Friday, 22 March 2013

DEPECHE MODE - DELTA MACHINE - A REVIEW

Every four years, the Depeche Mode machine starts up again and you can almost guarantee that the album will either be viewed as "OMG THE GREATEST THING SINCE VIOLATOR!!!!11" or "I gave up when Alan left to be honest. What's the point? It's just bleeps" by the fanbase. There is very little inbetween at least on first listen. I've heard Delta Machine a few times now and thought I'd do an almostpredictablealmost1 first and write a review of an album as and when it comes out as opposed to a historical look at an era.

The first thing I should say is that I really like Delta Machine. Recent Depeche albums have been far from perfect and I must admit that I was wondering what to expect here. Would I get the blandness of Exciter, the imperfections of Playing The Angel or the unmemorable SOTU? The good news is that the answer is no. Delta Machine is a really interesting work and grows and surprises with each listen. Ok, it's not Black Celebration, Violator or SOFAD - people claiming that it's up there with those works are wrong and have perhaps been blinded by the Sony generated hype and the general understandable joy of having a new Depeche Mode album to hear, however, it is an excellent album and a very welcome addition to the DM catalogue. As it's not out until Monday, I'm going to review the main album and not the additional tracks on the deluxe cd or beautiful double vinyl. Here's my track by track take:

1. Welcome To My World
A great start to the album which really sets the tone. It starts slowly building to a fantastic chorus with almost Beatles like string stabs. The production here, like the vast majority of this album is fantastic and it would seem that Flood has helped make the multitude of ancient synth sounds cohesive when mixing the album which is something SOTU certainly lacked. This is a far more upbeat start to the album than In Chains.

2. Angel
We'd heard this when the band announced the tour and I liked it from the off. From the lyrics you can tell it's a Martin track and Dave does his best Preacher style singing. I think this will really work live as it's big and noisy and that will come across well. We all know it post Paris so there's not a lot to add.

3. Heaven
Again, we all know this by now. Not the most obvious chioce for the lead single but it's a lovely song and again one which I've really taken to. I criticised people above for buying the album hype thing - I did that entirely when the single came out. I try to be objective at those times but is is hard. Having calmed down, I maintain that it's a great song and I'll stand by that.

4. Secret To The End
The first Dave penned track. Dave's songwriting has improved since his first efforts but I must admit that I am always a little concerned about what we might get from Dave. I'm not particualrly a fan of his solo stuff and for me his Mode contributions have been average bar Suffer Well and Nothing's Impossible. Anyway, this is good. Good lyrics and musically it's fantastic which is probably down to co-writer Kurt Uenala. The interplay on the chorus with Martin is really cool too. Well done Dave - top work. The last 50 seconds of this are fantastic by the way. Play them loud

5. My Little Universe
This is one that the latter day Wilder worshippers will hate! Bleeps, beeps and a seeming lack of a main riff are what you'll hear along with the puzzling line "I'm making progress in a non specific way" which sounds like something someone who was heavily stoned would say as a justification for another day spent eating crisps and playing XBox. Anyway, musically this reminds me a lot of Atoms For Peace, Thom Yorke's non Radiohead project who Martin recently talked up in an interview. It has that feel as well as a Four Tet kind of sound. Again, I like it although it is one of the weaker tracks here. I am a fan of the beeps/bleeps version of the Mode it must be said. Personally, I'm glad they keep trying new things rather than rehashing past glories badly in a U2 way.

6. Slow
I absolutely love this. I think it's brilliant that Martin dug this up from the Songs of Faith And Devotion sessions. I remember reading that a song called Slow had been demoed then and you can hear SOFAD all the way through this. I can easily imagine Dave Dave-ing this up on the Devotional tour with Martin bobbing aropund in silver and the backing singers going "That's how I liiiiiiiiiiiiike it." Absolutely top notch and close to the best track on here. Lyrically it's interesting as it's definitely one of Martin's older style lust songs rather than one about soul, sin and universes.

