Depeche Mode are back. Strangely, “Sounds of the Universe” feels like a million years away, although it was released in 2009, so, only four years ago. This is the final piece of the trilogy of records that Depeche Mode were doing with producer Ben Hillier. And the thirteenth studio album of the band, the first for their new label, Columbia Records, scheduled for release on 22 March 2013.
I started listening with interest DM only after their 93’s “Songs of Faith and Devotion”. Still, their first four albums are quite meaningless for me. And probably their latest two. From their 2005’s “Playing the Angel” stuck in my mind the fabulous cover of “John the Revelator” and the opening track, “A Pain That I’m Used To”. “Sounds of the Universe” was even less impressive, actually I can’t recall any song title from it, although, I remember it was dark and minimal. And dark and minimal it is “Delta Machine” as well.
The lack of memorable themes, choruses, songs, it’s still kind of scary. Sounds good, it’s dark as a moonless night in the forest, have a few good hooks and some exciting moments here and there, but they have no real, throughout killer songs again, nothing to hang on to. Some people might call this post-whatever modernism, eventually genius and brilliant, but I’m an old, stupid, grumpy and old-fashioned bastard and I need melodies, I need real songs, I need things to remember. The second half of the record, from around “Soft Touch Raw Nerve” are much better then the first half, less obscure, less abstract, more abrasive and focused, with a healthy dose of nerve and growing tension.
01 – Welcome To My World
02 – Angel
03 – Heaven
04 – Secret To The End
05 – My Little Universe
06 – Slow
07 – Broken
08 – The Child Inside
09 – Soft Touch Raw Nerve
10 – Should Be Higher
11 – Alone
12 – Soothe My Soul
13 – Goodbye
The opening “Welcome To My World” feels like of directionless, out of focus, all the pieces are good, but the construction falling apart. It’s not a very inspired pick for an opening track, although, it’s introduce the listener in the vibe of the album.
“Angel” bring some pounding life to the surface, feels better instantly, although the break-down it’s familiar from another life and froze the whole groove down.
“Heaven” the first single it’s a dark electronic ballad. In one word: boring.
“Secret To The End” it’s only a forgettable fabrication from cliches and outdated tricks and synth layers. I not even felt any true emotion in it, but something to fill up a few minutes.
“My Little Universe” have a fun 8-bit feel, it’s the essence of what we may call dark and minimal. Interesting for an experiment, nothing really to call it a song.
“Slow” it’s a beautiful blues rooted trip, smartly efficient, hypnotic by simplicity.
“Broken” it’s a better “Heaven”, still not 100% convincing, although they aligned all the DM arsenal of tricks. Even the lyrics are so full of cliches that it’s disappointing: “When you’re falling I will catch you…” How many times we heard that already and we all know it’s a lie..!
“The Child Inside” relay almost exclusively on the smooth voice of Dave Gahan, feels like a lullaby. Interesting.
“Soft Touch Raw Nerve” brings some life and fury to the surface. Pretty 80’s taste-like, minimalist, build upon a synth line, but breathing.
“Should Be Higher” it’s glitchy, but smoothly, strangely, smartly. The melody it’s hypnotic and sticky. The verses are perfect, unfortunately the chorus it’s weaker.
“Alone” keeps the same vibe and direction, the drums are thundering somewhere in the background while the 8-bit glitchy synth hits are pushed up in the front. In between are the voice and some smooth and warmer pads of synth.
“Soothe My Soul” it’s an 80’s type of dance song, related to “Soft Touch Raw Nerve”, but less impressive.
“Goodbye” it’s a recall of the sound and atmosphere of “Personal Jesus” with a quite different kind of out-come. It’s darker, colder, “goodbye” it’s more a “leave me alone”, then a “looking forward to see you again”. The chorus it’s simultaneously strange and interesting, melodious and noisy, unpolished.
It takes time to get comfortable with “Delta Machine” and I think most of the people have no time and patience these days. The DM fans will swallow it without chewing it, I’m damn sure about it, and well, probably it will sell at least much as its predecessor, but I don’t think this is the point. DM don’t have to prove anything anymore, but we – I mean fucking I – expect more then a gloomy bouquet of emotions, some smartly layered noises and synths and some of the hypnotic lines of Dave Gahan.