Saturday, September 14, 2013

Gary Numan - Living Ornaments '79 and '80 (1981)

I will never fully understand how Gary Numan, with a string of dystopian, synth-driven art rock albums, became a certified pop megastar in the late '70s and the early '80s. I get that cocaine was very popular. And I get that using synthesizers to make pop music was still very cutting edge, making Numan somewhat of a musical visionary. Still... this shit is bizarre. His biggest hit was, as was the case with pretty much all of his early songs, an ode to emotional detachment and paranoia stemming from a semi-romantic obsession with technology, his live shows involved him careening around the stage in a futuristic wheelchair and singing about something called a "rape machine," and he resembled a Berlin trilogy-era Bowie minus the charisma and looks. Yet, for a couple of years, Gary Numan was an unstoppable commercial force.

Living Ornaments '79 and '80 compiles two live albums, and can be considered a live document of Numan's most artistically and commercially fruitful era. Recorded at two separate London concerts - the first, three days after the release of The Pleasure Principle; the second, less than two weeks after Telekon's release - Living Ornaments features prime cuts from the first four Numan/Tubeway Army full-lengths, impeccably performed and recorded. For the uninitiated, the studio albums are certainly more essential, but there's still a lot to love here.

Track listing:
1. Airlane
2. Cars
3. We Are So Fragile
4. Films
5. Something's in the House
6. My Shadow in Vain
7. Conversation
8. The Dream Police
9. Metal
1. This Wreckage
2. I Die: You Die
3. M.E.
4. Everyday I Die
5. Down in the Park
6. Remind Me to Smile
7. The Joy Circuit
8. Tracks
9. Are 'Friends' Electric?
10. We Are Glass

We are not lovers
We are not romantics
We are here to serve you
A different face but the words never change


  1. I think your comments are disingenuous at best and immature at worst. Gary Numan was huge in the early 80s not because of cocaine, it was widely available in the UK at the time and was seen as a designer drug for those who could afford it. In any case pop music was still reeling from the nonsense that punk rock was producing after its heyday in 76,77,78. Gary Numan was a real break from all that and with advent of cheaper synthesizers band were experimenting with all sorts of sounds. Honestly, I am not his biggest fan by any stretch, but I was a teenager in 1980 and these new electronic groups were brilliant, forward looking, visually exciting. Great stuff, great memories, don't spoil it by adopting lazy hindsight references in the name of good journalism. Great web site by the way.

    1. Don't know if you noticed but this entire blog is built around lazy writing, and is pretty far from "good journalism." I try not to take this shit too seriously because no one else does. Also, it's a throwaway joke in a writeup in which I call him a "musical visionary."

    2. Also also: In case it's not clear: I don't think that he didn't DESERVE to be a megastar -- he's one of my all-time favorite musicians -- I'm saying that his music is objectively weird and extremely dark, qualities that generally don't result in a successful pop career.

  2. There's nothing wrong in taking things seriously, music deserves good analysis without using lazy terms like visionary, important, essential, genuis etc. I also don't assume that nobody cares, I do for one, and I am sure there are others who do. Yours, Frank in France. X

    1. Christ man. Music does deserve good analysis, but that's not what I do. Look at the other posts. This blog's essentially a free curated music library. If you want good, non-lazy analysis, go somewhere else. The fuck are we talking about?

  3. What's Christ or cocaine got to do with it, I like what the first guy said, your review or not review as you claim seems pointless.

  4. Wow, guys, FINE, see if you can shove your fist down the gift horse's throat. That's just SUPER.
    Dear Spirit, for what it's worth***, i say fuck that noise, jack...i'll take your reviews over the latest musings of Ima Hayter and Dickie Swangleballs in the "serious" periodicals to which these clowns no doubt have lifetime subscriptions. You give me free music + laughter + some worthwhile perspective on art & pop culture... while expecting NOTHING in return. So, to sum it up: YOU KICK SERIOUS ASS IN MINDBOGGLINGLY LARGE QUANTITIES
    ***"what it's worth"=an infinitesimal number whose value is so small that it
    cannot be distinguished from zero by any available means

    1. Haha, thanks man, these comments just felt so entitled to me. Like, why the fuck am I supposed to change my writing style because you don't like it?! You're not paying me. NO ONE is paying me. Just don't visit my blog, right? Also, my spidey-sense tells me that they're both the same guy.