Dave Gahan
Paper Monsters CD

When rock stars become a bit bored with their main source of income, they often go for musical solo projects. Shortly after band mate Martin Gore's release featuring a bunch of cover tunes comes Depeche Mode crooner Dave Gahan's first solo album "Paper Monsters", a collection of songs penned by Dave and American musician Knox Chandler.

At first listen you would be forgiven to think "Paper Monsters" was indeed a Depeche Mode album. The opener "Dirty Sticky Floors" comes complete with a pumping bass sequence, slide guitar, and Dave's characteristic vocals - just the kind of tune Depeche Mode are famous for. Then again, the vocals are a highly distinguishing feature in pop music, so it is obviously a bit tricky for vocalists to find a new way of expression outside their usual musical setting.

"Hold On" is the first of many ballads on this album, a gentle lullaby with a very relaxed mood and passing away in such a soft fade-out that the faithful listener may almost fall asleep. Track number three is called "A Little Piece", and that is just what it is: another ballad, yet a bit more dramatic. How about "Bottle Living" then? Well, that's a sleazy Blues-drenched Rock'n'Roll song, including appropriate lyrics and some harmonica-playing, apparently by Dave himself.

"Black and Blue Again" - a slow-motion tune, with the slide guitar and the harmonica back once more, and a mighty string arrangement serving as an interlude. Another ballad, albeit a dark one, comes in the shape of "Stay", and those who actually do "stay" in front of the speakers will inevitably witness the next tune: "I Need You" is quite an uninspired composition and in my humble opinion the weakest song of the album - it strolls along without highs and lows.

Time for another ballad: "Bitter Apple" with its melancholic undertones and catchy arrangement could have been a favourite, but is let down by the sometimes too flamboyant string sounds. "Hidden Houses" is a bit in the depeche mode again: a solid tune, borne by a mighty bass line. Move on to "Goodbye", the last track on the album, and the finest one, too.

So what do we make of this album then? Actually, it is far from groundbreaking, but rather a solid pop album that reeks so much of Depeche Mode that faithful fans of this band will certainly love it. It may also appeal to people who dig The Cure or Indochine, for it represents just that kind of melancholic pop music. That said, the paper monsters are nothing to be scared of - I would say they are almost a bit cuddly.

"Paper Monsters" will be available in various formats. The CD version features a copy protection that should allow for playback on most computers' CD-ROM drives - however, it didn´t work with my computer. I understand there's a special software on the CD that needs to be installed first.

(rh 05/MMIII)

Label: Mute

Don´t be afraid of the paper monsters