Exile is the thirteenth solo studio album by Gary Numan, released in October 1997 by Eagle Records. I have difficulty with this, namely that it was 21 bloody years ago, I can’t reconcile with this timespan at all, ten I could accept, but 21, it seems so damn long ago. I was still, just, in my twenty’s. I bought it a couple of years ago and I have only just looked to see what year it was released, hence my difficulty coming to terms with it being 1997.
Its release continued a critical upswing in Numan’s career which had begun three years earlier with the release of Sacrifice. This album is loosely conceptual, based on God and the Devil being two sides of the same coin, not denying God, but questioning whether God is entirely a force for good. Shorty after the release of the album Numan was quoted as saying: “Personally, I don’t believe in God at all, but if I’m wrong and there is a God, what kind of god would it be who would give us the world we live in?”
The opening track, Dominion Day, is basically gothic/industrial rock and everything that follows is in the same tone. It’s a mine that he has been digging from the late 90’s until today, and very successfully at times. The track describes a man’s nightmare becoming reality as Christ returns to Earth in scenes reminiscent of the Book of Revelations.
Dark explores Numan’s premise of an incestuous relationship between God and the Devil. The track was widely used for movie trailers before actually appearing in one, Alex Proyas’ Dark City.
Dead Heaven is a different telling of biblical tales with Mary not being revered by the three wise men, but ravaged and Absolution muses on the consequences of unquestioning faith.
Thought I saw love
Mary under three wise men
Thought I saw the Virgin look at me and cry
Exile received some very positive reviews at the time of release but wasn’t a chart success, though the accompanying tour was very well attended. Some fans who had been put off by Sacrifice’s (The previous release) anti-religious undertones were further alienated by the subject matter and lyrics of Exile. The website remindmetosmile.com (now defunct) changed from a tribute page to one openly critical of Numan for being “so bold that he feels he can mock God and feel good about it“. Numan’s response was:
“This sort of reaction always amazes me. Here you have people that genuinely believe that God created this entire bloody universe in just six days, without anybody’s help, and yet they seem to think that He needs their help to deal with little me. If God was bothered about me, He would deal with me“.
I find the reaction of the fans rather odd as, if you go all the way back to Replicas in 1979 the guy is singing, in Down In The Park, about rape machines, which those who were complaining about being mean to God, were presumably absolutely fine about.
You can watch the humans
Trying to run
Oh look there’s a rape machine
I’d go outside if he’d look the other way
There are several youtube videos of the Exile tour but the quality is bloody awful so I won’t share them here, go seek them out if they are of interest.
The album, a double on 180g Grey vinyl was selling for £8 in the now defunct local record store, I still think it was a bargain as it is full of really good songs, not very cheerful songs it’s true, but still good. I wouldn’t put it on at a party unless I wanted everybody to get on a bit of a downer and leave. Also, it didn’t originally receive a vinyl release, there was a pressing in 2008 and the one I have is 2012. Originally it was CD or cassette only.
This and the previous album were very much the beginning of Numan’s upward trajectory although he would not reach the superstar status of his early years he has carved out a place for himself in modern music by not relying on those early releases and insisting on always moving forward by releasing new material and touring it. Recently there have been full album tours, which has been in vogue of late, but he has said himself that sometimes you have to give the people what they want, but he is still putting new music out there and stands or falls by it.
He mostly stands.