Gary Numan’s musical output has undergone many different mutations over his four-decade-long tenure. In 2013, Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) saw him taking the darkly introspective industrial/rock that had defined his work since the late ‘90s to its sepia-toned apex, only for 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World) to amplify those facets into a cinematic exploration of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by man’s destructive tendencies. With Intruder, Numan turns the tables to present a more earthly yet metaphysical addressing of climate change, taking the planet’s point of view – confused at our ignorance, yet cruel in its vengeful exactment upon us.
Musically speaking, Intruder does not see Numan straying terribly far from the post-industrial rock leanings of his more recent efforts; rather, he and producer Ade Fenton have adorned that established style with some intriguing nuances. One of them appears in the form of the Yaybahar, invented and performed by Turkish musician Görkem Sen, giving virtually every track on the album a distinct and unique tonal flavor that collapses the boundaries between the organic and the synthetic. This is especially striking on “The Gift” and “Is This World Not Enough,” in which the howling feedback exchanges phrases with expansive synths to evoke a desolate atmosphere that would not have been out of place on Savage, while also somehow reminiscent of Shankar’s double violin contributions to Peter Gabriel. The latter track is also the most notable example of another of the album’s most inspired features – the background vocals. Shared by Gazelle Twin and Numan’s daughters Persia and Raven, they bring a harmonious accompaniment to the electronic atmospheres and Numan’s own signature wail that is especially poignant and downright haunting, with “Now and Forever” serving as a shining example.
We also are granted some spirited performances by guitarist Steve Harris and bassist Tim Slade, whose solos on the opening “Betrayed” help to set a more organic tone for the record. Songs like “The Chosen,” the title track, and especially “Saints and Liars” burst with the kind of stridently rhythmic mechanical force of albums like Pure or Jagged, but this also calls attention to other moments reminiscent of Numan’s past output. For instance, the subdued arpeggios in the verse leading to an explosive and distorted melancholy in the chorus of “I Am Screaming” sounds like an updated rendition of something one might’ve heard from the artist in the early ‘80s, while the lovely blend of piano and vocal ambience in “A Black Sun” gives the song a processional feel, the descending glassy or metallic tones also evocative of his early new wave days, if not for the chug of the guitar keeping it in Numan’s more contemporary industrial/rock vibe.
As a great comedian once said, “The planet is fine, but the people are fucked.” Numan articulates this notion quite effectively on Intruder, speaking with a grounded yet poetic sensibility that conveys the weightiness of these themes. For instance, there are lyrics like “How could you turn your blue sky gray” and “Sometimes we are what we fear in the end,” all sung through Numan’s emotive and exhausted voice. That’s not to say that he’s not singing at the height of his prowess, but one can certainly detect the anguish in his performance, especially on songs like “The Chosen,” “Is This World Not Enough,” and “The End of Dragons.” Intruder may not stand as Numan’s most original work to date, but given his extensive catalog and influence, he’s long past the need for that. It’s enough that Intruder is a stimulating listening experience from an artist who still knows how to deliver.