White Noise

Gary Numan

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White Noise Review

by Ned Raggett

The 1984-era entry in the regular series of official Gary Numan live albums comes across as a mixed blessing in ways, but actually ranks as one of the better efforts. The biggest potential problem comes from the album Numan was then touring for, Berserker, his often ham-handed attempt at creating on-the-edge dance rock. That said, the versions presented on White Noise actually succeed much more readily than the studio takes, whether it's because of Numan's more direct vocals, sharper performances, or simply riding on the audience's devotion. "Berserker" itself finally turns into the threatening, powerful just-after-the-bomb-falls movie theme it always wanted to be, while "My Dying Machine" shudders with an agreeably dark, dramatic power, Numan's singing particularly on target. The various old favorites turn up as always, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. "Metal" feels a touch plodding, almost as if the band wants to get going at a certain pace but just can't quite make it. Others like "Me! I Disconnect From You" and "Down in the Park" are fair enough but don't feel particularly sparked up, even though they readily outclass much of the newer material without even trying. Still, "Remind Me to Smile" and "I Die: You Die" both turn up better than might be guessed, while songs like "The Iceman Comes" and especially a sparkling, fired-up turn on "We Take Mystery (To Bed)" have a sly, fluid energy to recommend them. As for "Cars" and the winningly introduced "Are 'Friends' Electric?" (Numan's mid-song laughter continues the casual, celebratory mood), even if Numan could do them both in his sleep at that point, both have all the abrupt, shuddering energy that made them pop landmarks to start with. The late-'90s reissue includes a brief, appreciatory essay from Dave Thompson and benefits from an excellent remastering.

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