Tubeway Army : Are 'Friends" Electric?
In April of 1979, Tubeway Army released Replicas , a dystopian science fiction themed concept album based on unpublished short stories leader Gary Numan had written. Inspired by Philip K Dick, the stories revolve around Machmen (think the replicants in Blade Runner) and the Grey Men who rule the world. Numan is dressed as a Machman overlooking "The Park" on the cover.
The best known track is the menacing "Are 'Friends" Electric?", the first synthpop hit to top the U.K. charts. Asked by a Guardian reader if he was inspired by Ultravox or any other band blending rock and synthesizers, Numan responded:
I remember the first time I heard "Cars" in the United States. Nothing sounded like it before to my inexperienced ears. In the U.K. I'm sure it was the same thing with "Are Friends Electric?". Not everything is driven by synthesizers. The drums are organic which gives the song a breath of humanity even as Numan sings "You know I hate to ask /But are 'friends' electric?/ Only mine's broke down/ And now I've no one to love"
"The Machman" is a terrific deep cut, more rocker than synthpop. "Me, I Disconnect From You" is the opening track of the album, a clear sign that if you were looking for the warmth of James Taylor and Cat Stevens, you had purchased the wrong record.