Following the same musical formula as Pure and Exile, new wave icon Gary Numan's latest (and first in 5 years), Jagged, delves deep into dark atmospherics and industrial territory. Unfortunately, it's more or less the exact same territory he's been exploring for the last decade, both musically and lyrically (for a self-proclaimed atheist, Numan sure has a lot of issues with God). Numan's trademark timbre directs the usual sea of steady rhythms, subtle synth melodies, noise soundscapes, subdued distorted guitar riffing, and the occasional epic chorus. However, what upon initial listen comes off as a lackluster rehash of previous material does, at least, have some amount of redeeming depth that is revealed upon repeated listens.
Of the album's eleven tracks, the few more grandiose epic rockers, namely "In a Dark Place" and "Haunted", are the immediately accessible standouts. The former, the disc's lead single, features particularly strong melodic work and production despite dragging a bit at over 6 minutes, while the latter intersperses mellow synth verses with the album's most straightforward industrial guitar riffing and a big chorus. Of the disc's other material, noteworthy offerings include the almost poppy "Melt", despite lyrically falling under the religious thematic blanket that Numan's more or less beaten to death, the eastern-tinged rhythmic rock opener "Pressure", and "Blind", which features one of the album's most exceptional choruses.
While the album provides plenty of lulls, an additional fact worth mentioning is that it's notably void of straightforward, emotional ballads. There's no "Absolution" or "Little InVitro" here, and despite Numan's admirable attempt at a harder-edged consistency, Jagged is the worse for it, sometimes sounding more cold and manufactured than genuinely emotive.
In the end, while not as immediately accessible or emotive as Pure and Exile, Jagged certainly does have its charms. It may, however, hint that a bit of reinvention is once again in order for Numan, both thematically and sonically. Those unhappy with Numan's last two or three albums should certainly steer clear of this one, but Numanoids and fans of moody melodic industrial rock will likely find a relatively worthwhile collection of songs hiding beneath the familiar cliches.
Gary Numan website: www.numan.co.uk
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