Delta Machine reestablishes band’s image for new generations

[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”center”]Depeche Mode reinvents classic sound, incorporates synthetic sci-fi elements[/pullquote1]

BY JULIA BYRNES ’13
Contributing Writer

When I first picked up Delta Machine, Depeche Mode’s 13th album, released on March 22, I was instantly reminded why the band has solidly lasted in the music world for the past 33 years. After my initial reaction subsided and I finished a full listen-through of the album in its entirety, however, I realized a potential problem with the album’s reception: everything about it is a double-edged sword.

The extreme diversity of Delta Machine hooked me, as these dark synth-pop masters illustrated the depth of their musical capabilities. There is no denying the characteristically distinct Depeche Mode sound at the heart of this album. Dave Gahan’s alluring vocals among the dark synth foundation provide a gratifyingly predictable element to the album as a whole.

Stylistically, the tracks range from sci-fi synth with pop or rock infusions to electronic blues that change into gothic-infused rock. Some parts are packed with sexual energy only to delve into religious reflection or take a dark turn, highlighting gothic undertones. Needless to say, there is a lot going on in this extremely diverse, yet dense album. I have to admit that after an hour-long listen through, I was exhausted and had to put the album aside and come back to it later.

Although I love Depeche Mode’s ability to tackle a multitude of genres, styles, and lyrical themes, this extreme diversity established little connection between each song, and each track demanded a new mindset and perspective from the listener. However, the band managed to establish just enough of a relationship between the tracks to achieve fluidity throughout the album. It certainly wasn’t boredom that drained me — and it’s not that I was sick of what I was listening to. Instead, Depeche Mode gives its listeners a dense amount of material to unravel. From a musical standpoint, this proves how creativity flows out of the band members at an uncontrollable degree. But perhaps control is what was needed in organizing Delta Machine. As a result, what may prove fatal for the album’s outcome is exhausted and overwhelmed listeners wary of pressing repeat.

However, this diversity enables a wider audience. I think listeners will vary in their choice of personal favorites, depending on which way their musical preferences sway. Personally, I prefer their more blues-influenced tracks, such as “Slow” and the intro to “Goodbye” over something more techno and electronic, such as “My Little Universe” or the pop/alternative tracks like “Heaven.” Brit-pop influences arise in “Soothe My Soul,” in great contrast to “Angel,” a heavily menacing track with gothic influences. The list goes on and on. Some devout fans may find “Soothe My Soul” resonating “Personal Jesus” a little too closely, yet they are provided with a multitude of other, very different tracks. Most importantly, Depeche Mode solidly remains true to its core style since the 80s while still managing to infuse a variety of other complimentary styles that enable a larger audience.

Delta Machine’s promotion has taken a multitude of directions, and this also provides a double-edged sword for its reception. The extreme diversity that encompasses the album leaves a large range for the band’s reception, yet this flexibility may prove fatal on a promotional level. For instance, the album’s first single “Heaven” takes on the band’s darker, more religious side, not to mention the rather creepy elements — with Dave Gahan seemingly consumed by sexual urges — incoherently intermixed with gothic elements. This semi-sci-fi-infused melody contorts the image of the album as a whole, potentially misleading listeners to conceive Delta Machine as a religious compilation.

[three_fourth]Regardless, Depeche Mode has confidently proven its musical capabilities over the past 33 years through numerous waves of musical genres and each band member’s personal struggles. As a big fan myself, I can say the band’s confidence has enabled its development so that Delta Machine is most likely their best album yet. There is no denying musical genius supports this album, yet listeners should probably prepare themselves prior to delving in. Tracks to look out for vary on the listener’s personal taste, but I would recommend “Slow” for fans of the blues, “My Little Universe” for Brit-pop fans, and “Heaven” for those fans of heavier gothic or religious undertones.[/three_fourth]
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Review Rating:
B+
Depeche Mode creates music for everyone on Delta Machine.

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Questions? Email Julia at jbyrnes@fandm.edu.

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