(Sigh!!!!) I can still see both the album cover and picture-disc 7” vinyl of ‘Are Friends Electric,’ in my mind’s eye. Unfortunately, that’s the only place I can still see them, because for some unknown reason, I never actually added either to my collection and relied on borrowing my mate’s copies to acquaint myself with what was then regarded as somewhat weird, underground and alien (in both senses) music. It was certainly a radical change from the punk and disco scenes that had dominated the charts, clubs and pubs for the previous few years.
(Sigh!!!!) Sad person that I am, I still have the ticket stub from Gary Numan’s debut gig at the Glasgow Apollo – 29th September 1979 (£3 for a seat in the ‘Circle.’)
So – when the Replicas Redux (Expanded 2008 Tour Edition) CD landed through the post, you can imagine how teary-eyed and excited I was!
I wouldn’t say I was an avid fan of Gary Numan / Tubeway Army in the sense that I bought all (well…. any, actually!) of his albums and went to loads of shows, but because at the time it was all so innovative, virtually every track on Replicas had engrained itself in my brain. So much so, that on playing this Redux version, I could hear in my head the start of the next track before the one playing had ended.
(Sigh!!!!) Twenty-nine years ago. Where does time go?
(And ……. back in the room……!)
That the album should be re-released at a time when electronica in all its various forms is back in vogue could risk it being considered stale and dated.
NOT A BIT! Replicas is one of those timeless classics. This is the album (and also, I have to say, it’s eponymous forerunner) that paved the way for all that followed, and laid the asphalt for the roads along which today’s young electronic whippersnappers travel.
From the futuristic haunting sound of the opening keyboard riff on ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’ to the desolate, eerie and almost apocalyptic dying notes of ‘I Nearly Married A Human’ this album proved – and indeed still proves – that when it comes to electronic / synth-based music, then Germany (Kraftwerk / Can etc) had serious competition.
Replicas was something of a ‘concept’ album, and with song titles such as: ’Are Friends Electric,’ ‘The Machman,’ ‘When The Machines Rock,’ and ‘I Nearly Married A Human’ it can be appreciated that Gary Numan was portraying with music and stage- presence alone, what blockbuster movies like the ‘Terminator’ series and ‘I Robot’ would later do in multi- million dollar imagery.
The ‘Redux’ release is split into two CDs. Disc #1 features the ‘Original Releases,’ whilst Disc #2 focuses on a complete earlier version of the Replicas album, recorded in late 1978 / January 1979, along with further out-takes. The original B-sides to the singles lifted from the album are also featured.
There can be no one particular outstanding track on an album of this quality, though mention should be made of ‘Only A Downstat’ on the ‘Early Version’ disc. For whatever reason, this did not make it onto the released version, which is a bit of a surprise.
Back in the day, even though the album reached #1 in the charts – which was not quite so easy to do then – Gary Numan was the butt of many jokes and seemed to be resented in some way by sections of the Music Press. However, several tracks from the original album have been covered / sampled by many artists from Marilyn Manson to the Sugababes and from Damon Albarn to The Foo Fighters over the years. So here we are, some twenty-nine years on, and people who were not even born when it was first released are still seeking out the album and being inspired by it.
Who’s laughing now?!