Sunday, 28 February 2010

Gary Numan Berserker

Artist: Gary Numan.

Album: Berserker.

Released: 1984.

Label: Numa Records (Numan's own Label)

Produced: Gary Numan, Programming by The Wave Team.

Genre: Syntpop, New Wave, Synth-Funk, 80's Stadium Rock.


1. Berserker.

2. The is New Love.

3. The Secret.

4. My Dying Machine.

5. Cold Warning.

6. Pump It Up.

7. The God Film.

8. A Child With The Ghost.

9. The Hunter.

Bonus Tracks (1999 Reissue):

10. Empty Bed, Empty Heart.

11. Here I am.

12. She Cries.

13. Rumour.

14. This Ship Comes Apart.

For some reason my next review is going to Gary Numan's Berserker album. Released in 1984 after 1983 lukewarm Warriors Numan was furious, his comeback Warriors tour reflected this which was considered harder sounding than smooth Sax funk of the album. No Surprise that Berserker would asborb this 'Fury'. With Berserker Numan decided to dramatically update his sound after hearing Frankie Goes To Hollywood 'Relax' (in 1984 who didn't?) produced by Trevor Horn and his entourage of very clever programmers using then state of the art gear like the Infamous Fairlight CMI, NED Synclavier, Roland MC4 Hardware Sequencer , Roland Jupiter 8 (one of the only analogue synths to be rapped to death in the mid 80's), Roland GR300 Guitar Synth (for that soon dated sheen). Numan may also been inspired by the sampling techniques that Depeche Mode were empolying on their records at the time, especially Constrution Time Again.

This made Numan look for new Gear to update his studio one day the anwser was already there, Numan happened to be in the studio one day when he walked past one of the rooms and heard this sound that blew him away he popped his head in and said "what the fuck was that" it was the PPG Wave 2 Wavetable Synthesizer/Sampler/Sequncer, a unique digital synth that used Wavtable synthsis, it also had analog filters as well as a sequncer and sampler. It seemed the PPG had it all for Numan however it was very difficult to use and had a mind of its own this lead Gary to hear The Wave Team to operate and program the PPG for Berserker. As well as using sequncing, sampling and wavetable synthsis Numan also got into Electronic Drums notably Simmons Infamous SDS-5 Drum Kit which used heavly in the mid 80's by various artists. Numan also used some familar gear used on this previous albums howver I am only guessing like the Arp Odessy MKIII, Oberheim OB-Xa, Prophet 5 and a Linn Drum (mostly likely sampled probably the second model) the moogs like the Polymoog may have been used but I think they were phased out by now.

Using this equipment Numan created one of most eclectric and agressive albums to date, influence by digital dance funk of some of Trevor Horn's productions, pop synth funk of bands like Prince and Scritti Politti and experimental synth work of Thomas Dolby. I use the word funk a lot becuase this stlye and genre is present a lot this album especially some of Guitars and Sax parts but is also off matched with cold hard hitting synths and reverse distorted guitars, even violas and violins appear on this record not to metion the over use of female vocals a direction explored on his previous album and following albums which didn't end until 1993/1994.

Image wise the Berserker era is a odd one and probably another one of Numan's fashion faux pas'es which didn't end until 1993 when Numan got some more hair and fashion advice from Gemma. To be fair this 80's and most people did some crazy shit, unlike today were people just where branded shit like their mates. As you can tell from striking cover Numan has blue hair and full white and blue makeup. Numan refrence this image in his record Warriors as 'the Iceman' and the "Clown who forgot how to laugh". Numan got the idea from a Magazine he saw when he was a bit younger with a women head to toe in white piant to looks as if she was made from marble.

This new look is also interresting because it combines elements from previous images of Gary, for example on the cover Gary is wear a White Boiler suit/coat with white belt similar to spacey clothes of his Telekon and Wembly days. But in some promo photos for this album Gary wore Suit Shirts and pants with braces and a white or Blue bow tie (probably a proto Fury image idea another botched image idea which Numan created the following year).

