Thursday, June 19, 2003

Dave Gahan - Paper Monsters

After the release of Depeche Mode's Exciter album in 2001, the members of the band took some time off to pursue other projects. Andrew Fletcher started the Toast Hawaii record company, Martin Gore was preparing his second collection of cover tunes and Dave Gahan with the help of multi-instrumentalist Knox Chandler (Psychedelic Furs, Golden Palominos and Siouxsie And The Banshees) recorded his debut solo album Paper Monsters.

The hardest thing for any long-time vocalist to do is step out of the shadow of a band they've been with for over 2 decades and create something original. For Gahan, it was expected to be easier. Depeche Mode leaned on the writing talents of Martin Gore (with the exception of Vince Clarke on Speak & Spell and a few tracks by Alan Wilder.) But for the most part, Dave Gahan has been an unknown commodity when it comes to songwriting. Paper Monsters opens with the first single "Dirty Sticky Floors" which doesn't do much to get out of the shadow except for the seedy title. More recently it seems like every Depeche Mode album has one grittier song (that is often chosen as the first single) and this seems like an amalgam of "Barrel Of A Gun" and "I Feel You" but can't fault him for playing to his strengths. "Stay" is a nice sparse production that along with "Hold On" and "Bitter Apple" are the balance of beautiful tracks the album needed. "I Need You" is a great but predictable dance track. There is an over-riding sense of darkness to the album with a lot of personal songs that seem to show Gahan dealing with his personal demons specifically on the Dead Of Night-like stomp-fest "Bottle Living" and the bluesy "Black And Blue Again."

Dave Gahan set the bar high for Paper Monsters. There were some moments where lyrically he didn't get his chin over that bar but for a debut album this shows Gahan has promise as a solo artist.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Fleetwood Mac - Say You Will

Fleetwood Mac have returned with their first full studio album in 16 years minus the vocal and piano talents of Christine McVie. To put this album in perspective, the last few albums by the band contained 12 tracks which was pretty healthy for a time when people were slapping a few singles on an album with filler material bumping most albums to 9 or 10 tracks. Say You Will has 18 (9 written by Stevie Nicks and 9 by Lindsey Buckingham.)

None of this is filler! A lot of the album is what you'd predict: delicate pop beauty by Nicks and sophisticated experimentation by Buckingham. Upon first listen, Lindsey has some moments that are nerve-wracking ("Red Rover," "Come," "Say Goodbye" and "Miranda.") After 3 listens of the disc, I came to understand that my musical boundaries were being tortured methodically and I found myself not skipping the tracks anymore but relishing in them. Buckingham does find some beauty of his own with "Steal Your Heart Away" and a re-working of "Bleed To Love Her" (from The Dance album.) Nicks on the other hand has beauty to spare and hits an apex with her tender "Goodbye Baby." "Running Through The Garden" actually has the energy to feel like a sprint through rose bushes. I could rave about the title track, the haunting "Illume (9-11)" or "Thrown Down"'s probably easier to point out the songs that aren't amazing. That's because they aren't there! Say You Will is an instant classic that Fleetwood Mac fans have been begging for.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Ministry - Animositisomina

As Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker's first album of the new millennium, a lot was said about Ministry returning to the sound and angst of their 1989 release The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. Would their follow-up to 1999's Dark Side Of The Spoon live up to the hype?

Animositisomina breaks out of the gates screaming with raging drums, stabbing guitars and growl galore with "Animosity." The song is the centerpiece of this album as a lot of the strength of it carries over into ripping tracks like the aggressive "Piss," the slow grinding chant-a-long "Shove" and the drum driven "Impossible." "Unsung" musically makes me think that Ministry ran over KMFDM's tour van on the way to the studio and can't peel the guitar-work off their wheels. This isn't a bad thing but it's a new area for them. The phenomenally produced industrial square dance, "Broken," is bound to become a mosh pit favorite. The surprise on this album was the band's cover of Magazine's "Light Pours Out Of Me" which is as dark as it is seems out of place and maybe too true to the original.

Overall, Animositisomina is a strong move back to Ministry's more powerful work. Although a few songs just barely miss their mark ("Leper" and "Stolen,") it'd be well worth picking up if you are looking for something to push your musical boundaries or if you are just looking for something to kick.