In listening to Depeche Mode's new album "Sounds Of The Universe" today, one thing that is instantly recognizable is that it's once again a dark, abstract and sublime album – very similar in vein to previous albums like "Exciter", "Playing The Angel" and "Ultra". However what becomes crystal clear after listening is the reason why they actually called it "Sounds Of The Universe". There are so many sounds and moods on this album that instantly throw you back to other eras in Depeche Mode's vast discography. And let's face it, DM have defined so many moments in electronica over their mighty career span haven't they? They have in fact, created a lot of "the sounds of the universe" per se - so why not call their album that? Totally clever. Ok, so I have listened to the album like three times now and this mini-review is going to be as abstract as the album is – bear with me EQs.
"In Chains" – The opening track is a little strange at the beginning. Over 60 seconds of synth tuning before launching into a soft crescendo of drums and that classic desperate and yearning vocal by Dave Gahan. A track about how your lover has you under their thumb. What's great about this track though is at the 3:40 mark, you are treated to some bell sounds that sound ever-so-familar…I won't spoil the surpirse here. Think of this track as a slightly more upbeat version of "In Your Room" with it's S&M undertones.
"Hole To Feed" – A dirty little track with hints of tumbleweed on the western front. Depeche Mode quite like that whole dusty road lonesome cowboy thing don't they? You'll think of "Personal Jesus" a little bit when you hear this song.
"Wrong" – This song still creeps me out as much as the video does. It's pure badass. There must be something "right" with the subject of this song? How fucked up and unlucky could one person be? I mean really.
"Fragile Tension" – Things get a little retro with this track. The early 80's synthline in this track is just dreamy.
"Little Soul" – A gentle little number.
"In Sympathy" – Standout moment on the album. Shades of "Enjoy The Silence" mixed in with some great synth noises. This track grows into a subtle anthem around the 1:09 mark and I'm freaking out by this point – the chorus hasn't even fucking kicked in yet. At 2:09 you are waiting for the track to explode, but it doesn't…it sorta just evens out like you were on the brink of an orgasm going back into hot sweaty sex. Something tells me that this track's remixes are gonna be out of this world though because the album version leaves lots of room for this sort of thing.
"Peace" – "Look at the frequency in which I vibrate" – I love this lyric in this song. A track about waiting for peace to envelop you. Kinda like you're in the middle of a great yoga session in the midst of a chaos storm – waiting for that feeling of complete calm to take you over. Waiting for the flavour of a zen tea to soothe the brain.
"Come Back" – Construction Time Again. Whistles, organs and teapots. One of the more interesting sounding songs on the album. Dave has been walking a fine line between love and hate. He needs a little company and kindness to come his way. He's bored – time is flying by. Nothing changes with time. He's whining and waiting for someone or something to come back to him – he's lost something…
"Spacewalker" – An instrumental track a la "Agent Orange" with shades of Terence Trent D'Arby's "Sign Your Name". I don't know how in the world I ever heard that in this track, but I did. Clearly Martin Gore is just playing around in this track – it's very short – 1:50.
"Perfect" – The bassline in this track is rather ace. A track about love shot down where Dave is fantasizing how things could almost be perfect and right in a parallel universe. No conflicts, fights or negativity. In other words - The Netherlands.
"Miles Away" – If Madonna mashed this track up with her "Miles Away" it could sound very interesting I think. I can hear you rolling your eyes as you read that. Your eyes hold the truth and the truth is, well, miles away – I guess that's the meaning to this song…let me show you the the world in my eyes…
"Jezebel" – Fans of Martin Gore's vocals will rejoice. A nice and polite, cosmic song about a slut – I presume.
"Corrupt" – One of the better songs on the album – I don't know why they put it at the end to be truthful. Dave is bragging about being a big ol bad boy and how he can get you to do nasty things. Your terrible Dave.
Overall opinion on this album… It's a grower people. No huge moments on this album like maybe you were hoping for. Although DM do come rather painfully close with "In Sympathy". I know the boys are working on more songs and some crafty little B-sides to go along with this collection, so something tells me this album is just the taster of what's to come perhaps. New fans to Depeche Mode may be disappointed with "Sounds Of The Universe", some will even say it's crap. But for hardcore fans of le Mode, like myself, you'll stick with it because it keeps giving you little things back upon each listen.
Their best work. No. But the excitement with Depeche Mode doesn't really lie in the new albums they produce does it? The excitement lies with their live shows which somehow always manages to ignite electroheads into a state of heated frenzy – and that is what I am fucking looking way forward to – again. Whip out and re-invent those classics guys.