'Hidden Houses' is deliciously devilish and angelic in equal measure and demonstrates...
Kate Lawrence 2003
As the iconic frontman of Depeche Mode, Dave Gahan has lived the archetypal rock 'n' roll lifestyle and has somehow lived to tell the tale, although for 6 minutes in 1996, he was clinically dead.Luckily, he survived this tormented period of his life, but while colleague Martin Gore has extensively explored solo territory (including current release, Counterfeit 2), it seemed slightly odd that Gahan had never seen the appeal of relaying his exceptional story on his own terms.
So given his reticence in the past, it is a pleasant surprise to find that Paper Monsters is such an assured debut. Comprising a series of sincere and polished narratives and drawing on many musical influences, you shouldn't expect a Depeche Mode album.
Paper Monsters is produced by Ken Thomas (Sigur Ros) and co-writing credits go to Knox Chandler (ex-Psychedelic Furs guitarist and musical all-rounder).Despite this collaboration, the album is deeply autobiographical throughout. "Dirty Sticky Floors" and "Bottle Living" both clearly reflect the hedonist that Gahan's image tends to conjure up (in the lead up to this album, he has revealed an alter-ego "Evil Dave" as the influence behind these tracks). They are also the most reminiscent of Depeche Mode - sprawling and decadent.Yet it seems that minus Gore's melodramatic input, these songs become strangely optimistic and hopeful.
On the other hand, tracks such as "Hold On" and "Bitter Apple" are more serene, sensuous and well crafted. Other treats include "I Need You" - a relaxed, lo-fi electro number and "Hidden Houses" which is deliciously devilish and angelic in equal measure and demonstrates a vocal range rarely seen in the Mode back catalogue.
Gahan has described the making of this album as a liberating process.With most artists of his stature, this would more than likely involve a clumsy catharsis resulting in a crude ego trip. Given the surprising depth of Paper Monsters, you have to wonder why he waited 22 years before he confided in us.