Dave Gahan, formerly of Depeche Mode fame, released his second solo effort Hourglass in October 2007. While the record garnered mostly favorable reviews, it can be difficult to disassociate Gahan from his work with Depeche Mode. While Hourglass is certainly reminiscent of the group, there are undeniable qualities separating it from the Depeche Mode catalog. The end result is respectable electronica, with urgent percussion and Gahan’s signature croon for style.
The album opener, “Saw Something” does a fine job acquainting the listener with Gahan’s vocal and lyrical style, but did not seem to fit the album as a whole. It easily could have introduced an entirely different record, with more airy pop qualities. The whole of Hourglass is slow and mechanical, pounding along with force and constancy. The percussion is mostly to thank in this instance. It laid an immense foundation, with the rest of the instrumentation following its lead. The mechanical din of synthesized instruments nodded at Gahan’s Depeche Mode past, though remained undeserving of any “industrial” classification. Organic instruments were featured on Hourglass, and were blended in with the rattling homogeny of the other instrumentation. They served a seemingly supplementary purpose to the whole of the album.
The record seemed to exist more as a collection of songs rather than a purposefully arranged album. Though not to be taken as a fault, necessarily, it seemed that Hourglass was lacking in any real direction, with strikingly similar tracks backed up against one another, amounting to an unfortunate monotony that consumed the middle of the release. The standout tracks offered a different range of sound, from noisy oscillations during “Deeper and Deeper” to more melodic tunes such as “Miracles.” Hourglass seemed to shift attention from atmosphere and feeling (per the droning interludes in between songs) to the musical and lyrical content, perhaps further attributing the lack of focus that subtly haunts it. The tracks flowed well into one another, but could be more easily compared to mounting an exercise bike for fifty minutes rather than a trek from points A to B.
Hourglass would most likely be a more fulfilling listen to fans of Gahan’s other work or the Depeche Mode catalog, but from an outside perspective (or one unfamiliar with his other works) it seems to fade into the overwhelming mass of electronica releases . However, despite its apparent flaws (however minor or major they could be perceived), there are equally as many redeeming qualities to be found and enjoyed. Hourglass is a testament to musicians who have found their forte, but may forever work in the shadow of their prior efforts.