07 May 2009

Sounds Of The Universe

Oh, what's happened?! All quiet in the Depeche Mode camp? Certainly not! After all, they've had years of bust ups and additctions and have created blindingly good records through it all. So what? Are we going to get a happy, lovey-dovey, oh-so-corrupted version of the Mode now that they've settled down? Like bells we are.

I will stand by this record, which is ten thousand tmies better than their last attempt, "Playing The Angel" (though in all fairness "Lilian" was quite a good song). It's rockier, more ambitious, and has a slight turn towards their old days. Slight. Not too much. Gone are the bleeps and blops (well, mostly) and in come the melodies and the sexy guitars once again. Yay! It's a return to form.

Opener "In Chains" makes use of some slightly stripped down beats and a lovely electronic-warped guitar, using Dave Gahan's voice as its main force. And what a force it is on this record - it seems there's some new vigor and life inside him and this is shown on their first single "Wrong" in which he powers through unstoppably against fragmented melodies and lets the darkness flow. But a lot of this could be down to Martin L. Gore's songwriting. I'll let Gahan have the credit for "Come Back" which is one of the most effective songs on the album.

We still have gentler moments of evil on "Little Soul" and the short instrumental break "Spacewalker" which hold different parts of the album together nicely. Personally, the final third of this thirteen-track album is the best. "Miles Away/ The Truth Is" is, whisper it quietly, almost like a pop song (eek!) and is probably one of the most accessible offerings here. But I still love it more than their darker musings. Strange, isn't it? "Jezebel" serves as an interlude between this and the storming closer "Corrupt" which just has to be THE best closer to a record I've heard so far this year, and it'll take a lot to beat its rock-infused malevolence.

But I don't understand how "Peace" made the final cut of the record. At just over an hour long, they could have afforded to cut out this part. You can see the idea behind it, with the almost choral layering of voices, but the bitty electronica doesn't quite sit right in-between "In Sympathy" and "Come Back". Is it just me or this section just a little unnecessary? Part of me just doesn't want to sit through four minutes of "Peace" before getting to "Come Back", I want to skip through it!!

But despite this black mark in the middle of the record, Depeche Mode have made a much more engaging and pleasing record than their latest attempts. They wanted it to be the "Violator for the 21st Century". Have they done it? Well, it'll always be hard to match "Violator" but you aren't gonna get any closer than this!!

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