Gary Numan: Machine Music 2xDVD UK 
DVD-1 The Promos
- We Are Glass
- I Die: You Die
- This Wreckage
- Sheʼs Got Claws
- Love Needs No Disguise [With Dramatis]
- Music For Chameleons
- We Take Mystery [To Bed]
- Your Fascination
- Call Out The Dogs
- Dominion Day
- Cars [With Fear Factory]
- Crazier [With Rico]
- In A Dark Place
- Healing [With Ade Fenton]
- The Fall
- My Machines [With Battles]
DVD-2 TV Live And Rarities
- Down In The Park [Micromusic]
- Are ʻFriendsʼ Electric [Top Of The Pops, 1979]
- Cars [Saturday Night Live, 1980]
- Praying To The Aliens [Saturday Night Live, 1980]
- Metal [TV, 1979]
- I Die: You Die [Kenny Everett, 1980]
- Remind Me To Smile [Live Teletour]
- We Take Mystery [To Bed] [Top Of The Pops Promo Film, 1982]
- White Boys And Heroes [Top Of The Pops Promo Film, 1982]
- Interview With Steve Malins
If it can be believed, I finally got around to watching my systems transfer that I made two months ago of the Gary Numan “Machine Music” 2xDVD set. I had seen some of these clips on the “New Man Numan” video compilation from 1982. I have a place in the Record Cell for his early material up to that point. I didn’t like his 1983 “Warriors” album, which was his swansong for Beggars Banquet, but in the mid-80s, when he helmed his own Numa Records label, I really warmed up to his second and third albums for that label. Not to put to fine a point on it, I consider “The Fury” and “Strange Charm” two of his best albums; easily on par with early classics like “Replicas,” “Telekon,” or “Dance.”
So I was looking forward to revisiting some of this material on DVD. The clip for the Dramatis single “Love Needs No Disguise” is the full length clip that had only been presented in highly truncated form on the “New Man Numan” viddy decades earlier, so seeing the full length clip is a real treat. The song is an obscure classic for Numan during his “jazz-funk” phase. Another treat were the tracks from his 1st and 2nd Numa albums, “Berserker,” and “The Fury,” which I’d never seen anything from. Admittedly, there is a huge gaping hole where anything he did from 1986-1992 was dumped down the memory hole. In all honesty, this period has some real highs [“Strange Charm” as well as terminal lows [“Outland”]. Apparently, since none of it sold diddley and it coincided with a real low period for Numan, he’s written it all off.
I kept up with his singles and albums and in 1992, he released some singles that were a big step in the right direction, resulting in the 1994 album “Sacrifice.” That’s a record that I would put with the other five at the end of paragraph one as being his high water marks. That album was done on a budget that utterly precluded videos, so there is nothing from it here. When watching the DVD, a jarring temporal jump cut occurs when moving from the last Numa era clip, the great song “Call Out The Dogs” to the only video from his 1997 album “Exile.”
The ’97 clip has Numan cavorting with models with pierced tongues while the song “Dominion Day” is a duller retread of the sound of the preceding “Sacrifice” album. Worse, “Exile” was something of a bitter atheist rant on how there is no god, only an alien who we shot down… oops. Yaaaaaawn! I’m an atheist too, but there is such a thing as protesting too much! That misses the whole point for me and the end result is no different from being straitjacketed into dogma once again.
It seems like the respect that Trent Reznor paid to Numan while he was a top selling act in the mid-90s resulted in Numan deciding that copying Ultravox, Bowie or Japan wouldn’t do his bottom line any help by then. So he apparently set his sights on NIN as a target and started cranking up the aggro. As for NIN, the scant discs that I owned had been purged from the Record Cell by 1996 during the eradication of industrial/EBM also rans – see FLA, NIN, KMFDM, etc., but not F242, Nitzer Ebb who were still A-list for me. I saw Numan play a small club in 1997 and his set list was good; lots of “Replicas” and some of the new album, “Exile” and no questionable material. As it turns out, I just finally caught Numan at the last time I would probably want to have seen him.
Judging from the last third of videos on this DVD, there’s nothing Numan is selling that I’d want to ever buy again. I remember that when his “Pure” album cam out in 1999, it was the follow-up to “Exile” in more ways than one. It was another anti-religious screed set to even noisier industrial metal, judging by the sample I heard on his old website at the time. It seemed as though he was narrowing his focus and plowing the same, tired soil that was now moving in a headbanging direction. Little did I know, but videos like “Rip” were now regularly topping the playback charts on Kerrang® TV. I didn’t even know there was such a thing!
All of the tripe that makes up the final third of DVD 1 was material I quickly shuffled through; it all looked like videos that were taken from the hateful movie “Se7en” [my least favorite movie of all time!] and over half of these clips were collaborations with other musicians. I actually developed a headache watching this garbage! Only two Numan solo albums have been released following “Exile” in 1997 until now. Judging from these awful songs, I’d say it’s because he’s completely out of ideas. Even ideas to steal, which had never been problem for him before.
As disc one ended on a bitter note, I was soothed somewhat by the contents of disc two. It features TV appearances and live clips like the legendary Saturday Night Live guest shot in 1979 and one of his career making appearances on Top Of The Pops performing the classic “Are Friends Electric.” The latter is lip-sync but as he points out in the interview footage, the TOTP crew pulled out all of the stops to make it look great for TV and far from the usual TOTP footage. A real gem on disc two is the quirky clip made for the non-single track “Metal” from “The Pleasure Principle” for Tyne Tees-TV and lost to the mists of time until now. The footage was shot at a power station and quite frankly, it’s cooler than any of Numan’s actual promo clips! It features lots of massive electrical arcs zapping from four story capacitors! That it’s a good song from that tepid album is even better.
Another treasure is the alternate footage of “I Die: You Die” shot for a Kenny Everett Christmas Special in 1980 but not shown due to guest David Bowie pulling rank to get Numan bumped from the show! I guess The Duke drew the line at Numan swiping his patented “Bowie leg dance moves!*” Never mind his look and sound. What’s worse was that Numan had cut a new live version of the song to accompany the video [which sort of presages the Psychedelic Furs’ clip for “Love My Way” two years later]. The resulting clip still has Kenny Everett’s voice over across the intro, but it’s a great looking and fascinating sounding take on the song.
Less successful are two TOTP films that they made of Numan in The States. The alternate “We Take Mystery To Bed” has Numan and band cruising through NYC in the back of a classic convertible before decamping to mime the track in a studio. Non-essential but it’s Orson Welles compared to what they shot for “White Boys + Heroes!” A still-blonde Numan in a jumpsuit in the Hollywood Hills, brandishing machine guns and pushing Bridgette Nielson look-alikes into the pool while exposing the pasty Numan to what should be fatal sunlight. So wrong!!
The interview with Numan’s manager, Steve Malins, is a lengthy affair that touches on all of the videos as well as tantalizing glimpses of clips that Numan is definitely not interested in viewing ever again! Numan comes off as honest and very self-deprecating. He is enormously chastened by a good ten years of his career. Too bad for him, he’s chosen the wrong period of his career to jettison! As poor as albums like “Outland” or “Machine + Soul” were, at least I could stand to listen to them. The same can’t be said for anything he’s done after 1997’s “Exile!” It used to be that when Ultravox [and by extension, Midge Ure] were letting me down, I gravitated back to Numan, but both acts are scraping the dregs these days! Good thing that John Foxx is smoking them all for breakfast with the best work of his career right now! The Numan is Dead. Long Live The Foxx!
– 30 –
* In all honesty, Midge Ure is also massively guilty of this crime.