Critiquing humanity from Earth’s point of view
Gary Numan, an alternative late ’70s and early ’80s icon, is not afraid to shy away from darkness. A prolific songwriter, his work has ranged from sci-fi-influenced electronic music, ’80s sitcom-esque jingles and lamenting emo-rock. Numan’s synthwave smash hit “Cars” off of the popular 1979 album The Pleasure Principle remains one of his most well-known tracks, though Numan, with more than 40 years of releasing music, has delivered many critically acclaimed albums (and admittedly, some misses) in the decades after his success in the late ’70s.
These days, with an expressive howl of a voice and affinity towards dressing like a ghoul or Freddy Krueger stuntman, the Englishman’s style has recently shifted more towards wistful, melancholy electronic rock since his days of synth-based electropop.
In Intruder, Numan tackles climate change with a gritty and dark rendition of planet Earth’s inner feelings and thoughts. The album drips with nihilism, hurt and despair, as Numan’s personification of Earth asks listeners, “Can you save me?/ Can you hear me?/ I am screaming.” While Intruder is similar to the 2019 Savage (Songs From A Broken World) in topic and style—the two are companion albums—Intruder has a technical polish and dusky finality that Savage lacks. Intruder is urgent, emotionally rich and serves as an admonition about the dangers of climate change.
The album begins with an air-raid warning signal in “Betrayed,” where Earth laments the trust and vulnerability that human beings exploited as they ravaged the planet’s far corners. Though it is a rock track, a soft chorus with a simple melody nods towards Numan’s affinity for writing and producing pop music.
In “The Gift,” this chorus is replaced by a blend of an eerie alien synth sound and a melody influenced by the traditional sound of Middle Eastern wind and string instruments. The result is a track that is both organic and not-of-this-planet: a blend of Numan’s interest in science fiction and environmental activism. “A Black Sun” is a despondent illustration of the planet’s loss of innocence, as Earth remarks, “I cry under a black sun.”
“Intruder” and “Saints and Liars” both contain angry, intense beats that complement and bring forward the smoother and calmer notes in Numan’s voice—in particular, “Saints and Liars” features a piercing vocal performance that conveys Numan’s empathy towards Earth.
“Now and Forever” is a heartbreaking track that displays Earth’s loyalty to humanity, despite mankind’s betrayal of nature and the ecosystems we live within. “When You Fall” features the perspective of a threateningly inquisitive Earth who finally suggests that human beings might fall as a response to their mistreatment of the planet. The arch of Intruder ends with this suggestion, and Numan’s poignant reflections on the state of the world round out the album with this grim idea.