Numan showed off his New hair (without make up) on the Leo Sayer Show where imfamous performed On BroadWay with the presenter who is also a Singer. Numan also perform an early Warriours sounding version of 'This is New Love' with mine artist Tik and Tok (who amusling made fun of Comdeian Mocking Gary's new hair). Though is image does look impressive on the cover it didn't work well live with heat from the heavy lighting which melted his make up his also had to be redone daily damaging Numans hair (which has weaved several times. Despite this I think Numan was brave and had balls from pulling off this image. I just feel sorry for the poor fans who copied this at time who most got so visiocus looks from the public.

Lryically the album is about "Something fictional. Something that was dreadful, powerful, unstoppable, Something Alien." This really comes off on this record especially on tracks like 'Berserker', 'My Dying Machine', 'Cold Warning' and 'The Hunter'. Numan also said the album was about "being cold, playing games with people, using people in ver unpleasent ways, whithout saying what they were exactly". With the Lryics, image and music can combine I feel personally that this album this pull this being one of Numans most ailenated feeling albums since Telekon.

The album starts with the title track that starts off with cold detached and delayed Female vocals "I been waiting for you, I waited far too long". A synth sequence starts with some hard simmons drums. Interesting think about this track is its hard to know if a real drum kit is being (though on the toms its clearly a Simmons) because they are that processed. Then Distorted guitar shrieks, reversed riffs and hard synth chords kick in. Numan's vocals are clear and menacing "My face the pictures changed do you remember me" Numan's vocals are come along way from the squeaky android punk on his early releases, deeper more mature and even more detached with a unique distinctiveness. I didn't like this track when I first heard it through me off a bit but I have come to enjoy its menacing sound and pervert vocals very familar to Frankies "Relax" with the word "come" repeated throughout. However unlike Frankie their song comes off a bit tongue and cheek, Numan's comes off as dark and perverted which isn't a bad idea it just makes a odd single choice especially on a self runned record label however this may have been Numan's idea at the time.

The Next track is 'This is New Love' a progressive funk track with a mechnical rhythm and big sax parts and a catchy chorus. I really like the icy synth pads on this track has as the precissive synth stabs. The guitar on this track is a complete conrast to heavy guitars on the previous instead the guitars on this track are funkier. This track also features slab bass which appears quite abit on this album. This has a lyric that always amuses me "these boys of passion will rule the world put their fingers in a dyke, well you know its what she need", what a lyric. Overall I really like the dynamics on sax solos on this track with the cold hard synths, really big and powerful.

The next track is 'the Secret' this track vocals by Zane Griff a synthpop star from New Zeland who vocals have an uncanny resemblance to David Bowie, well to my ears anyway. This one of my favourite tracks on the album, it has a strong chorus, icy synths, atmospheric female backing vocals that fit with the song. Guitar wise the track goes back to heavy screaming sound of the title track in the chorus in the verse the guitar is funky, the track also has a strong slap bass parts similar to 'this is New Love'. I also really like high octave synth strings in track. I personally think this would be a strong single choice. Lyrically this song hacks back to lyrics of 'Telekon' and 'The Pleasure Principle' which I like.

'My Dying Machine' is the second and final single taken off the album. 'My Dying Machine' is synthheavy track that has ethnic precussion like sequnce throughout the track. Heavy Simmons toms are also present on this track and where used to great effect on the Berserker tour. I really the synth on this track especially during the chorus. The drums on this track are very 80's. Musically this track is probably influnced by Thomas Dolby and Trevor Horn's Productions.

Cold Warning is probably my favourite track off the whole album. It starts off with a viola riff with an eastern feel (a sound Numan would experiment with on sounds like My Breathing, Pressure and Jagged) and precussion sequnce before a massive synth sound comes in which I feel really hooks the listener in. This track is really cold and manacing but melodic and progressive. Fretless bass also appears on this track but it works well. The lyrics on this track really reflect and bring some of the paranoid charracter on Numans early work but soundwise updates which I feel works really well. I also like the metalic slap bass sounding sequnce in this track.

The next track is 'Pump It Up' (though the backing lyrics clearly say 'Pump Me Up). A funky poppy track that was later given to Ex-Bond Girl Caroline Munro (The chick in the chopper in the car chase in the Bond film 'The Spy Who Loved Me') though I feel this track was already written for a female in mind. Personally this track is okay but I think Numan should replaced this track with another track Gary wrote for Caroline called 'The Picture' which I think would fitted better. This track features manpiulated digital sounds, lots of Sax, metal slap bass sequnces, funky guitar. The drums on track clearly are a drum machine you can also hear some orchcesta stabs here and there. Production wise this track has interresting effects esepically on the vocals and rhythm guitar parts.

