This week’s Throwback Thursday is going back to 1979 when Gary Numan released his last album under the Tubeway Army name. Replicas was met with surprise critical and commercial success upon its release, with the lead single Are “Friends” Electric hitting #1 followed by the album itself reaching the top of the charts. It proved that the music world was starved for the unique synth driven rock that Numan and his Tubeway Army had created. Little did Numan know that he was a pioneer that would influence countless industrial and electronic bands that would follow in his footsteps.
With Replicas you’ve got the now legendary singles in Are “Friends” Electric and Down in the Park, but there’s a lot more to the record than the radio hits. Listened to as a whole, Replicas is a dystopian, nihilistic look into the future. Numan has called it the beginning of his “machine” phase, with The Pleasure Principle and Telekon to follow. More than anything, the austerity of the sound created in Replicas opened the door for the machine man sound that would present itself in the more synth driven solo work that Numan would pursue.
While Ultravox and Low-era Bowie are cited as heavy influences, and you can certainly hear their pull, Numan really created a sound that is uniquely his. There’s no mistaking one of his tracks, even after 30+ years. Replicas stands tall as the moment when Gary Numan became an icon of underground electronic music…a standard bearer who would help push synth music into the forefront in the next decade. It’s easy to hear this now and forget how revolutionary Replicas was in 1979.