After the spare and lengthy reflections and dislocated experiments of his excellent Dance album, Gary Numan made a return to a more focused approach with I, Assassin, which turned out to be his last truly great album for many years. Much of what would characterize his later music in the '80s did start to show up here, to be sure, but instead of the formless flailing all too apparent on Warriors, and especially on Berserker, Numan's work here with modern electronic funk combines his early rigor and to-the-point rhythms with a deft, creative hand in the arrangements. "White Boys and Heroes," the brilliant opening number, remains one of his best singles, featuring fretless bass work from Pino Palladino (long before both it and him had turned into rent-a-clichés), and set against droning, distorted vocals and doom-laden keyboards. The vaguely Asian (or at least the group Japan)-inspired textures of Dance linger on in songs like "A Dream of Siam" and the title track (the latter possessing a captivating hollow-drum-punch introduction), while one of Numan's most randomly entertaining songs pops up with "The 1930s Rust." It's a suave finger-snapping number that even features harmonica, but somehow Numan's ear for to-the-point rhythm and strange futurism still comes through. Perhaps the most underrated song remains the sharp hipshaker "War Songs" -- U2 may never want to admit it, but "Numb" takes more than a little from the distorted up-and-down introductory guitar clips.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett