Mar 25, 2013 Issue #45 - Winter 2013 - Phoenix
For a unit that's long been the model of the archetypal studio band, it's no surprise that Depeche Mode's 13th record is another exemplary display of aural wizardry and high production value. Delta Machine is the latest in a long line of records that'll really impress on an expensive stereo system. (The record's faults certainly don't lie with Ben Hillier's production or Flood's mix.) From the dark synth pulses that open "Welcome to My World," all signs point to this being the band at their most dramatic and enticingly mopey.
It starts off promisingly, but then we get to "Angel." Depeche Mode have glossed over Dave Gahan's vocal limitations incredibly well in their three-decade career, but when the cracks shine through—as they do here—it's egregious. Gahan theatrically snarls and croons his way through this song, as if he were doing his best "Tupelo" in a low-rent Bad Seeds tribute band. Whenever his voice fails to maintain their illusion of flawlessness, whole songs tend to crumble down around it; suddenly, the lyrics seem silly and obtuse, the melodies flat, the music too sterile.
Fortunately, Depeche Mode click here slightly more often than not. "Slow" shows off with cool buzzing guitars that circle in the mix like a swarm of bees. Closer "Goodbye" rides on a rollicking guitar lick; the roadhouse stomp and phantom chorus give it an earthy "Personal Jesus" vibe. But as is the case with much of the band's discography, the real money is in the lead single. "Heaven" slow burns with a methodical digital beat and resonating piano chords before Gahan arrives with a Martin Gore lyric—aching and vaguely Biblical, as is the custom—that's been perfectly tooled to his most tortured vocal register. This is Depeche Mode-by-the-numbers, but it's welcome amongst so much filler. (www.depechemode.com)
Author rating: 5.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10