Review: Dave Gahan & Soulsavers — Angels & Ghosts


davegahanandsoulsaversDepeche Mode droned their way into our hearts in the early 1980s with upbeat little ditties like “Just Can’t Get Enough”, but as the decade wore on, the band veered increasingly into darker territory in songs like “Blasphemous Rumours” and “Master And Servant”. Moody, introspective, sometimes unsettling, sometimes powerful, always set to the electronic beats.

Elvis Costello famously said that the goal of the 1980s New Wave was to deny that the 60s Rock Revolution had existed at all, and Depeche Mode may have embodied this ethos more fully than anybody else. They were the first big act to completely abandon traditional Rock instruments, showing up on stage with each member behind a synthesizer.

Remarkably, the band carried on through the 1990s and into the 21st Century maintaining a high level of popularity, adding electric guitars and drums as an apparent concession that Rock history did indeed exist. After recovering from drug and personal problems, lead singer Dave Gahan joined the others in pursuing solo work.

Sponsored link (story continues below)

Three years ago, he hooked up with the Soulsavers, a bit of an outlier among electronica artists thanks to their embrace of acoustic gospel and country sounds. It’s a good fit, allowing Gahan to venture into no-beats acoustic treatments without straying too far away from the safety of an electronica home.

Angels & Ghosts, the second album for this collaboration, opens with a real splash on the song “Shine”, a twangy, desert, old-time gospel number featuring Gahan belting out proclamations of sunshine, light, and joy:

There’s light here
And it shines on you
It shines, yeah it shines down
It shines on you

When you look around
It’s so profound
Oh we can do
You and me
All of us
Here we’re coming through
Here we’re coming through
We gonna shine on you

I thought, well that’s one helluva transformation, from the prince of darkness to the prince of light. But it turns out ‘Shine” is a bit of an anomaly. On the rest of the album Gahan reverts to more melancholy sentiments, however, unlike his older work, there is always a sense of direction towards some kind of redemption. “All of This and Nothing” kicks up an acoustic dust storm as Gahan sings:

Sing your song, sing out for me
Give it everything you’ve got, just one more time for me
Move in from the dark

I’m all of this and nothing
I’m the dirt beneath your feet
I’m the sun that rises while you’re sleeping
I’m all you need

The river’s wide, too wide to see
There’s a storm outside my window moving close to me
Move in from the dark

So this is basically a downtempo, moody and introspective album. I won’t say it lacks energy but it certainly won’t get you moving. On the other hand it delivers an ultimately positive message, which is never a bad thing. Gahan’s voice is more powerful and expressive than it’s ever been. And it is beautifully produced. The pianos, organs, acoustic and electric guitars as well as strings and horns are sometimes brought in clean, and other times are treated with reverb and more subtle effects to enhance the, uh, introspective mood.

But it makes you wonder how much better Depeche Mode might have sounded if they had used real instruments. Or maybe that’s just the Rockist in me talking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *