I feel sorry for Dave Gahan. It must be hard to try and live down a legacy as long-lasting as Depeche Mode’s when all you want to do is make some decent electronic music on your own steam away from your main band. It must be even harder when someone like Thom Yorke releases something like The Eraser that steals all the best tricks and then lets his band release another stormer weeks before your own. Admittedly, his solo debut Paper Monsters came out first and recent Depeche Mode album Playing the Angel included the rather good single, Suffer Well, one of the few songs written by Gahan that has been released by Depeche Mode. It’s a shame that Hourglass does little to suggest he’s got the material to last a whole album.
It’s by no means a mediocre album; Tony Hoffer behind the desk has ensured that the sounds are there, the beats wholesome, the atmospherics lush and the vocals clear in the mix. The problem is that it’s more electronically orientated than Paper Monsters, inevitably leading to a repetitive slog through similar sounding songs when some different instrumentation might have proved more interesting. There are some misplaced dynamics in this album, meaning a bit of trimming or rearranging could have upped my score a notch or two. Opener Saw Something kicks in four minutes too late and then disappears immediately after. New single Kingdom and Deeper and Deeper fare better with more consistent danceable beats but then the middle section of the album drags horribly with slower tempos and more sparse arrangements (although ‘Use You’ might wake you up, it’s still quite dull). By the time you get to (I hope ironically titled) Endless, there’s no momentum left to enjoy such a slow builder, despite it essentially being a cooler but darker brother to Goldfrapp’s glam stomp stylings on Supernature. Gahan’s lyrics have not improved much either, but as with Depeche Mode, his delivery has always the one of biggest pulls. It’s in full emotive force here, tricking you into thinking lines like "Open the door, it’s only me" (from ‘Kingdom’) actually mean something profound if you’re only half listening.
When the band actually turns up on closer ‘Down’, you certainly think a better album or a brilliant EP could’ve been crafted from this selection of songs, but unfortunately instead we get something distinctly average, if not below.