Depending on who's listening, Gary Numan is either an electronic pioneer-cum-pop genius or that bloke who made 'Cars'. With this lovingly restored re-issue, it's clear that the former is true. Originally released in 1996, 'Premiere Hits' covers Numan's early and (sorry Gary) most innovative period as a member of Tubeway Army and under his own name.
Firstly let's not waste too much space by declaring that 'Are "Friends" Electric?' and the aforementioned 'Cars' are indisputable classics, responsible for shaping the future of popular music and production. These are facts, and in being so future producers should bow to the still sprightly synth goth-god. With that out the way, let's look at the other gems released in his first four years.
'I Die: You Die' is all distorted flange guitar and fantastic groove with some nice key flourishes, proving a clear influence on Trent Reznor's 'Pretty Hate Machine' released less than a decade later. 'Down In The Park' hasn't aged as well, reeking perhaps too much of sci-fi wackiness, but nonetheless it's construction and sonic exploration is first rate. 'Bombers' is a punk guitar led number that shows that despite his mastery of the studio Numan can write a basic rock number as good as anyone else.
'We Take Mystery' owns some seriously dated, but incredibly funky, bass work. We'd implore any reader with only a beginner's knowledge of the Numan to check this track out and be pleasantly surprised. 'Complex' is a mature accomplishment reminiscent of Bowie's 'Low' period boasting some lovely strings and mellow melodies – first rate ambience. 'That's Too Bad' is Gary doing Sex Pistols. Large overdriven axe-work, rock 'n' roll bass lick and sneering vocals left and right.
The punchy percussion on 'Warriors' still impresses, while 'Love Needs No Disguises' somehow manages to make lovelorn depression danceable. 'Stormtrooper In Drag' after over 30 years still drips with sass and has some of Gary's best vocals ever caught on tape. Just don't try and sing along… you can't sound like Gary – no-one can – and this is why 'Premier Hits' welcome re-release proves a clear reminder on a legacy to often overshadowed by the people it influenced.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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