It’s quite conceivable with all the comebacks happening this year, that we may soon see the like of Elvis or Jesus get on board soon. My Bloody Valentine, Johnny Marr, and David Bowie have all released new albums to rave reviews. Obviously just a coincidence, but they may have capitalized on the warm nostalgic vibes that have surround these favourite artists from the past. Listeners will give old acts every possible chance to succeed, because no one likes to see their old faves grow old and irrelevant. So there should be lots of 80’s synth goth fans perched up in their trees eagerly awaiting their “Personal Jesus”as Depeche Mode releases a new album Delta Machine.
So apparently I jumped the gun on that analogy, as it came a surprise to me, and perhaps it will be to you to know that Depeche Mode released an album in 2009. In fact I totally forgot that they also released one in 2005. That’s how much Depeche Mode, a band that I once revered, had completely gone off my radar. So the question comes up again with an old act: What can Depeche Mode contribute in 2013? The answer is an album that sticks very close to it’s sound roots of lush dark keyboards, quiet subtle guitar riffs, and the haunting vocals of Dave Gahan. All of that is still alive and well, and it certainly doesn’t sound like a band in their 50’s. In fact it makes you think back when you were a kid, and your parents would lecture you on the music you listened to, dismissing modern music then as just fads that not only you but also the people making the music would grow out of. Now when you see a band still achieving their music goals that they started 30 years ago, it’s very inspiring. Now as I’ve mentioned Depeche Mode have been off my radar, so their sound is relatively new again for me, and what I hear is a band not really with their best years behind them, but certainly with their best ideas behind them. There is nothing except for a few moments on Delta Machine that see Depeche Mode carving out something that is connected to but different from their previous work. Most of it I think has to do with the song structures which are all built around Gahan’s vocals. They always have been, but in 2013, Gahan doesn’t sound like a 50 year old man, which while commendable is actually kind of disconcerting. When he was younger perhaps when he croons “I’ll penetrate your soul, I’ll bleed into your dreams, you want to lose control”on “Welcome to My World” the domineering sex demon is cool, but at this point it kind of comes off as creepy. It’s too bad because the opening track has a fresh sound to it with deep bass hits, but throughout the album, time and again, you just wish Gahan would shut up. The first single “Heaven”is a classic Depeche Mode track, that slowly sways, and Martin Gore still has his guitar in the background which gives the song its warm base, but I might have chosen the next track “Secret to the End”as the first single. It’s the track that stands out the most, as again it’s classic DM with building synths, and a haunting chorus which is Gahan’s speciality. Those moments though slowly disperse as the album hits an all-time low for the band with “The Child Inside” The track is elegy to one’s childhood, but when Gahan sings it, it sounds like something Freddie Krueger might sing in a musical version of Nightmare on Elm Street. If that doesn’t sound like the worst thing ever, then listen to this song, you’ll be left shivering in the corner waiting for someone to end your misery.
Delta Machine does return with some decent bits, but there’s too many cringe worthy moments as a whole to really embrace the album. Gahan’s lyrics are quite often cliche ridden, and when sung in his patented baritone voice, they end up sounding really dumb. With so many bands that have been influenced by Depeche Mode over the years, their sound can be found in many bands across many genres, so the band will never really be dead, but they’ll have to reformat and come up with some new ideas if they don’t want to be.
– Michael Unger