Gary Numan

Berserker

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By the time Numan had founded his Numa label, his music had already taken a decidedly more corporate rock turn; in comparison to albums like Telekon, Warriors often sounded like it was out to soundtrack any number of post-apocalyptic low-budget movies from 1983. Berserker, promising title and striking new personal image (combining white skin covering and blue highlights) aside, continued this curious trend, very much a dog's breakfast of sudden, striking ability and a surprising embrace of already shopworn clich├ęs. If there's a specific contrast to be made, it's the difference between Numan's one-of-a-kind voice -- often capturing a sense of melancholic passion better than ever -- and all-too-obvious arrangements from the mid-'80s. It's not so much down in the park as over in the neon-lit bar, and as such kills the album stone-dead at many points. Squealing AOR guitar solos, slick yuppie funk that sounds like something Level 42 might reject, strident backing female vocals, and more made it seem the man who once wanted to be David Bowie now desired to compete with Paul Young -- or Tonight-era Bowie -- instead. Numan himself often seems like a guest on his own record, at points mixed decidedly deep in the music in favor of saxophones and stuttering early computer-based cut-up samples. That many of the songs are fairly long doesn't help either -- one longs for the spot-on precision of "Cars" or "I Die: You Die" when wallowing through go-nowhere constructions like "This Is New Love" or "Pump It Up." Some notable moments appear -- Chris Payne's shivering viola on "Cold Warning," the paranoid rhythms of "My Dying Machine" -- but the fragile "A Child with the Ghost," his tribute to his deceased bassist Paul Gardiner, is the only truly great song on a decidedly fragmented album.

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