of are meant to be symbolic of how he views that world he lives in. A world of cold, distant, ruthless individuals. A world where love, happiness, and other genuine human emotions have been replaced with all of the inconveniences of the modern world. Evoking similar images to those which would be found in Isaac Asimov’s ‘I Robot’ (Yes, I’m familiar with the Alan Parsons Project record).
One of the things about this record that might be a bit deceiving is, in fact, just how accessible of a record it actually is. Some listeners might think about the artificial intelligence, the coldness, the lack of human emotion, etc., and think that this record would be something that is just too far out there to be enjoyed. Rest assured, this is simply not the case. Although the synth-pop scene would later go on to become a caricature of its former self and become, at times, far too accessible for its own good, Numan keeps things very much in check. He doesn’t possess an outstanding voice, which may work to his favor, lending his voice to something genuinely robotic, and his sense of melody is not the greatest you’ll ever come across, but he is able to put in just enough to give this record all of the necessary particles of a near perfect record… And a near perfect record, is just what it turns out to be.