One of the most heartening sights on the featured DVD documentaries contained on the recent Depeche Mode re-issues is that of a very content looking Alan Wilder. He always has something interesting to say, plumped in a comfy chair by a roaring log fire, his spectacles dangling on a chain round his neck. He looks older, but not old, and a more mellow individual than the one who stormed out of his old band over a decade ago.
Since his departure, he has continued what started as a side project, a way to vent his own song writing skills. As Recoil, he has produced a number of albums to mostly mass indifference, not that he has made any concerted effort to promote or compromise the sound to make them more attractive commercially. As a member of Depeche Mode, he was the musical powerhouse, the master arranger who could take the ideas of Martin Gore and fashion them into technical marvels. Indeed, he often had to be reined in by his bandmates, the “man of the street” ears of Andy Fletcher swatting the flights of fantasy, bringing things back to something the milkman can whistle on his rounds.
And this is something he maybe lacks in Recoil. It would be wrong to compare these efforts with Depeche Mode, but what it does lack is a cohesive sense. The songs are unstructured affairs, that meander on for 10 minute chunks, often little more than repetition and the odd “stop/start” moment before carrying on as before. The end result is an album that sounds more or less the same. Lead single Prey, whilst not without merit, is nothing that Moby hasn’t already done before, with a sharper pair of scissors in the edit to stop the song becoming boring.
This release doesn’t lack ideas, or technical know-how, or even musical ability. Sadly, what it does lack is diversity. Once you’ve listened to the first minute or two of a song you have enough information to save you persevering for the next eight. Whilst it certainly sounds impressive, what it doesn’t sound is interesting.