Once a fading 1970s synthpop star, Gary Numan’s career has been gradually revitalised since Sugababes’ 2002 smash Freak Like Me mashed up his Are “Friends” Electric? and Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson hailed him as a pioneer of electronic industrial gloom. There’s plenty of the latter on his 21st studio album. Guitars and keyboards crash like falling slabs of granite, percussion pulses throb and synths purr ominously. Numan’s dystopian worldview hasn’t been exactly cheered by climate change or leaving Britain for Los Angeles, only to find a Trumpocalypse. “We live in a windswept hell, not even God remembers”, he sings, bleakly. However, tunefulness permeates the intensity like rays of sunshine. Huge, Cars-type banks of synthesisers fire Bed of Thorns and The End of Things and the east Asian-tinged My Name Is Ruin (featuring 11-year-old daughter Persia) is one of his catchiest songs in years. For all the retooling, the vintage Numanoid still has a pop star’s beating heart.
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author