Gahan vs. Depeche Mode, new solo album “Hourglass”

One of the worst side-effects to writing music criticisms is the lack of total abandonment I allow myself when listening to a record (is Ayumi Hamasaki’s LOVEppears really the greatest pop album of all time? No, but in 1999 I thought it was). There’s something to be said of the fact that before I started this website, or the ones like it before, I was, and still am, first and foremost, a fan of music, rather than that jerk who pretends she knows what she’s talking about when she writes things like ‘Achtung Baby-era U2′ or, ‘sounds like Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” without the catchy chorus and deadpan vocals.’ I used to judge albums rather simply: did I like it right away? how many listens did it take before I liked it? how does it make me feel? is the lead singer hot? Of course, in serious criticism, nobody cares about any of those things (I’m kidding about that last one, by the way), especially not how the writer didn’t enjoy the music so much but gave the record an eight out of ten because he drove his wife and newborn baby home from the hospital listening to it. And furthermore, in the age of computer downloading, when your next album is already in the queue, there is no longer any need to make yourself like an album simply because you spent hard-earned lawn-mowing money on it and won’t be able to purchase anything new in another five weeks.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the perks of the Internet, but I do miss those days of finding an album and though disliking it upon first listen, having the time and patience to get to know its quirks and appreciate them gradually. Unless it really sucked right away, then I just pissed and moaned for days about wasting money on it. I mean yeah, it would be great if I loved every single piece of music I ever heard and could wax poetical on the carefully constructed single “Easy Breezy” by Japanese pop star Hikaru Utada (maybe, ‘when Utada croons “You’re easy breezy / and I’m Japanesey” the goose bumps did rise and the soul of Edgar Allen Poe, whom she addresses later in the album, seemed to rise in spirit as she seemingly dictates the words of her muse’), but I can’t love everything.

Enter the perks of writing musical criticisms: the ability to look beyond the total abandonment of sense and direction, to see where the music truly lies in relation to its peers, its own discography, and ok yeah, the personal agenda of its listener. Music is basically a solo activity, no doubt about it. And without kids staying home on Saturday nights, popping in CDs (edit later: hooking iPod up to the speakers), and setting it on full volume, where would the great fans of music be? I guess in the clubs dancing away their blues or attempting to catch the eye of a cute girl, or in the car driving home after a long day of work with a preferred station playing, or maybe even in an elevator waiting for the doors to pop open. It doesn’t matter; alone or in large groups of people; nobody is hearing a song in the exact same way as the person next to them. I call this simple physics; two existing forms of matter can never exist in the same place at the same time without disastrous consequences.

So that was going to be the introduction to my long, pointless Top 100 Albums list where I would I bitch and moan about artists who haven’t released any solid records since MY STORY, but it seems (reluctantly, but willingly), a fitting introduction to the June 26th announcement of Depeche Mode vocalist Dave Gahan’s second solo album, Hourglass. The official stats: will be released October 22, this year. The worries: none, DM will be working on their next album in the Spring of 2008. But seriously: I’m excited.

Depeche Mode is one of those bands that I still manage to listen to with total abandonment; ok, maybe in the grand scheme of things they’re not all that great, though my mind refuses to acknowledge this completely and instead, pegs them as forerunners to the young’uns of today who can only dream of Gore’s ability to pen the ultimate in singles and albums on a steady basis. But I love them, and in an almost freaky fifteen-year-old teeny-bopper way, worship the ground they mix their music on. But Dave Gahan’s solo work is another story: total abandonment? Hardly. It’s with a more critical ear that I listened to his debut solo project Paper Monsters, a still heavily DM-like album, but with lots less synth and more post-heroin confessions (it would almost be totally un-DM like if it didn’t make you depressed, but alas…). Sure, I liked the album, and yes, I’m definitely anticipating the upcoming album, but will I listen to it with the same sense of awe I get of loving the album before I even hear it like I already do their next DM collaboration? Eh. However, if they’re anything like his three recent contributions to DM’s “Playing the Angel” (for the record – “Suffer Well,” “I Want it All,” and “Nothing’s Impossible”), it has potential to cut the Hell out of Paper Monsters. The bad news? Book-by-its-cover judgment with song titles like “Down,” “Tomorrow,” and “Miracles.” Booo-ring (sorry, I’m just keepin’ it real here).