"IT'S NEW TO ME" WEEK (OCTOBER 20-26, 2013)
Note: the CD I listened to was the 1998 reissue.
Considering my musical tastes as a teenager, I'm surprised this album hasn't been in my collection since the early '80s. Like many albums featured this week, this one sat on my wishlist for a while before I finally purchased it. I was aware of Numan's reputation as an electronic music pioneer, but didn't buy this CD until late last year. Serendipitously, not long after I began listening to this album, I read a great breakdown of the album in Theodore Cateforis' 2011 book, Are We Not New Wave? Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. The book is very academic (I'm guessing it was a thesis or dissertation), so I can't recommend it to the casual reader, but for me it was the right book at the right time.
Like much of the emerging electronic genre, this music is all very simple and repetitive, but that doesn't mean it's not catchy. Many electronic musicians at this time were more concerned with synthesizer construction and sound reproduction than with melody and harmony, but Numan seems to have found a pleasant balance between the two. Even though this was Numan's third album, this was the first one where he didn't play guitar. His voice isn't that great, but it matches the music perfectly. Curiously, Numan went with a live drummer for many of the tracks, but it pays off because Cedric Sharpley's rock drumming adds to the overall sound of the work. And I just can't resist the early analog Moog synth sounds. Does it sound dated? Absolutely. Does it matter? Not in the least.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #16
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #33
Tracks: I like all the original 10 tracks, particularly Airlane, Films, Observer, and Cars. I've heard Cars many times during the past 34 years, but hearing it in the context of this album is a completely different listening experience to me. The 7 bonus tracks (b-sides, demos, and live cuts) are okay, but I prefer to just stop the CD after 10 tracks because I think the album is complete as it was originally attended. To complete that experience, I guess I should find a vinyl copy of the LP.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Not so much this CD, but how could the single Cars not have an impact on my future listening? For some reason, that single reminds me of a church youth group trip to Houston's Astroworld in 1980. That song must have been playing on the van radio. Cars has been heard so many times over the years it seems almost innocuous now, but back then it was like nothing we'd ever heard before.