Tubeway Army

Tubeway Army

Beggars Banquet, 1978

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


While New Wave alien Gary Numan may be known for his groundbreaking sole Billboard hit from 1979, “Cars,” his debut came a year earlier as part of the trio known as Tubeway Army. If the genius and ever-cool cover artwork showing a barebones sketch of Numan’s face doesn’t get your attention, the music found within this first album surely will. Though the synthesizer would take center stage on his later solo works, they are well-balanced with guitar and drums here. It all fits together seamlessly. I’ve always found Numan’s voice so expressive, with his high pitched yelps adding to the overall warped sensibility and off-kilter charm.

As far as Numan’s earliest stage persona goes, he has yet to dabble in the eyeliner and sleek suit look. Here he’s a normal looking bloke in the liner jacket photographs, albeit the fact that he has bleached blond hair. He’s wearing jeans and a leather jacket too, which perfectly complements the rough-and-ready rock-oriented tunes like “Something’s In The House” and the opening cut “Listen To The Sirens.” Gary Numan has an edge? He does here. Something tells me bandmates Jess Lidyard (Numan’s uncle) and Paul Gardiner wouldn’t have it any other way. Numan and Co. do slow it down just long enough to keep the college girls happy for “The Life Machine,” the acoustic “Jo The Waiter” and the charming tune with scandalous masturbatory lyrics, “Everyday I Die.” Yep, he went there, and his depictions of the seedier side of life would continue in the equally strong, conceptual sophomore effort, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Replicas.

Due to his diminutive stature, Numan had an uphill battle when it came to connecting with American audiences. He was never going to be seen as a street tough, but on Tubeway Army, he gives it one hell of a best shot. His vocal caterwauling on “My Shadow In Vain” is incredibly inventive and dynamic, though I can see where it could be an acquired taste to many. But that’s what’s so great about Gary Numan, he was positively fearless when it came to doing his own thing. On this record and Replicas, he plays guitar as much, if not more, than keyboards, giving the songs some much needed muscle and fuel. From one careening track to the next, the band outdoes themselves. Garage bands take note: this is how you should sound straight out of the gate and far outside the perimeter of any box the record label wants to put you in. And just try to keep up with Numan’s rapid fire delivery on “Friends.” Good luck.

Ultimately, the Tubeway Army was discarded in favor of putting Gary Numan’s name front and center on future releases. This is perhaps the best and worst thing they could have done. Good in the fact that it gave us someone to actually latch onto, bad because the music became more commercial and less exciting. The figurehead thing was clearly a mistake, considering Numan’s reticence with the media at large. He was going to be an interviewer’s worst nightmare, being even more cryptic and elusive than his closest co-patriot David Bowie. As a singer in a band it gave him more protection. Being suddenly thrust into the limelight must have been terrifying for an introvert like him. It’s taken Numan years to finally be comfortable as an elder statesman of punk, but it’s a standing he rightfully deserves. Thank you for reading this review, and as always, or to quote Gary Numan himself on “Zero Bars,” “My name is Smith.”

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Beggars Banquet, and is used for informational purposes only.