Gary Numan

Gary Numan

I, Assassin

Beggar’s Banquet

I always loved Gary Numan, and not just “Cars,” either. David Holbrook and I used to sit around and try to put together the narratives of The Pleasure Principle and Telekon, and don’t get me started on how dope The Tubeway Army was. But I had kind of moved on by 1982, when I, Assassin came out — along with a whole huge chunk of his audience. Turns out we were all wrong to abandon The Pale One — this stuff is beautiful.

And it’s funky, too! Afrika Bambaataa is quoted in the booklet as saying that he and all his hip-hop DJ friends loved Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, and you understand why right away: “White Boys and Heroes” is future-laptop on the badfoot. Numan drawls out his depresso words (“Heroes are tough/And have no time/For women and boys/I won’t cry/Till this thing is over“) while Pino Palladino just goes nuts on the fretless bass. It’s kind of cool to bag on poor Pino, but I think he’s on fire on this album; his work on such robot-dance numbers as “A Dream of Siam” and “We Take Mystery to Bed” is kind of untouchable. So what if he played bass for Paul Young? Paul Young had some kickin’ bass on his records then!

But forget what critics (and bored boys who decided to listen to Sandinista! and Controversy instead of this) said: Numan’s schtick completely works here. The loose theme, I guess, is that the modern pop star has to live like a spy (“War Songs” is pretty strong on this point), but forget that and just rock out to the enigmatic title track and “Music For Chameleons.” You can do the robot dance and it’ll work perfectly.

Generously padded with bonus tracks, all these reissues are: You get to hear future live staple “Noise Noise,” instrumental atmospherics like “Glitter and Ash,” and the screwy throwaway “Bridge? What Bridge?”, which features everyone in the band cracking up. Gary Numan with an audible sense of humor? Brilliant.

I think I love this and I think you will too.

Beggar’s Banquet:

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