7. Broken
Dave and Kurt number 2. The chorus is the highlight here - nice and poppy and not bad at all for that. Dave's verses are a bit hammed up ( see "How long will you shufferrr?") and overall the song is a little lightweight. Again, I can see it working live mainly due to the chorus. The last 40 seconds or so however are clearly something that New Order recorded for Technique! Listen to it and tell me I'm wrong ;)

8. The Child Inside
The Martin ballad. I usually look forward to Martin's songs as they have been a highlight for me on a number of albums but this is not up to scratch. It's Martin singing a creepy Martin song on the usual themes albeit I don't think he's ever mentioned body parts before. It's a bit Comatoase both in sound and in mood and that's not saying much. Come on Martin - where's the new It Doesn't Matter Two?

9. Soft Touch/Raw Nerve
This has already divided opinion as some see it as the worst sounds ever committed to vinyl/cd. Its appearance on the Letterman show didnt help as the whole performance there was pretty flat but I attribute that to arena sized songs being played in a TV studio. Hearing new songs for the first time live than recorded is always a bad thing too. Anyway, like Broken, this is a decent enough pop song and that's fine surely? Decent chorus that'll work well live. Ok it's not Personal Jesus or Behind The Wheel but so what?

10. Should Be Higher
This is the third and final Dave written song on the album which again was played on Letterman. It's ok but not brilliant but then it's a lifetime away from I Want It All which is a good thing. Dave's vocals are interesting here as he goes very high at certain points. For that I can't see this one lasting beyond the summer shows. A decent song but there's not much to add.

11. Alone
The best track on here no doubt. For thos who mourn the Old Mode this is for you. Some of the synth sounds here are mindbendingly good - that melody that plays behind the verses is haunting and majestic at the same time and IS the exact sound Alan would have used here ;). Lyrically we're still saving souls etc but that works here. What a tremendous song and one that I really hope makes the cut for setlists.

12. Soothe My Soul
Some say genius. Some say the new Personal Jesus. Some say an absolute embarrasment. Blandly enough I again say it's ok with a top notch shout along chorus. Imagine yourself with friends at a Depeche show, drunk, jumping around and singing along - of course that's going to be good! The lyrics are a bit odd as it sopunds like Martin's breaking into someone's house for some nookie but let's presume it's all metaphorical as I'm sure it is.

13. Goodbye
This is a great closer for the album. The blues guitar that so many feared is here for only the second time (Slow) but it's not the primary feature. Honestly, the way some people were acting before this you'd think we were getting a Robert Johnson covers album here. Anyway, Goodbye is great - the "Gooo-oooo-oooodbyyyyee" part is wonderful and again, I hope this is played live.

Overall this is a very good album and one that certainly trumps SOTU and Exciter. Overall it's more coherent than Playing The Angel albeit it does feel a bit like a collection of good to great songs rather than something with an overall theme like say Ultra or even Construction Time Again. The fact that a new Depeche Mode album in 2013 is something that I've not been able to stop listening to says a lot. If you're sceptical, give it a go - ultimately you'll be pleasantly surprised.


22 March 2013.

2 comments:

  1. I think Always and All That's Mine could easily supplant both Child and My Little Universe. In fact I think All That's Mine is too danceable not to have been included...it has a poetic line that is vintage and memorable...the beats and synth work are phenomenal as well. Heck, it's already been remixed a bit.

    The last time I listened to a Depeche Mode album this many times was Violator. I can sit through the entire thing and enjoy every bit of it. "Alone" is indeed the track that calls to mind the heady days of Black Celebration...an easy choice for me as the favorite.

    This album will supplant anything they have done since Ultra. Playing the Angel was good but I got the sense that they did'nt really believe in what they were doing back then. That has changed on this album, with both Dave and Martin really bringing their best vocals since Ultra.

    Playing the Angel just does'nt have the same emotional intensity...at least not for me. There is nothing like "Alone" anywhere on PTA. You could say Darkest Star is an attempt but it is just that, a meager attempt. Welcome to My World is the most stupendous thing they have done since Violator. Totally unexpected to hear that...I've already remixed the thing, as I will the entire album once I can get my hand on the cd for good .wav files. I'm even thinking of buying some synth software!

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  2. Agree on everything in that review except SHOULD BE HIGHER.
    The greatest song for me here, very DM-ish. I'm completely addict with it.
    Regarding DM site forum, I'm not ALONE... :-)

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