Ok I'll admit it; I've never owned a Depeche Mode cd until today. But bear with me; I've always respected them for their musical talent when I hear them while amongst friends. But now that I have a medium to express my musical appreciation correctly, I feel that I will give credit where it's due, and present to you a professional review of Depeche Mode's twelfth studio album, Sounds of the Universe.
But first, as always, let me give you insight on the history of what some call the most successful and unwavering new wave band of all time.
In 1980 across the pond in Basildon,Essex, England, at St. Nicholas School Youth Club, a group of blokes from other bands No Romance in China, The Plan, Norman and the Worms, and The French Look played a show together. I won't go too deep into the details, but it created the base band that we now know as Depeche Mode.
Originally, the lineup had Vince Clark in the band, who would later be replaced by Alan Wilder. Sadly, both members ended up leaving the band in the (1981 and 1995 respectively) leaving the power trio of original members Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, and Andrew Fletcher. Dave is the group's memorable Baritone singer, with Martin on guitar, bass, keyboard, and backup vocals. Andrew also plays the bass, with additional work on the synthesizer.
Over the years, the band has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, which to give you a bit of a scale, is something close to a third of the United States owning one of their albums (which makes me feel better that I didn't own one until today). They first went platinum in the US with the 1984 album Some Great Reward. After that, triple platinum with 1990's Violator, with another platinum in '93. The guys have done their homework, and have mastered the formula to make good music that can make the people obsess over them.
Today, the twelfth of such masterpieces was released; Sounds of the Universe. Produced by Ben Hillier who worked on the 2005 album Playing the Angel for Depeche (also has produced for Blur, The Horrors, and Natalie Imbruglia), we are again seeing the bands simple genius come out in full effect.
The first track, In Chains gave me a "this shit should be in a movie" feeling after about four minutes into it. This track also alludes to what will be the theme of talking about our love for woman, and their mesmerizing gestures and appearances.
The bass line in track 6, In Sympathy got me hooked to this song almost immediately. Usually the bridge and main verses don't usually sound so simple and perfect in most music, but again, we are talking about seasoned professionals.
Spacewalker is the ninth track, and deserves its name, due to the alarmingly familiar synthwork of an 80's space flick, or maybe something out of one of my favorite PC games, Deus Ex. The song is purely instrumental, and has earned a place in my sci fi playlist (yes I have a sci fi playlist...it's inspiring for my sci fi novel writing, so shut up).
Track 3, Wrong, will be in a movie in the next few years; I'm calling that right now. The song is about just doing all the wrong shit all the time. Also, let it be known that the B-Side of this track is the ONLY song in Depeche Mode history that David Gahan and Martin Gore have both collaborated on, with Gore composing the music, and Gahan taking care of the lyrics.
My favorite track however, is the thirteenth and final track, Corrupt, for a gang of reasons. First off, I'm a fan of the standup bass wood clicking sound. This is also very much a Depeche Mode "sounding sound" reminding me of various snippets throughout their history (tempo, beat and whatnot). Mainly though, it's the theme of the song that is just delicious. The song talks about meeting a girl and doing what the song says...corrupting her. Here's a sample:
I could corrupt you It would be easy Watching you suffer Girl, it would please me
But I wouldn't touch you With my little finger I know it would crush you My memory would linger
You'd be crying out in pain Begging me to play my games
Don't forget to listen to the song all the way through (to about 8:15), as the hidden mini track, Interlude #5 is an outro to the album, to a reworked instrumental to the earlier track Wrong.
To bring us home though, I'll go ahead and call myself a new listener to the band. I think that as a new listener, this is a very good band to chill around the house with, as some songs are just instrumental and easy to relax to. The gratifying part of this is that you aren't missing out on too much, and I think that's the feeling that the band is going for.
For the old fans, I don't think this is a compromising album, that make you say "Oh well their old stuff was good, but this sucks". But at the same time, it's fresh enough to negate you from saying "This shit is just like the old shit. Snore." We had similarly positive results with other 80's band re-ups with Duran Duran's album Red Carpet Massacre from a few years back, and also with The Cure's 4:13 Dream, which I've already reviewed. But I'm just a humble servant to the music world. I leave the rest in your hands.
Until next time my friends,