Saturday, May 18, 2013

Album Review: Depeche Mode – Delta Machine (2013)

Given that Depeche Mode have been at the very heart of the synthpop scene for the vast majority of my music listening lifetime (40 years), it was something of a surprise to learn that Delta Machine is just the thirteenth full-length studio release of the band’s career.

I know Depeche Mode have not had their problems to seek over the years (health issues, personnel changes etc) but I’d always thought of the group as one of the most prolific of all the early Eighties pop survivalists. Apparently not, a grand total of a baker’s dozen worth of albums over a span of 30 years offers us a somewhat different perspective.
Part of the reason, of course, that Depeche Mode have managed to remain at the forefront of our collective consciousness throughout that period is to do with the fact that so much of the band’s output has always been ripe for remixing; seldom do we get just one released version of any given DM track. And I don’t know how many different dance versions of ‘World In My Eyes’ or ‘Enjoy The Silence’ I’ve heard over the years, but there’s been a few – most of them pretty decent too. That, aligned with regular tours, has ensured the band’s profile remains sufficiently high, and “new product” regularly available regardless of whether or not the band have a new album out.

Over the years I don’t believe I’ve come across any flop or “bad” DM albums, just varying levels of “good”, ranging from mediocre to excellent, or in the case of Violator, excellent verging on the truly exceptional. So perhaps another factor in the band’s relatively light album output is the small matter of quality control … they’re either perfectionists to the point of pedantry, or they simply refuse to compromise, opting for craft (or should that be art?) over timeliness. Or to put it another way – nothing ever feels too rushed.

My download of Delta Machine is the deluxe edition; that means the standard 13-track album, and an extra “disc” of five additional tracks, including a second and “live” studio version of the fair-to-middling lead single ‘Heaven’.

What we get on Delta Machine is classic Depeche Mode – state-of-the-art production, occasionally iffy songwriting, Gahan and Gore sharing vocals, and the requisite number of a top drawer synthpop gems. And doubtlessly, plenty of source material just waiting to be plucked for another round of remixing.

In calling it “classic” however, I’m not necessarily saying it is one of DM’s best, because in all honesty, it isn’t. It offers snippets of what the band does best, crossing over into the murky waters of dark pop, without ever really presenting us with a single moment, or track, where they truly nail it.

So it’s classic in the sense that all of the band’s traditional boxes are ticked. If anything, Delta Machine, much like its predecessor Sounds Of The Universe, represents a return to older style elements of the band’s sound; a move away from the harder edged guitar-infused stuff of a decade ago, with an evident willingness to embrace synth-orientated pop first and foremost.

Not bad for a bunch of old blokes …

Highlights: the opener ‘Welcome To My World’, the single ‘Heaven’, ‘My Little Universe’, ‘Soothe My Soul’, and from the bonus disc, ‘All That’s Mine’ (see clip).


No comments:

Post a Comment