'The God Film' is an interresting track with an interresting hi hat rhythm and experimental process sounds. Musically this track has a Warriors kind of vibe to it which I feel makes sound of place on the record, very slow groove and experimental feel. Lyrcially it seems like an interesting attack on God 'We saw the God film, its all wrong, well Im not blame'. Overall this my least track on the album I just don't feel that fits with the rest of the album it does a nice filter sweep and awesome flanged effect at the end though.

The track is probably one of my favourite tracks next to 'Cold Warning' and 'the Secret'. 'A Child With The Ghost' is emotional ballad like track dedicate to Gary's friend and former bassist Paul Gardiner who sadly died of a Heroin Overdose in a park the year this album was made. Simmon toms appear with a marching like rhythm, I really like the melody on this track too. Really icy synth sounds on this track, minimal Linn Precussion. Beautiful track the female vocals and delayed sax work really well on this track.

The final track off the old release is The Hunter a guitar heavy track with live drums, simmons toms and analogue synths. Very Warriors sounding but this time it actually works well. Good chorus. Could of been a good single choice. I do like the analogue synths on this track, different to some of the other tracks on this that are dominated by the PPG Wave 2. Interesting of eailest tracks recorded for the album finishes it.

The first bonus track off the 1999 reiusse is 'Empty Bed, Empty Heart' a slow cold feeling track with icy PPG synths and pads and other digital shireks, this track was probably record in the later sessions of the album. A short 3 minitue track that has a sax solo and some fretless this track also no drums or precussion.

'Here I Am' is another PPG/Oberheim dominated track recorded in the albums later sessions. Unlike Empty Bed, Empty Heart, 'Here I Am' is more developed featuring Linn drums ( with oriental precussion), slapped bass and even eastern sounding viola part and saxophone. Once again really good chorus and nice icy synths really set the tone of this track.

The next bonus track 'She Cries' is an interesting one because it doesn't sound like a B-side from the Berserker Era more like a B-side from Dance or I Assassin judging from its recording and synth sounds, slurred vocals as well. Its a good track its just I am surprised that its reissued and released on a album its not really related to. I do like this track, nice chords, Linn Drum over dub with real toms and clave precussion.

'Rumour' sounds more like a B-Side from Strange Charm session than Berserker, though it could be a song updated from the Berserker sessions mainly because the synth sounds like something off Strange Charm. An interesting fact about this song is that the chorus features only female vocals, good pad songs and chorus shame judging from its track length it was still a unfinshed idea.

The final bonus is called 'This Ship Comes apart'. A 'instrutmental' track of sorts which a Linn Drum pattern and 'tooting' female vocals, sax solo, rhythm guitar, slap band and soft synths. This track sounds more a experimental improvised idea or song unfinished idea written for somebody else.

Overall I would Berserker is a good album, personally not as good as his current stuff or his eariler heyday material. But I feel is one of his strongest releases from his wiilderness period and I was think that its a harder and stronger release compared to his previous album Warriors which I found was too experimental compared to this release. Interesting note is there is an recent interview on the Cold Warning Live DVD (Fully Filmed Berserker tour performace DVD) with Gary Numan was told by the interviewer that Berserker was liked by Alan Wilder and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode, very interesting seeing as album got slated by the press and sold poorly due to virutally no radio play.

I personally don't listen to much 80's stuff anymore mainly becuase their is just too much 80's shit around at the moment, 80's this, 80's that its like Reagan has returned from the dead. However I do listen some albums and this one of them, odd choice I know but its one of my favourites along with The Fury from Numan's middle period and the mid 80's in genreal.

I recommend if like Ultravox, 80's Depeche Mode, 80's Prince and Scritti Poltti.

P.S. Sorry For all the spelling mistakes, spell checker isn't working for some reason, sorry.

Not sure what my next review will be, might be Velvet Acid Christ's Calling Ov The Dead.

1 comment:

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