Strange Charm Import
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Originally limited to 2,000 copies on CD when first released in 1986, this highly sought after reissue features the U.K. top 30 hits 'I Can't Stop' & 'This Is Love'. Eight tracks in all. Other six: 'My Breathing', 'Un- known And Hostile', 'The Sleeproom', 'New Thing From London Town', 'Strange Charm' and 'The Need'.
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"I Can't Stop" and "The Need" continues the annoying material found on The Fury ("Creatures," "This Disease"). The latter is my vote for all-time worst Numan track. Like on The Fury, though, there are some decent tracks on here, besides the excellent opener, that keeps Strange Charm from being a bust. The title track rocks! It reminds me of "The Pleasure Skin" off The Fury. "The Sleeproom" and "This is Love" are two beautiful ballads. I know a lot of fans hate Numan's very commercial work with Bill Sharpe, but I think "New Thing from London Town" is rather catchy. Cleopatra's issue even gives you a 7:57 version of the infamous single with different lyrics. Of the extra tracks, the haunting ballad "Time to Die" is the best. It reminds me a little of "I Still Remember" off The Fury. According to the liner notes, it was inspired by the movie "Blade Runner" (a clip from which begins "Call Out the Dogs"). "Faces" and "Survival" are two odd instrumentals. Strange Charm is one of my least played Numan CDs but "My Breathing" alone makes it worth the price. This issue has black & white photos of Numan from the period (one color photo with Sharpe) and lyrics.
This album shows Numan taking that perfected new sound he'd been working on for years and indulges in musical ideas. Using his new found admiration for female backing vocals and saxophone he managed to create an eclectic and very well-written album.
As another reviewer stated, 'My Breathing' is an extremely powerful track, using decidedly non-Numan instrumentation: orchestral strings. It's catchy and serious altogether, and a great impression on the album's overall effect.
'Unknown & Hostile' is a very funky dance track that I'm sure most 'die-hard' Numan fans probably ignore whole-heartedly. But really the combination of sax, keyboards, and sparse guitar give this an outlandish feel that I think he had attempted to create on Warriors; well, if that really is the case, here we finally get to hear that vision!
'Sleeproom', while not a ballad, is a down-tempo stroke of isolation; the vocals are powerful, and Numan speaks very vividly of his career, say 'I don't sound like I should; I don't even belong to fashion' shows that he is aware of people's dislike of his new style, but that this is what he is. It's really more of a rather polite 'f*** off' to anybody who wants more Tubeway Army.
'New Thing From London Town', the album version, is an incredible industrial tune with some of the most forward-looking synths I've ever heard. While the music isn't exactly product of Numan's, the new vocals are a bit better over the original single's I think.
'I can't Stop' really stands away from the rest of the album; it has somewhat of an arena rock feel with the guitars, but most aspects of the song are signature late 80's Numan sound. I think Numan may have been trying a little too hard with this song, but it's still a great listen, and the extra version of the track available on most remastered CD's of the album is not to be missed.
The title track is an awesome piece on its own, as well as tying in the rest of the song. All the different ideas and styles that make this album so unique can be found in this track.
'The Need', perhaps the strangest song on SC, is the longest track, and very repetitive. I personally really like this track for its straight-forward beat and sparse instrumentation that gets thrown in the mix here and there which in some moments is in a way hypnotic and dancey in different moments.
As the only true ballad on the album, 'This is Love' takes the energy of the last few tracks and brings them back to a very isolated cache of emotions. I personally think ballads are cliche, but this one, with the other two slower, more serious songs, really shows what the purpose of the ballad is all about. This song is spacey, surreal, but uses piano chords, sax, and female vocals, among other things, to keep it human enough.
The b-side 'Time To Die', I never cared much for, mainly because Numan didn't even write it, but it definitely sounds as if it had been, since it uses references from 'Blade Runner' (a film that Numan had taken inspiration and used samples from until the early 90's).
The two instrumentals, 'Faces' and 'Survival' are fascinating industrial pieces, a style that he doesn't get back into until 'Outland' and 'Machine & Soul'. They both use heavy percussion and deep synths mainly, while retaining their own strengths. They're honestly brilliant, and I think, providing that these had been included in the album, that it would have made a bigger impact, but at least now we get to hear them on CD.
Overall, this album is extremely under-rated; it may be a little much for casual/beginner fans of Numan, and it would definitely be a good call to get his earlier mid 80's material like Berserker and The Fury first, to prepare yourself for the feel of this one. Absolutely one of my top favorite albums by Numan.