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Gary Numan - Jagged
Release Date: March 21, 2006
Label: Metropolis Records

Rating:
****
out of
*****

On his previous three studio releases, Gary Numan has taken on one of life's bigger targets: God. An outspoken atheist in terms of his lyrical content, Numan has honed his dark, industrial-based sound to perfection on his latest CD, Jagged. Although the topic of God isn't directly confronted in the same personal and direct fashion of 2000's Pure, Jagged still finds Numan firing off such lyrics as "I think it showed me Heaven and now I know why I'm scared to die."

While recording Pure, Numan had been affected by the death of his unborn child due to a miscarriage. This horrible and unfortunate event resulted in some extremely personal lyrics crying out against God and his supposed divinity. With Numan now a father of two healthy children, one could possibly expect the lyrics on the new album to be somewhat lighter in tone. Definitely not the case on Jagged. The lyrics remain dark and gloomy, albeit much less personal in nature.

The big surprise on Jagged is the production. Numan's last few releases had been more or less self-produced. While re-recording some of his bigger hits for 2003's Hybrid, Numan got a chance to work with producers who were able to give his sound the kick in the pants that it had been needing. Originally slated to work with Andy Gray, who has worked with Paul Oakenfold, Numan eventually found the sound he wanted with DJ Ade Fenton, who brings Numan's sound a mammoth new presence. The choruses soar with power and the atmosphere is brutal. Still, the whole thing sounds like a Numan CD but now with extra balls. Who'd have guessed it would take a techno producer to bring this kind of power to Numan's sound?

Also a wonderful surprise is the return of live drums to the mix. Numan had regularly used them in his early career, but had recently moved to the use of programmed loops that gave albums like Sacrifice and Exile a "samey" feel in the percussion department. With regular touring drummer Richard Beasley contributing to most of the songs, the drums power tracks that would probably have fallen flat with the use of loops or pre-programmed fills. Jerome Dillon (ex-Nine Inch Nails) also pounds the skins on a few tracks as well.

On "In a Dark Place", the first single, Numan sings, "Something knows me / It whispers my name / And I'm losing my faith" over what fleetingly sounds like the old analog synths that powered the 80s version of his musical vision. Is "it" God? Or is it something else? Whatever "it" is, it's not nostalgia because, moments later, he launches into a chorus that sandblasts into submission any thoughts that he was resting on his old "Cars" laurels. Jagged finds Numan powering through songs that sound completely unlike anything he'd have come up with in 1978. In fact, that's probably the best thing about Jagged. You can hear that Numan has "found himself" after being lost for so much of the 1980s. While he'd found the right direction in the 1990's with Sacrifice and Exile, it's on Jagged that Numan has perfected his new sonic attack. Welcome back, Gary.

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