Posted on June 9th, 2013 (7:00 am) by Kim Bongiovanni

Bowie has proven earlier in the year that pop stars really can age well, and now with Delta Machine, Depeche Mode have demonstrated that it isn’t just pop stars that can remain relevant no matter their age, but pop bands as well. Thirty three years since their inception, Depeche Mode have bestowed upon us their thirteenth album Delta Machine, out March 22nd on Columbia and Mute Records. The band arguably had their strongest run of albums in the late '80s and early '90s with Violator, Songs of Faith and Devotion, and Music For The Masses. To expect another epic like those albums isn’t really reasonable. An iconic band releasing an LP thirty three years since their inception have a lot to answer for, and many expectations to meet. So it should come as a great surprise that Delta Machine could easily fit in-between 1990’s iconic Violator and 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion.

Delta Machine isn’t really dance music, nor is it techno unless you consider electro-ballads to be techno. No, the album is a lovely mix of electro pop with a touch of the industrial themes the band explored in previous releases. It’s dark, not in an oppressively complex manner, but in a simple, straightforwardly engaging way. No Depeche Mode release is ever "happy" - at most a song or two can be considered a little uplifting but never happy. And it’s true - Delta Machine is as morose, introspective and stark as ever. For instance, "The Child Inside" with its wonderful underwater-esque echo coupled with Gore’s broody vocals acts as the capstone melancholy track, complete with thematically isolated lyricism: "why were you always inside on days when the weather was fine and while we were running around you were nowhere to be found."

In the period between Sounds of the Universe and Delta Machine, Martin Gore collaborated with former Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke on Ssss under the name VCMG - an electronic instrumental album that was disturbingly robotic and emotionless. Without Dave Gahan’s stellar vocal performance on Delta Machine, the album could have easily been as lifeless as Ssss. The album isn’t one of the band’s strongest releases, but it is undoubtedly on par with 2009’s Sounds of the Universe. The latter is a cohesive and engaging listen, Delta Machine is not. It sounds like the band is trying to fit as many different electronic tropes into a single release as humanly possible, which is disappointing because of all bands Depeche Mode really don’t have to try so hard.

While Delta Machine is for the most part quintessentially Depeche Mode, there’s something new Gahan and co. have added into the mix. It’s bluesy, laden with arresting instances of blues guitar work which is strange given the band’s back catalogue and overall aesthetic. Not that it isn’t a welcome development, in fact it pairs surprisingly well with their iconic synth backdrop and Gahan’s heady baritone.

The inclusion of blues motifs really makes one wonder - are Depeche Mode moving forward with their sound? After all, they released their first album on the crux of electronic music’s popularity, demonstrating its potential and solidifying the band’s place as frontrunners in the scene. Could it be that the rock-electro-blues mesh in Delta Machine hints at what’s to come in the future? The progression of blues to rock, and on towards electronic themes in pop music is well known, yet what Depeche Mode have done with Delta Machine is introduce all three musical sources into one thoroughly innovate and modern unit - demonstrating once more that Depeche Mode are the epitome of musical modernization.

Track List:
1. Welcome to My World
2. Angel
3. Heaven
4. Secret to the End
5. My Little Universe
6. Slow
7. Broken
8. The Child Inside
9. Soft Touch/Raw Nerve
10. Should Be Higher
11. Alone
12. Soothe My Soul
13. Goodbye

Depeche Mode - Delta Machine
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

70 / 100
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