I think Cleopatra is doing some serious penance for releasing the turgid Exile comeback album, which effectively turned Gary Numan into a Goth relic curio object (Marilyn Manson really likes him! I’m there, man!!!). At least they’re trying to do him right by giving this very hard to find live gem, White Noise, a decent release and distribution. It’s a well-packaged double CD recording of the last night of his Berserker tour at the London Hammersmith in 1984 to the world at large. But to pathetic Nu Wave devotees such as I, this is a milestone. We now have our own little eternal and frozen moment of Numan before he went terminally embarrassing and silly — with the whiteboy funk of the late ’80s and the worse pseudo-goth of the ’90s. Berserker-era material also never made its way over to the States because by that time everyone was under the distinct impression that Gary Numan had only recorded “Cars” and then fell off a cliff. In a car. One last irrelevant point on why this is an essential record- “Berserker” is Numan’s best image! The make-up took four hours to apply, and he ended up looking like a fragile, blue-haired, blue-lipped mime wearing Star Wars desert planet cast-offs.
Music? After this concert, Numan would never again be able to capture the icy distance that made his early work so captivating. And the careful listener can even hear his musical Cassius and Brutus lurking in the background, waiting for the right moment — pointless saxophone flourishes and stupid fretless bass. But tonight, we can excuse all of that. Numan’s band is tight and robotic — old favorites like “Are Friends Electric?,” “Me, I Disconnect From You,” and just as a fan yells for “I Die, You Die,” the song begins! Faced with a crowd clearly in his thrall, Numan even loosens up his bad blue-haired self and banters with the masses. In retrospect, this is a bad idea, because he comes off sounding like an amiable country squire with a duck under his arm.
So now we can listen to the robot disco weirdness of “This Prison Moon,” “Music For Chameleons,” and the definitive version of “Metal,” and marvel at the mediocrity of his supposed resurgence. Until he starts making decent records again, this slice of kabuki motorik will prove a fitting epitaph. See, kids, things weren’t always this bad. And stop making those hairpiece jokes!!! Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella #251, Marina Del Rey , CA 90292