Depeche Mode's albums post Ultra had been a mix of the good (Playing The Angel) and the not so good (Exciter) but there was still much excitement when a new single and album was announced in early 2009. As with the previous campaign, the official site released in studio video snippets in the lead up to the album all of which showed the band making a serious of strange noises via Martin's increasingly gargantuan analogue synth collection. It perhaps indicated that the new songs would be electronic/analogue/synthy sounding and that Depeche would make an almost wholly electronic comeback. Those who thought that (hello) got it, if you'll pardon the rather obvious pun, wrong.
The standard tracklisting is: In Chains (long start to the album and ok), Hole To Feed (Dave written, worst song title ever, poor), Wrong (yay!) Fragile Tension (I like this track - loads don't. It was leaked pre release and because it wasn't Enjoy The Disease of Truth Jesus In My Shoes people got unnecessarily angry. The part where Dave sings "through glittering galas without even trying" harmonised by Martin is a joy to the ears), Little Soul (blah), in Sympathy (just not good), Peace (hmmm), Come Back (Dave's second song of the album and the best of his lot. It's ok), Spacewalker (Hello, I am the pointless instrumental), Perfect (drippy crap), Miles Away/The Truth Is (Dave again, Elvis impressions, stupid song title so named because Martin saw that Madonna had a song called Miles Away, just bloody awful), Jezebel (ok) and Corrupt (the band remember to do something Depeche Mode-ish). Not a great album by any means unfortunately. It's too long and too bland and some of Martin's lyrics are way below the high standard he set. It's overproduced too and really sounds like they should have spent much less time fannying around on ancient Modular synths and instead focussed on sorting out a top notch album. The fact that by the time the tour ended only 4 songs from the album were regularly played (and two of them were Hole To Feed and Miles Away ffs) says a lot. The artwork is lazy too. DVDSTUMM is a black version of the standard sleeve.
The DVD version added the album on dvd for those who wanted to hear how great Spacewalker sounds in 5.1, the Electronic Press Kit, the video for Wrong and three remixes - In Chains (Minilogue's Earth Remix), Little Soul (Thomas Fehlmann Flowing Ambient Remix) and the mighty Jezebel (Six Toes Remix). The latter is fantastic and you really must hear it.
The 5 extra songs aside, the real highlight of the boxset is cd3 which contains 14 demos. For years, Depeche demos have been sought after by the Black Swarm. Some have popped up on line (Here Is The House, Shake The Disease etc), some have had official releases albeit with the demo tidied up (Enjoy The Silence (Harmonium), To Have And To Hold (Spanish Taster) and some have been heard by only a select few of which I am sadly not a part. Here however were 15 for us to grab a hold of. They are all Martin sung unless other wise indicated - Little 15, Clean, Sweetest Perfection, Walking In My Shoes, I Feel You, Judas, Surrender, Only When I Lose Myself, Nothing's Impossible (Dave), Corrupt, Peace, Jezebel, Come Back (Dave) and In Chains. Judas is the best one here for me. It was long rumoured to have taken quite a few guises and Alan had even hinted once that it took a reggae turn at one point as the demo here actually proves. It's very far from the brooding genius thte song actually became. To be honest, the demos for the SOTU songs are the least exciting here and whilst it's easy to moan and say "Where are all the demos from everything they've ever done?" we should be pleased with what we got. As an additional cd, the demo disc is a really really good thing.
And that was that for the SOTU releases. The Tour of The Universe went on for 102 shows over 5 legs which included a Royal Albert Hall charity show in which Alan stepped onstage to play piano on Somebody which was a lovely moment. The shows I saw were good though the setlist went from its early brave incarnation (Strangelove, Master and Servant, Fly On The Windscree, some songs from SOTU) to a fairly safe setlist by the time the European arena shows rolled around. Still, it's always good to see Depeche live whatever the setlist so no complaint from me.
I'm polishing this off on the day after the new album Delta Machine was announced so my next blog will be out very soon as it will deal with the Remixes 2 album by which point I'll be bang up to date. Thanks again to depechemode.com, depmod.com, depeche-mode.com and to the ever pulsating brain at the heart of the Depeche Mode universe Panos