Depeche Mode: Delta Machine
It’s been 31 years since the first Depeche Mode album. They may have evolved from fresh-faced Basildon boys to leather-clad goth-synth rock monsters but the musical nous first exhibited back when Vince Clarke was a member is still in evidence. You don’t sustain such a long career without sonically overhauling yourself every so often and this band have travelled some distance.
In many senses, Delta Machine feels like a summation of their career to date. There are the odd nods to the dinky pop of their early days alongside vignettes from later periods. It all bleeds into a very rich album which, when it really hits its stride, leaves their electronica imitators in the shade.
There’s the odd surprise: Angel sounds like a Nick Cave song with added electro-blues, while Secret To The End could have come straight off a 1980s MTV compilation album.
Lyrically they are as spiritually twisted as ever, their often underrated harmonies really soar at times and rhythmically they are in excellent shape. At times they plough new furrows: My Little Universe is not the type of song they would have tried before – it’s subdued, introspective and a bit scary. The bluesy Slow, meanwhile, could easily be mistaken for something off Exile On Main Street.
Dave Gahan’s voice is exceptional throughout – he hits new registers and bends and shapes his delivery into new forms and when he needs to go into anthemic mode he effortlessly reaches everything.
This is not as darkly lustrous as previous albums. There’s a freshness to proceedings here – the volume is brought down and the synth-bluster silenced when necessary to produce a more intimate feel.
Sometimes – as on Soft Touch/Raw Nerve – not everything comes off as it should but then a song such as Should Be Higher comes along and more than compensates.
A varied, richly rewarding and pleasantly surprising collection.
Download: Angel, My Little Universe, Should Be Higher