Review: Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

Depeche Mode have been through everything. From the alcoholism of their frontman, then of their main songwriter, to the drug addiction of that same frontman, who later fought a tumor, but also the critics’ cynicism, the tours harshness, the high and lows of a nearly forty year-long career. Never certain of bringing on a new album back since Black Celebration, yet Depeche Mode kept on going on, building themselves a solid worldwide fanbase. Delta Machine is the Essex boys’ thirteen album, a blending of influences with synthesizers gone wrong for the best, gone Goth for our pleasure.

Depeche Mode’s thirteen full-length funnily named Delta Machine (DM’s DM, how amusing) is actually a hell of a solid album. An album that you have to let grow on you, for it is so low and rich, we are far indeed from the poppy beginnings, but also from the mesmerizing, and immediately catchy melodies such as ‘Shake the Disease’ or ‘Personal Jesus’. 

Even more than ever, as said earlier, their influences become clear. Where songs like ‘Personal Jesus’ or ‘Dream On’ gave us hints in the past, tracks like ‘Slow’ or ‘Goodbye’ on Delta Machine are the confirmation of Mode’s desire to get closer to the musical roots. The single ‘Heaven’, that feels quite easy-listening at first but actually reveals itself as being an amazing, elegantly sad song, reminds us of Soulsavers, a multi-influenced musical project also signed on Mute Records to what Dave had lent his voice many times for the last two albums, a gathering of massively melancholic songs with black and blues influences melted in a kind of clever soft rock with electronic touches. Delta Machine is all that and more, as it is also a fully-fledged Depeche Mode album, brilliantly composed and executed, a smart music that’s never try-hard, always altered (in a good way) by the killer lyrics that only Gore can write (even if dear old Dave really became better and better at this exercise).

Delta Machine is an album in two times. The magic kind of contains itself at the first try, waiting to see if those ears actually deserve to have the true depth of the album revealed to them. The first impression can be a bit disappointing. The black and blues influences are sometimes way to present and take the Mode’s away from their original sound. The track ‘Slow’ would be probably the best example of that, being actually too…slow, and not that Depeche Mode at the end of the day. Dave’s voice is sometimes unrecognizable, too thick (‘Broken’) or too thin (‘The Child Inside’), lacking of the magic sexual power that animated the master and servant until the mid- nineties (yes, I am talking about ‘Words of Faith and Devotion.) ‘The Child Inside’ feels like a filler, a completely useless song that doesn’t bring anything.

But then again, you’ve got some bluntly powerful lyrics every now and then – “It’s who I am, it’s not for you” (‘Secret to the End’)-, and purely mind-blowing pieces of music. The synthesized outro of ‘My Little Universe’ is just an amazing piece of straight-forward and simple electromantic music at its best.

Getting to ‘Soft Touch/Raw Nerve’ is such a satisfaction. They finally bring us back to the sensual excitement Depeche Mode were supposed to be all about. We would love Dave Gahan to hit a raw nerve indeed. “Have I got a soft touch? Have I hit a raw nerve?” -Well, please do.

Gore however feels a bit hesitating in his lyrics on a couple of songs: “I’m coming for you, my body’s hungry, I’m coming for you, like a junkie” (Soothe My Soul). It’s not that bad, especially because the actual song is very good, just that Martin got us used to more subtle words about his visions of the human interactions between men and women.

“I come down your house, I break down your door”… However, I am not against the idea.

And then bit by bit, piece by piece, the album reveals itself and the title ‘Welcome to My World’ takes up all its sense as it is such an album to allow yourself in. But once you’re in, you won’t want, to get out. Oh, no.

Could we call that a grower? The first time round, I thought, oh my god no, I never wanted Depeche Mode to disappoint me, and there, it’s happening, why did I ever listened to this album, why, why, why.*throws herself by window*

The second time round however, only one word played Ping Pong with my brain. Amazing, amazing, amazing. It is an interesting album in many ways, which can stand besides Violator and Ultra for tracks such as ‘Welcome to My World’, ‘Soft Touch/Raw Nerve’, ‘Should Be Higher’ and ‘Soothe My Soul’. That’s the exciting, thrilling Depeche Mode, feeling like a Berlin night in the 90’s or a London-Soho night in the 80’s. The rest of the album is Depeche Mode trying themselves, enjoying themselves, pulling a bit more on the blues roots, adding these lyrics or this harmony that would sound unusual into an electronic album to make it more complex, more different, even more beautiful and Depeche Mode.

It would be as if Depeche Mode took their time to create this album. As if they sat down with some guitars, took the time to remember why they started to make music, took the time to think about the past and what’s important, took the time to write songs about the different things that arose as actually essential. This means only one thing (well no, actually it means a thousands of things, and mainly that the Mode’s guys got a bit more peaceful and less tortured after years and years of self-inflicted wounds); it means one thing to us, listeners, that we will have to give some time to this album, listen to it more than once, understand it and let it sink into us deeper and deeper, until we catch the glimpse of light, and pull the veil to reveal the big picture of that breath-taking album.

Review by Marie Lando