DAVE GAHAN has risen from livewire Essex soulboy to globally adored rock 'n 'soul star during more than two decades as one of pop's most iconic frontmen. As the voice of Depeche Mode, Dave has become a hero to millions, hitting intense public highs and deep personal lows. But in all this time he never quite found the right emotional frame of mind to vent his true feelings on record. Until now.
'Paper Monsters' is Gahan's first solo album, and finds the singer starting from scratch again. Composed with a multi-instrumentalist friend from New York, Knox Chandler, and produced by Ken Thomas of Sigur Rós fame, the album is a 21st century masterpiece of tones and textures, reflection and rebirth. Boasting the freshness of a debut but the seasoned wisdom of an old soul, it was recorded in an open-ended, back-to-basics manner which Dave found both liberating and exhilarating.
"What really hit me most was how happy and fulfilled it made me feel," he nods. "I wanted to hear something that makes me feel good. That's been the train of thought throughout this record, and Ken's been really great with that."
Although Dave has fronted Depeche Mode for 22 years, 'Paper Monsters' marks his debut as a fully fledged songwriter. The monsters of the title make passing reference to his former appetite for destruction, but mostly to more everyday demons - from the agonies and ecstasies of long-term love to the heartbreaking euphoria of fatherhood. But while sensual, sublime confessionals like 'Hold On', 'A Little Piece', and 'Stay' may be lullabies of longing wrapped in chamber-music arrangements, the album's prevailing mood is overwhelmingly positive. "It sounds hopeful because that's what I am," insists the rejuvenated singer.
Indeed, 'Paper Monsters' is a musical journey where hope conquers hurt. According to Dave, 'Bitter Apple' is about rediscovering the exquisite pain of love. 'Stay', meanwhile, is a majestic hymn of quiet awe inspired by the birth of his daughter. "When she was born it was like a big arrow went through my heart," Dave recalls. "I really started to feel like my heart was beating again."
But 'Paper Monsters' also has its dark, wasted, lustful side. From the meatgrinder glam racket of 'Bottle Living', featuring Dave's own ragged blues harmonica, to the nightmarish Wizard of Oz fantasy of 'Dirty Sticky Floors', the singer gives vent to the sleazy alter ego he half-jokingly calls Evil Dave: "Essex Boy made good," he laughs.
All of the album's diverse emotional themes come together in 'She Said (Goodbye)', an uplifting anthem about answered prayers and spiritual reawakening. "The most important thing to me was that all of the songs have a sense of humour," Dave explains, "but at the same time a message of hope and faith."
A masterpiece of reflection, redemption and rebirth, 'Paper Monsters' finds Dave Gahan at the peak of his powers, seizing the day and celebrating his unquenchable lust for life. 'It's like I'm waking up, and I'm realising there's been a hell of a lot given to me," explains Dave. "I've been given a lot of chances in my life and it's time for me to take those gifts and do something with them. It's all about freedom."
Barbara Charone - MBC Media
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