by Noel Draper
As I was sitting here, reading other reviews of the very album I’m about to write about, a thought suddenly occurred to me. In this enlightened modern age where music is everywhere from the umpteen television channels to the ceiling mounted speakers at my local gym pumping out wishy-washy chart fodder does anyone really pay any attention to another person’s opinion about a song? Does anyone care that the singer has issues or that the drummer has always wanted to try his hand at song writing? Do you care that an album had a particularly long recording process? Does anyone care that ‘writing this album was very a cathartic experience’? Do you? Me neither.
What I do care about is whether I actually like the music on offer. Which is quite fortunate as the latest offering from electro pioneers Depeche Mode, Delta Machine, has some very likeable music indeed. From the opening deep bass driven ‘Welcome to my World’ to the beautiful and bluesy ‘Goodbye’ finale this album packs a fantastic dark electronic punch to the soul. Although the subject matter of the writing is intentionally morose, as with most Depeche Mode songs, the band have gone back to their roots and mixed the old style electro-pop of the 80’s with the dark, dark days of the 90’s and it works. Mostly.
The albums stand out track ‘Should be Higher’ turns out not to be written by Martin L Gore, the usual songwriter, but by the swivel hipped, baritone blessed lead singer, Dave Gahan. His voice swirls in and out of twisting keyboard tones before a delicious bass driven electronic moment signals a beautiful but tortured chorus. One day, all music will sound like this.
Other songs, such as the repetitive chorus driven ‘Secret to the End’, the lovely and semi upbeat ‘Broken’ and the fantastic mix of blues guitar, bass and pounding drums that is ‘Sooth my Soul’ bring this whole album to life. There is also room on the album for Mr Gore to sing his obligatory slow solo number, The Child Inside, which has lyrics about dolls, darkness and controlling ghosts. Par for the course but eminently listenable as well.
A couple of the songs left me cold especially ‘Slow’ which, as far as I can tell, is about how Dave likes to do things real slow if you know what he means, but does include my favourite lines from the whole album, “Let the world keep it’s carnival pace, I’d prefer to look into your beautiful face”.
I was very apprehensive about reviewing Delta Machine especially after the underwhelming effort that was ‘Sounds of the Universe’ but my concerns were unfounded. This is the best album that Depeche Mode have produced since the 1990 classic ‘Violator’. It is an outstanding album, full of electronic bravado and pounding beats and as such is a welcome return to form from one of Britain’s forgotten bands.