It’s surprising in a way how long it took Dave Gahan to release his first solo album. After more than twenty years as Depeche Mode‘s frontman, he must have had a pretty good idea of how to write a hit, but never seemed to have got himself together. Or possibly was too busy with other side projects, such as taking narcotics.
Anyway, Dirty Sticky Floors was the dirty, grungy opening single, a fantastic track, which, if it weren’t for the bass line and of course the vocalist, could have been any contemporary pop-rock crossover act. It was, entirely justifiably, a substantial hit single, breaking the top twenty in the UK and peaking at number 6 in Germany.
But of course he could pull off a single – could he also extend that to a full album? Well, Hold On is pretty promising – not quite as catchy as the opening track, but still a strong and memorable bluesy song.
There does seem to be a bit of a downward spiral happening here though, as the mellow and forgettable A Little Piece follows. It’s pleasant enough; it just never really goes anywhere, and if the album had more like this, then it really wouldn’t be a great debut.
Fortunately, it doesn’t – final single Bottle Living turns up next, lifting the mood. This is, in style, very similar to the opening track, but a lot darker – there’s nothing electronic about this track, it’s rock through and through. Very good rock though. There are still valid criticisms, such as the fact that the lyrics don’t entirely make sense, but that’s alright once in a while.
“I’m back in the room with the two-way door,” isn’t exactly a great opening line either, but Black and Blue Again is a pretty good track otherwise. There’s some nice slide guitar work, and some very clear shades of Depeche Mode at times, but there’s nothing really wrong with that – he did have a clear audience for this release, after all.
This is a thoughtfully structured album, and Stay leads the second half, with strong echoes of Ultra. There are no drums really, more just gentle percussion. It’s a sweet, meandering song, with an ever-present air of grunge hiding in the background.
Then comes second single I Need You, which is, hands down, the best song on here. It’s a deliciously summery love song, and a gentle trippy electronic beat runs all the way through, with very understated guitar work and shimmering synthesisers. It’s really quite brilliant.
Bitter Apple is a bit of an odd song, but it works nicely here among its neighbours, including Hidden Houses. These may not be the best tracks that Gahan has ever recorded, but they should be reasonably high on the list, actually. Goodbye, too, hardly leaves you at the end of the album with an uplifted feeling, but it does round Gahan’s first solo work out comprehensively at least. Paper Monsters may tail off a little at times, but all round, it is an exceptional debut release, and well worth a listen.
You can still find Paper Monsters at all major retailers.