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Dave Gahan - Paper Monster (Mute)

After over twenty years as the frontman for one of the most successful and innovative electronic acts of all time, you would suspect that Dave Gahan would be a veteran of all areas of the music and creative fields. Not so. Although he is the lead singer with the seminal Depeche Mode, his first solo album sees him step into the role of songwriter for the very first time. This role was previously filled exclusively by Martin Gore.

The album is not what one would expect. Overall, it is laced with a fairly upbeat and positive air, which is quite unexpected when you consider that Gahan is a recovering heroin addict who narrowly escaped death on more than one occasion due to wrist-slashing and overdoses. There is little self-pity or dark disturbing tales, instead what we are given here is a starkly open and very honest portrayal of his life today.

The opening track and first single lifted from the album, 'Dirty sticky floors', has a catchy guitar riff and a broody electronic backdrop. Gahan explores his former life as a self-styled rock god and junkie as he sings "Ask me what I want/easy, that's just more". Ultimately, it is a rather tongue in cheek reflection of the absurdity of this clichéd lifestyle of him partying and then "lying on my own/ on some dirty sticky floor".

It is here that the tributes to his former self fade. In next few tracks, 'Hold On' and 'A Little Piece', he is much more tender. Being more open and direct than most, Gahan speaks openly of the influence of his children and wife on his new stance as a happy and recovering man. Singing in a vocal style quite different to the deep bass sound he stamped on the offerings from Depeche Mode, his song writing, although quite simplistic in places, offers a warm and human touch to the overall feel of the album.

Gahan does delve into a variety of relatively personal issues. On 'Black and blue again', he sings of his relationship with his wife and the meandering ups and downs of their life together. It is here that it's flawed; the absolute directness and honesty of his writing does make it a little difficult to relate the songs to anything but the exact meaning, which is his private life.

Some of the sounds are a little repetitive, but there are some great offerings on this first solo outing from Gahan. The musical arrangement of 'Bitter apple' is emotive and the lyrics relay his vulnerability as the average man and his struggles and desire for life and love. Again on 'Hidden Houses' it is the instrumentation that hits the hardest, with Ken Thomas of Sigur Ros as producer, it is easy to see where the musical depth comes from.

This album is a daring move from Gahan. It sees him move into new territory for the first time in two decades, which must be rather daunting for him. As a first effort, it certainly creates an interest in any future works he may produce either inside Depeche Mode or as a successful solo artist.

Bernadette Johnston

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