Dave Gahan and Kenna

Wayward electroclashers searching for a little tortured humanism to go with their silvery synth-playing and crunchy drum-programming could find a lot less to be excited about than the double bill at NextStage on Thursday night: Depeche Mode front man Dave Gahan, touring behind his debut solo album, the stylishly rumpled Paper Monsters; and young gun Kenna, finally more than an Internet rumor thanks to the fine folks at Columbia, who've just released New Sacred Cow, the nifty CD he originally made for Fred Durst's Flawless imprint a couple of years ago. Monsters finds Gahan utilizing the grungy rock moves he brought to the last few DM discs; he grunts through "Bottle Living" like a New York rag doll, and opener "Dirty Sticky Floors" swivels on a dirty, sticky guitar riff the Edge would've appreciated circa Achtung Baby. Actually, the whole thing exudes the sort of sub-Bowie-in-Berlin vexation U2 wore back then, from the sepia-toned Anton Corbijn photography to the rattled-and-hummed harmonica in "Black and Blue Again." Kenna can relate: "I wake up late, blame you for fate," he sings in "Vexed and Glorious," over a stutter-stepped beat that sounds peculiarly Neptunes-esque because Neptune Chad Hugo, a pal of Kenna's from the singer's Virginia Beach days, produced it. New Sacred Cow straddles the techno/rock divide as matter-of-factly as Paper Monsters, but there's a sizzle of discovery to Kenna's music that Gahan sacrifices for his sozzled elegance; in lead single "Freetime" he sounds like he wonders if Duran Duran ever wanted to blow off the blow and blow jobs and just get the hell out of town.
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