A rum and coke.
That’s the motivation/courage I needed to write a review of the 12th full-length release from Depeche Mode, Sounds of the Universe. It’s not to say that I’m afraid that Dave Gahan is reading this right now, sharpening his knives. Nor is it because this album is so bad that I have to be buzzed (maybe tipsy) to begrudgingly write a review for it.
I’m drinking because I’m afraid of what I’ll say by the time the last period is entered.
Truth is, I’ve been going back and forth on this album since the day it first graced my headphones. Some days it’s like Gahan, Eigner and Gore wrote this album for me. Other days, it feels like they’re asleep at the wheel, and I’m the doomed passenger.
For the record, I’m a midpoint Depeche Mode fan: from 1984’s Some Great Reward to 1990’s Violator. Yeah, I’m all about it. So when I heard Sounds of the Universe‘s single, “Wrong,” my spidey senses were tingling. A song that reverberated a “Stripped” era of songwriting. So if you’re like me, breathe easy. Sounds of the Universe follows with that classic Depeche Mode song-craft……..which is a blessing and a curse.
I mean, fact is, Sounds of the Universe sounds exactly like you figured a Depeche Mode album would. The opener, “In Chains,” is heart stopping. Other songs ( “Wrong,” “Hole To Feed,” “In Sympathy,” “Come Back”) call back to the Music for the Masses that I love to blast from my speakers.
However, the new side of Depeche that occasionally creeps out on the album ( “Fragile Tension,” “Spacewalker,” “Perfect,” “Jezebel”) simply just fall flat. In fact, “Jezebel” kind of makes me wince when I hear it. Apologies to Gore, who sings on the track, but the song is just simply unappealing.
So, therein lies the issue. Depeche Mode can still sound like Depeche Mode, yet can offer really nothing new to the people. I’m grateful that Gahan is still out there, making music that I’m happy to think dark thoughts about. But at the same time, I’m kind of disappointed that in 2009, they can’t stretch the boundaries like they used to.
Ultimately, Sounds of the Universe has something to offer for everyone, especially Depeche Mode fans. However, you may be disappointed that it won’t lead you to new heights.