Gary Numan

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Hybrid Review

by Alex Henderson

Gary Numan didn't invent the idea of synth pop -- Germany's innovative Kraftwerk had a high-tech electronic sound half a decade before Numan's first Tubeway Army album came out in 1978. But he was definitely a major player in synth pop and new wave and became amazingly influential; everyone from the industrial-oriented Nine Inch Nails to pop-rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot has claimed Numan as an influence. Electronica, as we now call it, has evolved considerably since Numan's late ‘70s/early ‘80s heyday, and this two-CD set addresses some of those changes. Recorded in 2002, Hybrid re-examines many of the British innovator's ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s recordings and does so from an early-2000s perspective. Anyone who expects Hybrid to be a best-of in the conventional sense will be disappointed; this double CD offers new versions of familiar material, not the original versions. Some of the songs were first unveiled in the ‘90s, including "Absolution," "Dominion Day," and "Dark." But many of them go back to Numan's late-‘70s/early-‘80s heyday, and it's intriguing to hear new wave/synth pop classics like "Are ‘Friends' Electric?," "M.E.," and "Down in the Park" getting an early-2000s makeover. These are hardly carbon copies of the original versions; on Hybrid, a song that started out as new wave is likely to receive the industrial, techno, aggro, or darkwave treatment. "Everyday I Die" (originally recorded in 1978) acquires a Stabbing Westward-like appeal, while "Cars" (Numan's biggest hit) loses its new wave bounce and becomes surprisingly moody. Hybrid isn't recommended to casual listeners, who would be better off starting out with a best-of that focuses on the original versions of Numan's late-‘70s/early-‘80s songs. But the singer's hardcore fans will find this double CD to be an interesting, if less than essential, addition to his catalog.

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