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Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

November 18, 2007

Laura’s Blog Entry

… so are the days of our lives.

I have some thoughts rattling around in my brain about Dave Gahan’s solo album Hourglass and it’s time to get them onto paper (in a virtual kind of way). I have to say that I connect more with this album than I did with his first solo outing, Paper Monsters. PM was more bluesy and rocky. I like many different genres of music, but rock is not one that I often connect with.

The first thing that jumped out at me about Hourglass is that it is very electronic. I am immersed in electronic stuff right now and I am learning a lot about it, so instantly it was interesting to me on that level. One of Dave’s co-writers, Andrew Philpott, was a huge influence in this department. Andrew co-wrote and co-produced the album with Dave and Christian Eigner. I am becoming a big fan of Mr. Philpott’s work. I’m sure you all know by now how much I adore Martin Gore’s Counterfeit 2 album. Andrew worked on that album as well. I can see his influence more clearly now that I’ve heard another of his projects.

I’ve given Hourglass quite a few listens, and what I find myself wanting to do is divide the album into 2 different playlists – a pretty one and then a dark and gothy one. Like I said on the podcast, I really enjoy the down and dirty dance-y songs. But when I just listen to the quieter ones, they are quite lovely as well.

Here are my thoughts on the songs, in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way:

Saw Something
Good starting track. Begins mellow and laid back. And when those strings kick in, watch out! I am such a sucker for a beautiful vocal combined with a cello. When this track comes on, I find myself stopping what I am doing and getting lost in it. The thing that amazes me about good electronic stuff (and well mixed music in general) is how all the sounds and parts work together while they also occupy their own space – they don’t interfere with each other. Neil has tried to explain it to me – something to do with frequencies of sounds and such. I just know when it is done well and this is really beautiful. Electric guitar, cymbal, cello, all working together but kept clearly distinguishable. It makes my ears very happy!

Kingdom
Love the breathing sounds at the beginning. There are a lot of inhalation sounds on DM records. I have only recently noticed that. It gives the music a more intimate, human feeling. I connect with this song lyrically. Dave said this about it:

“It’s this idea that there’s a better place, and it’s not up there in the clouds, it’s right here.”

I do think there is a Kingdom. I have little patience for people who say, “Isn’t it a shame things are this way. Boy will it be better someday when the Kingdom arrives.” I believe we all need to get off our asses and be a part of making it happen right now. But that’s just me.

Deeper and Deeper
OK, speaking of asses…I can’t wait to hear this one in a club and dance my ass off. Where is my velvet skirt and stomping boots, anyway? The words are … well…a bit disturbing. I’m a girl who appreciates the sweet talk, but I can understand where he’s coming from. I am especially enamored with the percussion on this one. Christian Eigner is responsible for that. Kickin!

21 Days

I notice another technique used on this song that is often employed masterfully on DM records – singing the vocals in 2 octaves – a high and a low. It give a nice fullness to the vocal without having to add a lot of vocal effects. I can’t help compare the “Awww yeah,” part at the beginning with Recoil’s new album Subhuman. Similar bluesy sound. I really don’t know what this song is about. But it has a certain desperation about it. I wanted more verses on this one so I could figure it out. Neil says it is about George Bush.

Miracles
This one gives me a Twin Peaks, Julee Cruise kinda feeling, especially that bass line. It’s really hard to go so minimal and pull it off; here it works. Lyrically I am caught by the honesty of this one. Guaranteed tearjerker live.

Use You
Hello Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson. Love this one. Very hooky and I can’t stop from singing along. Wonder if they’ll play this for me next week at goth dance night. Neil says this one is about drugs. Imagine that…

Insoluble
I am hypnotized by this song. The vocal layering is masterful. Good to see at least one “angel” reference on this record. Here’s my favorite quote of Dave’s that I’ve read regarding writing this album:

“After all these years of singing these songs for Martin, his creepiness is now definitely a part of me,” he says. “But what I’m finding out with ‘Hourglass’ is that I’m just as creepy, if not more so. And I’m OK with that. Because the truth of it is, I couldn’t have had a better template for my own life than Martin Gore’s songs.”

I think deep down they all appreciate each other. It’s nice to see it come out occasionally.

Endless
Turn out the lights, lay of the floor and let this one rip. I think I figured out what I meant on the podcast when I said that there was something missing on the vocals. I think they used some vocal effects that dulled down his voice a bit. Maybe they did that to make things blend better; I don’t know. But this is the song I was talking about when I said that. I wish the vocal were a bit harder-edged on this one. But a great song, nonetheless; one of my favorites.

A Little Lie
Love the sound at the beginning – very Cure-ish. I like the rawness of “A Little Lie.” I like the contrast between the lines, “You know it doesn’t mean nothing,” and “I realize you could be right.” Like when we don’t want to admit we’ve done something wrong. There’s obviously something personal here and I don’t need to know exactly what he’s talking about to get it.

Down

Do you ever listen to a song and think, “I wish someone would have written that song for me”? This is that song. It’s about a certain level of honestly that we don’t often get to in relationships. When you know someone gets you and you can say stuff you would never admit at any other time with any other person. I think I like this vocal performance the best. It’s like he worked hard on the other ones to get them just right and on this one he just sang it. Plus I can’t keep myself from singing harmony to the line “I feel so old.”

When I compare this album to the work of other musicians it is not because I think it is derivate in any way. It is just a language that Neil and I use when we listen to music. We deconstruct layers and parts into smaller bite size bits and talk about all the other things we’ve ever heard that relates to it and then we put it all back together again and listen with wonder at what it come out to be. Very Gestalt – the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts and all that.

I am just so happy for Dave. I know exactly what it is like to find your creative voice in your 40’s. It can bring up regret for years wasted, and make you feel time is going by too fast and there won’t be enough of it to do all the wonderful things you now see are possible. Here’s to the many good years left in that hourglass. I plan to enjoy every single one of them.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2007 5:21 am

    I read this about 3 times and am sooo looking forward to hearing them!

    Yes I am a ‘DM’ nut but have received strict instructions not to buy the album as we are near to christmas so whilst I have heard snippets I can’t wait to actually have the means and the time to sit down an appreciate what I feel will be an even better album than ‘PM’…( hurry up xmas, this is killin me!)

    Thank you for wetting the already wet tastebuds.

  2. November 19, 2007 9:47 am

    Hang on, Christmas is coming! After you give the album a listen come back and let me know if I was completely off base on my rambling thoughts!
    Laura

    PS – I love a man who uses the word “whilst.”

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