Tubeway Army by Tubeway Army (part of my Brought To Your Attention series)

Beggars Banquet

Recorded at Spaceward, Cambridge July – August 1978.

1978, re-released in 1979.

Tracks –
Side A.

1. Listen to the Sirens – 3:06
2. My Shadow in Vain – 2:59
3. The Life Machine – 2:45
4. Friends – 2:30
5. Something’s in the House – 4:14
6. Every Day I Die – 2:24

Side B.

1. Steel and You – 4:44
2. My Love Is a Liquid – 3:33
3. Are You Real? – 3:25
4. The Dream Police – 3:38
5. Jo the Waiter – 2:41
6. Zero Bars (Mr Smith) – 3:12

Personal –

Paul Gardiner – Bass guitar and backing vocals.
Jess Lidyard – Drums.
Gary Numan – Keyboards, guitars, producer and vocals.

Before the arriviste android-like persona and image of Gary Numan had become a firm fixture and his popularity had reached a zenith with the hit singles ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’. The Billy Idol bleached hair sporting lead guitarist and proto-futurist, first set the ball rolling with this agit-new wave dystopian classic release, Tubeway Army.

From Webb to Numan and ‘Valerian’, he moved through personalities and styles like a less fidgety version of Bowie. In 1976 he shoehorned his way into the ranks of The Lasers as lead guitarist – after having previously fronted another London group, Mean Street – where he struck a friendship and mutual interest with their lean and hip bass player, Paul Gardiner. The pair soon decided to split and set-up their own band, the Subway Sect inspired Tubeway Army; lassoing Gary’s uncle Jess Lidyard to sit-in on drums.
Our trio initially belted out competent angulated punk to an appreciative underground audience, before the one-time record shop chain just turned label, Beggars Banquet snapped them up.

Two relatively unsuccessful singles, ‘That’s Too Bad’ and ‘Bombers’, both appeared in 1978, followed rapidly by this self-titled LP.
Transcending its core punk roots by tipping its hat to such obscure bands as San Francisco awkward-industrialist, Chrome – whose jittery 76 ‘Return To Zanzibar’ ode lays the foundations for Numan’s own ‘Steel And You’ – and picking through the bones of both the sleazier sounding leather-clad Lou Reed and the more morose elements of Eno.

But it would be the bands early adoption of the Minimoog that would eventually seal their musical fate, and set them on a pathway to the future.
The pared-down, and highly accessible Minimoog synthesizer, did away with patch chords and the cumbersome heavy amp of yore, concentrating instead on just squeezing the fundamental filters, modulator and manipulating wave-form effects into a more lighter, smaller frame for artists to move about – in effect making it much easier to set-up and carry from studio to live performances.
Primitive of course compared to today’s standards, this piece of, now revered kit, was the exotic preservation of only the initiated and worthy during the 70s – though this soon changed as it became cheaper and more widely adopted.
Its one note at a time pre-selected sound-shape sound added an essential sense of wonderment and otherworld-like dynamic to any groups sound. On this album it is used rather tentatively and cautiously, acting as a subtle but foreboding alarm, emphasising the fixated, nightmarish, narrative influences of Ballard, Orwell and Burroughs.

Aside from the melancholic and serene electronica elements, Numan also strikes a pose on lead guitar, strutting through the My Sharona-esque riff of ‘My Shadow In Vain’, or muffling his sound in reverb for ‘The Dream Police’. He ventures onto the acoustic at designated times, to show his glitch in the machine emotional side, with a handclap doyen to drug addiction anthem, ‘Jo The Waiter’.

The rhythm section of Lidyard and Gardiner adds the life-support pulsing kick-drums, Stooges marches, trebly wandering runs, and stalking prowling basslines to Numan’s, mostly, calculated steely scattered and stuttering vocal approach.
An overall theme of futuristic conversational prose, littered with stark cold vignettes on such unlikely subject matter as both male prostitution, ‘Friends’, and masturbation, ‘Everyday I Die’, as well as the synonymous references to alienation – a role that Numan increasingly took on, as he wore the mantel of the man who fell to Earth – and Sci-Fi obsessed Blade Runner-esque shadowy worlds.
He even borrows the opening lines to the inaugural opening track, ‘Listen To The Sirens’, from Philip K Dick’s ‘Flow My Tears, Policeman Said’ novel, to add weight.

‘Tubeway Army’ was originally only given a limited run of 5,000 copies on swanky blue vinyl. Selling out relatively quickly, the album was re-realised and re-packaged in the stylised illustrated Numan mask cover a year later in 1978, alongside the follow-up – stripped almost bare of its roots and swagger – ‘Replicas’. Of course the aloof pallid extraterrestrial Numan made his mark with an ever-more sophisticated technological sound and commercial cross-over hits, but this debut album betrays a more personally humanist and raw touch; the bridging gap between the staccato unpolished punk of the mid-70s and the increasing cutting-edge modernist synthesiser sound of the later 70s, so beloved by pioneers like Kraftwerk and early Ultravox.

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