Gahan, previously of Depeche Mode, makes a return to his electronica roots with new album Hourglass.
Steeped in New Wave, it's bleak and epic, not unlike a lot of early Depeche Mode. To give Gahan credit, he has the right to tackle the dark side solo: after overdosing on a heroine-cocaine speedball in 1996 he was pronounced clinically dead for two minutes. Tragic decadence is a recurring theme, and the Bowie-Iggy Berlin era is an influence; strongest track Use You is tantalisingly close to Nightclubbing. It's about when partying goes wrong, but you survive - something Gahan underscores with his choice of session musicians, including John Frusciante (Chilli Peppers), a fellow ex-heroine addict, on opener Saw Something.
You can't shake the sense, though, that Gahan's impressively market-friendly baritone doesn't quite do justice to the content or the sparse sound of this album. When he does manage a Nick Cave-esque snarl it is, oddly, a breath of fresh air. Otherwise vocals (which bizarrely remind me of Chris Martin - imagine Coldplay covering Mercy Seat) can leave you feeling like this album, which sets out to question the foundations of the reality it shakes, manages little more than dotting a hazy question mark amid some fairly well-established musical wandering.
If you like Depeche Mode, you'll like this, and fair play if that's what Gahan was aiming for, but the tantalising moments of promise may indicate that with a few more years, and a bit more distance, Gahan could deliver something truly capable of blowing shallower acts out of the water.