Saturday, April 19, 2008

it's not over till the android sings

The alien has been evacuated from a mainstream pop now largely given over to blokish conviviality and female hypersexuality. Pop now performs a kind of hyperbolic version of normality in which the most conventional roles have returned, re-naturalised even as they are digitally enhanced. Performers are celebrities rather than stars: they are just like us, but with more money, bigger houses and more access to parties. Numan inherited and exaggerated the very different equation of pop with the alien that had dominated Glam and Punk in the 1970s. Needless to say, it was Bowie – with his look as much as his music – who had done most to popularise this alien chic. The pop star was the man who fell to earth, an extraterrestrial existentialist thrown into a world that was both fascinated and appalled by him.


In the end, though, it wasn’t the alien so much as the android’s sense of alienation that was central to Numan. He felt most affinity with the fiction of Philip K Dick, with its themes of replication, simulation and commodification. (J G Ballard was another author with which Numan, like many other postpunk artists, was preoccupied. Heathrow and aeroplanes recur in Ballard’s work and, as an aviation-obsessive who was the son of a Heathrow bus driver, Numan might himself almost have been a Ballard invention.)

K-Punk on Gary Numan, on Fact

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