What’s the purpose of making an album of cover versions anyway? Do bands make them in a bid to create a stop-gap in between releases of original material? This is certainly something that benefits a record label’s marketing efforts.
Or, are artists looking to piggyback on the fame of established songs? After all, Diamond Lee Roth once claimed that there was no reason in laboring over your own songs when you could catch a hit by covering something else’s. One glance at many of his biggest hits shows that he meant it too.
Perhaps, as is the case with Dave Gahan, the covers album is a loving mixtape. It serves as an attempt to reach your audience. It’s an attempt at intimacy. The choice of cover songs in itself might reveal more than original material ever did.
In this sense, Dave Gahan has done a great thing with his new covers album, Imposter. The album should help remind the Depeche Mode singer’s supporters that he is a music fan. Dave Gahan is the kind of fan that takes a deep dive into the body of a work of an artist they appreciate.
Imposter, an album made alongside Gahan’s production team Soulsavers, shines in terms of its song selection. These are not songs of someone that has shuffled through Spotify their entire life. These tunes come straight out of Dave Gahan’s great music collection.
There’s plenty of gloom in the source material. Gahan, however, manages to emphasize it in a kind of stadium-goth way, not unlike the sound produced by his most famous band, Depeche Mode.
Through it all, it remains clear that Dave Gahan loves these songs, and understands them. This is not material simply put in front of him by a manager or producer.
The only slight concern might be with vocals required to express this brand of soulfulness. More often than not, Gahan opts for the songs of very distinctive vocalists. His instinct is to add a touch of vibrato and power to almost every phrase he sings. Although Gahan’s voice is itself remarkable, a soul singer he is not. Lilac wine and Always on my mind show this.
Shut me down, Not dark yet, and Strange religion bring with them a kind of immediacy and combativeness that has characterized Depeche Mode’s 1990s body of work, arguably their best.
Imposter is Dave Gahan’s love letter to the songwriting of some of alternative music’s greatest songwriters. They say more about the man than a thousand-page autobiography ever could.