“Gary Numan: Android In La La Land”
An Intriguing Look
In case you don’t remember, Gary Numan is an English musician and producer who appeared on the scene in the late 70s/early 80s and had huge hits between 1979 to 1980 that have stood the test of time and cult classics. His use of synthesizers on a commercial scale make Numan one of the pioneers of modern electronic music and “Cars” broke down those barriers when it became a worldwide hit.
“Gary Numan: Android in La La Land” follows Numan, his wife Gemma and three daughters as they relocate from the England to America and looks at his past, highlighting his struggles with fame and fortune and then moves forward to the release of this it also turns a positive eye towards the future as 20th studio album “Splinter” back in 2013. Numan was always considered a distinct kind of character and Steve Read and Rob Alexander’s documentary really opens up his life and gives insight into his deeply focused hopes even during the bad times and Numan’s fears of the creative unknown.
The film begin with the origins and the success of Numan’s mega-singles and against this background, he explains how his move into electronica was just a coincidence at the time. His original intent was to produce a punk album but another musician had left a synthesizer on a particular sound. When Numan played a note, the sound instantaneously changed his perceptions of what he wanted to do. From there everything moved forward and two early albums came out. It’s both fascinating and extraordinary that from a single, unintended moment, unique music became part of the scene. such unique sounds would eventually explode across the music scene.
In those early days, no one really saw Numan coming and because of this he was somewhat apart from the punk scene and especially by music journalists. While punk emerged, Numan who had previously been diagnosed with Aspersers was creating his on-stage persona and was considered to be creation because he had previously been more anti-social than the media wanted him to be. This caused the music press dug into his life and eventually started to rip him apart unfairly and very personally without ever really acknowledging any truth. As a man who was already dealing with the anxieties that come with instant success and wealth, he was hit hard and freely and admits that “the bottom fell out” of his career.
The documentary lets us meet the man behind the persona that we thought we knew. We see Numan as someone still pushing to be original. Even though the documentary does takes a look back it doesn’t really feel like it’s about the past. It is really about the future and although he’s still overly self-aware or fearful of anything new he’s working on, Numan tells is that he loves what he is doing.
This portrait doesn’t give much of a career overview and it does not explain what Numan has been doing for the last three decades and at times it seems to sometimes seems too transparently and can be seen as a d promo for a recent album/tour. However, looking a bit deeper, we see that it is a far cry from Numan’s cold, “android”-like original persona.
The focus here is primarily on his preparing to make 2013’s “Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind),” an album he sees as crucial to extending his career that turns out to be his bestselling and best-reviewed effort in decades. Creating it is filled with anxiety particularly since he simultaneously moves with wife Gemma and their three young daughters from England to an imposing residential castle in Los Angeles.
Gemma is delightful, a bustling, many-hair-colored husband wrangler in the Sharon Osbourne mold, who is used to minding the store for her grateful and somewhat neurotic spouse. The most endearing character here is Numan himself, who these days performs in simple T-shirt and jeans and is unpretentious and seems to have a very sweet temperament. We see his surprise that latter-day stars like Trent Raznor cite him as an influence and invite him on stage. The film is perceptive, honest and intriguing.