Dave Gahan- Paper Monsters (Reprise)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Dirty Sticky Floors
2. Hold On
3. A Little Piece
4. Bottle Living
5. Black And Blue Again
6. Stay
7. I Need You
8. Bitter Apple
9. Hidden Houses
10. Goodbye



Despite being Depeche Mode's lead singer for over 20 years, Dave Gahan has never been credited for writing a single lyric or composing a single note for that band. Those tasks were handled on their debut disc, 1981's Speak and Spell , by keyboardist Vince Clarke and on every release since by keyboardist/guitarist Martin Gore. So it was quite ironic last year that Gore released Counterfeit 2 , a CD full of cover songs while Gahan recorded Paper Monsters , a disc in which he has a co-writing credit on every track.

And while the songs lack some of Gore's twisted and suggestive lyrics, it's a solid debut effort from the voice of Depeche Mode.

Co-written with ex-Psychedelic Furs guitarist Knox Chandler, Paper Monsters delves into the thoughts of the man who was actually dead for a few minutes from a drug overdose back in 1996 before being revived. On the catchy opener, "Dirty Sticky Floors," Gahan sings of "praying over the porcelain throne" and about the paranoia that he felt at the time, "I hope no one can see me/The tin man says I'm doing fine/That lion ain't gonna get me/See that gun right there, it's mine."

On "Bottle Living," a song that opens with a suggestive grunt from Gahan before becoming a stomping number, he sounds completely autobiographical in singing about his past addictions, though he sings the track in third person, "He's a ship without a sail/He's not listening when you speak/Living for the bottle."

"Black And Blue Again," a bluesy number that definitely does not sound like Depeche Mode, sees Gahan finishing the song by singing "You know I'm not very nice."

Gahan is also more quietly reflective on some of the tracks as he seems to be singing about someone who helped free him from his own personal jail. "Hold On," a slower, mellow track sees Gahan singing about "learning how to smile" and "Stay," another slow track which features a nice string backing, he sings, "Living here in shades of grey/Color she light a reason to stay/From where she came it's hard to say/Tiny star she guides my way." While lyrically the disc seems more simplistic than what Gore has penned, the words convey exactly what Gahan needs them to and in many ways, seem much more personal than anything Gore has written.

Overall, the music covers quite a range. Fans of the dancier elements of Depeche Mode should like "Dirty Sticky Floors," "Bottle Living" and "I Need You" while the slower numbers mentioned above are somewhat reminiscent of Depeche Mode tracks like "Home." Credit must go to Chandler, who in addition to co-writing all of the songs, also plays many of the instruments. And the sound of those instruments is enhanced by fine production from Ken Thomas, who is best known for his work with Sigur Ros.

In all, a strong solo effort. While not as immediately accessible or catchy as Depeche Mode, this disc definitely has its highlights and offers some good insights into someone who conquered his personal demons.


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