Saturday, May 02, 2009

the whole universe from one point of view

Yeah, this has been a long time coming. Not only has it been a couple of week since my last post, but it' also been AN ENTIRE WEEK since the new Depeche Mode cd came out -- and I haven't peeped or even tweeted to the world. Every time a new DM appears I make it known to the world. Well, It's sort of a tradition that started in 2001 with Exciter. That was just an email to J.R. and J.B. When Playing the Angel came along, it was my final official website post before I switched to exclusive blog entries. I guess their next cd will be reviewed by me on Twitter only.

So, do you think they're trying to emulate the mass-appeal jump of Music for the Masses in their title Sounds of the Universe? Just a thought. Let's go over the tracks:

1. "In Chains"
I think Scott told me this is just about his favorite DM song in the past ten years. After a very long buzzing intro, the album starts off wicked subtly. It's not like Depeche Mode are known for intensity, but usually the opening track is the loudest. This track sounds like a closing track. Good thing I freaking love DM closing tracks. Sounds a little "Higher Love"-ish (last track from Songs of Faith and Devotion) or "Insight"-ish (the last from Ultra). The themes of obsessive love and helplessness are very prevalent here. "... I crumble when you are around/ Stutter, mumble, a pitiful sound/ Stagger, stumble, shackled and bound/ In chains." It's also great that Dave is really going for some high notes. In the 80s he really only had three notes.

2. "Hole to Feed"
The first thing I notice is the Atari sounds that go along with the tribal bass beat at the beginning. The second thing I notice is the sincere sinister growl in the personality of Dave's voice. No wonder, because this is one of the songs Dave wrote for the album. Like Playing the Angel Martin allowed Dave some writing credit (along with who I'm pretty sure is the rest of the touring band -- Christian Eigner and Andrew Phillpott (hey, do you think these guys are sick of not getting credited as actual Depeche Mode band members?)) in the form of three songs. This is good Dave effort. I have a feeling that the creative juice Dave is bringing may actually be the future of the band. Martin's in the twilight. This song for example has some very varied complimentary layers.

3. "Wrong"
Here's the single. I actually have a feeling that down the road this will be one of my favorite DM songs. It's weirdly practically rap, but so so fun to rhyme along to. A fascinating tune to let off some steam to.

4. "Fragile Tension"
The Atari sounds begin this one too. I heard that Martin actually went on eBay and purchased a bunch of vintage oldschool keyboards in preparation for this album. It's kind of sweet. that the band went through the 90s and most of the 00s sort of evolving past the 80s. Now enough time has passed that it's cool to go back, which is even better. Strangely the liner notes claim that this song has live drums provided by Christian Eigner. I can't really tell.

5. "Little Soul"
This song seems like it's being played at the organ at Disneyland's Haunted House. Well... it does a little. It's cooler than that. It's pretty relatable. It's a little bit quiet-scary. One of those "nobody understands me, but I'll show them" kind of things, but not angsty. It's more... subtle -- which I've said a million times already, but that's simply what I love about the band.

6. "In Sympathy"
Some of the sounds and patterns sound a lot like old stuff. I'm thinking "A Broken Frame" era a little. I don't like saying that, since that album isn't considered very good. I think what I'm saying is this sounds like pre-industrial influenced DM -- but good. The layers add up to something very danceable... not that I dance or anything, but I tend to get drawn toward dancey music.

7. "Peace"
Wow, the intro to "Peace" (before the singing) sounds soooo ooooold! There's something to love about that! Scott told me he abhors the song, but it's growing on him. I can relate. The chorus chant "Peeeeeace wiiiiiilll cooooome to meeeee" is sort of annoying. The verse singing grit by Dave I think is supposed to be a high contrast to the smooth "peace" of the chorus. Strangely I heard they picked this song as their second single. For the past bunch of albums I haven't agreed on their single picks.

8. "Come Back"
Here's our next Dave song. As of this listening, I think this is my least favorite. Just sort of drones and thuds a bit.

9. "Spacewalker"
Requisite lame instrumental. I soooort of like this one more than past instrumentals. Can't explain why. Maybe I'm more used to them now. Still, this sucker can't touch "Pimpf" or "Mephisto."

10. "Perfect"
Atari! Atari! Atari! For the second time, the lyrics mention "the universe," but like last time, it's more about the individual in the face of the vast universe. Lots of DM themes involve weird dualities like religion and sin or love and lust. I think a major theme of this whole cd is universality versus individuality. There's sort of an "I Shot the Sheriff" homage in the middle there.

11. "Miles Away/The Truth Is"
Here's our final Dave contribution. I actually love love this song. Maybe I'm wrong. I just think Dave got just the right amount of bluesy twang. Maybe I should have saved that "Dave is the future of DM" comment for this song. Then again, I very well may be the only person who likes this song.

12. "Jezebel"
Here's the requisite Martin Biblical contribution. Sounds a whole lot like "Comatose" and "Breathe" from Exciter (two pretty low points for that album)

13. "Corrupt"
I like the sound of this one, but I think lyrically, it's not nearly up to snuff to be a closing song. "In Chains" would've been a far better choice. I think Martin got sort of lazy. When I heard the lyrics "You'll be crying out my name/ When you need someone to blame" my first thought was that it was a Dave, not a Martin. I figured Martin would find a better way to make a double entendre out of the opening phrase. The second half of it presents it way too overtly so no double meanings can be had. Still I like the guitars in this song. Would have been a better closer to side one though. There is a hidden song about eight minutes into the track. It's actually a pretty cool "Wrong" instrumental that sounds like it could go into the Watchmen trailer.

So all in all, it's not the best Depeche Mode, but it's NEW. That's what really matters. I think I may really warm up to it. I was a lot more excited when I first heard Playing the Angel but then soured on it over time. The opposite happened with Exciter so maybe things will go in that vein. Still, I'm glad the guys are smart enough to change things up a bit (even if non-fans probably can't hear any difference at all).


Blogger J.R. said...

Hole to Feed could be my second or third favorite. Go Dave! Wrong just pulses. Reminds me kinda of Strangelove but not really. Prolly my favorite. That's just like me to pick the single. Jon I still really dig Playing the Angel and Exciter has gone down for me (though Goodnight Lovers is one of my faves in quite some time).

May 05, 2009 1:26 PM  

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