Postcards From Berlin

Debut

Debutsounds LLC, 2015

http://www.debutsounds.com

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/15/2015

There is one very undesirable detail on Postcards From Berlin, which is as hard to miss as a big nasty scar. It is the fact that this record seems to grotesquely mimic the musical style of Depeche Mode – not just a specific genre or a specific set of bands, but specifically Depeche Mode.

It is true that all bands sound like their influences to some degree, but very seldom do they sound like them to the extent that [debut] does on this record. It’s questionable whether they have a modicum of creativity in them. If there was any intention on the part of Los Angeles-based songwriter/producer Gareth Thomas (the mastermind behind [debut]) to take his love for Depeche Mode and make something original and unique, it is completely lost on this record. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A band like Depeche Mode has been around long enough to have gone through distinct musical phases. What is sad is that Thomas chose to model his music – intentionally or unintentionally – to the Depeche Mode of the 2000s, a band that is far past their creative prime. Thomas’ vocal style at times sounds painfully similar to Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore, and the slow brooding music backed by lukewarm songwriting is achingly evocative of today’s Depeche Mode.

The only sign of originality, if any, comes in the form of tracks sung by the female guests on this album. But this is only because of Thomas’ absence as the lead singer. Even then, the weak songwriting leaves these mostly emotionally drenched numbers as mere vehicles conveying empty melodrama.

However, there are things that Postcards From Berlin does get right. For instance, the production is glossy and clean, just like the present-day Depeche Mode. But more importantly, the usage of strings on this record makes it really worth listening to. The good thing is that the gorgeous string arrangements are found generously all over the album, and Thomas deserves full credit for this.

There is a conscious effort by Thomas to give this album a rather stylish appeal: the  “Anton Corbijn”-style album art, the chic “Euro” album title, and the very studio where this album was recorded (the famous Hansa Studios in Berlin, where music by the likes of David Bowie, U2, and Depeche Mode was also recorded). But with the tepid songs at their core, these superficial facets of the album are nothing more than mere papier-mâché.

The great pioneer of electronic music Gary Numan himself admits to have taken inspiration from Depeche Mode when he reinvented himself in the ‘90s after a self-acknowledged career low point. Numan had the songwriting chops to make something beautiful and meaningful out of this inspiration. If only this were the case with [debut].

Rating: C-

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