The Dave Gahan of 2007 is a million miles away from the fresh-faced shelf stacker of his youth, a man who technically has no right to be alive given the abuse he has inflicted upon himself. He is also a man who has struggled with image and identity – all puppy-faced and fat cheeked in the early days of Depeche Mode, before transforming himself into the rather faux tattooed rock god found in the Songs of Faith and Devotion era. In recent years, he has settled down into a man who finally seems happy to inhabit his skin, displaying a confidence previously smothered by leather and hair lacquer.
As the vocalist for Martin Gore’s notebook, there must have been times when he thought to himself: “do I have to sing that?”. Gore’s words at times take simplistic to new levels, and whilst his lyrics occasionally manage to touch an emotive chord, they are often downright stupid. Gahan has in the past voiced the frustration he felt in not being able to put forward his own compositions for the bands albums, and is rumoured to have threatened to walk away from “Playing the Angel” unless he was permitted some creative input. He then went on to provide probably the best track on the album, “Suffer Well”, which managed to sound fresh and exciting, but at the same time straight out of the Depeche Mode mould, by sounding very Gore, from the simplistic (but rather snappy) “face/space/eyes/lies” lyrics to the effective plucked guitar line.
So as a solo-artist, Gahan can sing whatever he fancies. Shame then that his lyrics mirror a lot of Gore’s musings – merely statements about life that reach no clear conclusions, all in the same “cat, hat, bat” format. And the music is not dissimilar either, this album sounding like a more bombastic “Playing the Angel”, electronics winning over the guitars of his debut solo release Paper Monsters, full of muscular throbbing keyboards and effects. What it lacks is excitement – the album merely plods along as if walking into the wind, lifting its head slightly before ducking back down again. “Saw Something” for example is reasonably good, with the inclusion of strings hyping the atmosphere, but like most on here the pace is leaden and uninteresting. “Deeper and Deeper” ups the tempo a notch, but does little to retain interest.
The album ends badly – “A Little Lie” is poor, the lyrics almost a parody of Depeche. “Down” also fails to sparkle, despite the confessional lines and the atmospheric keyboards. Gahan’s in his vocal just sounds like he is trying too hard, every line proceeded by what sounds like a flatulent belch before delivering another trite word of wisdom. As was the case with Paper Monsters, whilst you have to admire Gahan’s desire to be seen as a songwriter in his own right, it’s a shame he isn’t doing this with better songs.