Being an avid Depeche Mode fan you know that this is going to be a totally biased review and trust me I have much to say.
March 22nd marked the 20th anniversary of their epic grunge gospel Songs of Faith and Devotion (32 years since their debut) and in 2013, the guys are still doing the same thing; dark, bleak and bluesy synth driven music. As whenever Depeche Mode release a new album, comparisons arise between their latest venture and their classic albums- namely Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion- however pointless that may be. Yes, some songs resemble past efforts, slightly, but I wouldn’t go as far to say “Oh my God: This song is the new Personal Jesus!”.
This, their 13th album, feels like a toned down version of 2005′s Playing the Angel. The electronics are still cool yet some of it feels unnecessary and forced; something quite apparent in songs like “Heaven”, where more organic sounds, real drums, might have worked better (check out the Owlle remix though). But Depeche Mode are electro pioneers, so of course they’d opt for the digital. There are some awesome synth patches and blues guitar featured in Delta Machine with the production pretty spot on thanks to producer Ben Hillier and mixing by the legendary Flood. Overall it’s very slow paced (there’s even a track dedicated to that fact. Guess what it’s called? “Slow”) and some of the lyrics aren’t of the same caliber as their more renowned work; the lyrical content is much weaker than the music itself. Singer Dave Gahan’s vocals are at their baritone best and singer/songwriter/everything else guy Martin Gore can still come up with some wicked riffs both on synth and guitar. (Third man Andrew Fletcher still does nothing- he is the greatest mooch in music history)
I know this album is probably going to grow on me real fast but after my first listen all I can think is that it’s just OK, but better, thankfully, than 2009′s Sounds of the Universe. Depeche Mode are slow burners, their music grows on you, gets better with time. The band will always be hideously underrated and poorly represented in the media, particularly in Australia where nearly no one acknowledges their existence (hence no tours here). Even in their native Britain they are under appreciated with the Brit Awards offering them some stupid made up award (Most influential band in the last 20 years or something; lame) instead of a lifetime achievement award (Pet Shop Boys got one before them and they’ve been around for less than 25 years). On top of that, Brit organizers were not going to televise their acceptance of said award- leaving audiences totally unaware that they won anything- so to that offer Gahan politely told them to “fuck off”.
Even if fans are disappointed with Delta Machine, there are always the remixes to look forward to.