2009 release from the veteran British Electronic rockers. Eclectic and energized, the band's new release is their most dazzling and diverse album in decades. Recorded in Santa Barbara and New York, Depeche Mode returned to using a lot of vintage gear, … see full wiki
I have been a Depeche Mode fan for seventeen years and have followed the band closely ever since. I have seen them three times and plan to see them two more on this coming tour. The amount of CDs, videos, DVDs, books, t-shirts and frames posters I have that are Depeche Mode related borderlines on ridiculous. In my very humble opinion this band can really do no wrong (other than the song call "Wrong'). I like to believe that this devotion is based more on the quality of music that band has produced over the years and not just because anything Depeche Mode does is wonderful.
I know that many people state that Depeche Mode isn't the same band since Alan Wilder left and this assumption is correct. [Hell, Depeche Mode hasn't been the same band since Vince Clark left.] I was REALLY upset when Alan Wilder left the band in 1995. However, in hindsight it wasn't really a big surprise. There was some tension (I believe) after the recording of SOFAD and the Devotional Tour. Nevertheless Wilder is an amazing musician and he really brought a lot Depeche Mode.
One idea I would like to present is this, perhaps Depeche Mode became stronger once Alan Wilder left? The three remaining members really needed to hold it down if they had any plans of going forward. David Gahan kicked his addictions to drugs/alcohol and has released (so far) two solid solo albums. This has lead to Gahan now sharing song writing duties with Martin Gore. Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher also have some accomplishments since Wilder left the band. The former has released a second solo album and has written some great tunes for DM and Fletch has/had started his own label Toast Hawaii.
"Sounds of the Universe" finds Depeche Mode in familiar territory, with some drops of out of character approaches thrown in for good measure. "In Sympathy" sounds like a classic DM from the 1990's and "Corrupt" sounds like a missing song from "Violator". "Wrong" isn't like anything they have done before, where "Peace" and "Perfect" are more uplifting tunes that haven't been heard by this band in a long time, if ever. The vintage synthesizers and keyboards are force to be reckoned with on this album. The instrumental on this album, "Spacewalker" sounds a lot the score from the 1971 film "Daughters of Darkness". There are also certain songs that sound like they are trapped in an Atari 2600 game, which to me is cool.
Comparisons have been made between SOTU and 2001's "Exciter". The only comparison I see is that both albums are mellow. However, I feel that "Exciter" was much more ambient and mellow than SOTU. Subsequently, "In Chains" would have not been out of place on "Exciter". The songs on SOTU really range in tempo, style and meaning. The first track being "In Chains", more or less a love song and the final track being "Corrupt" which is drenched in sordidness, sexy and masochism.
The one thing I noticed about this album is I needed to listen to it a few times for my appreciation to develop. This is a much layered album that might take more than one listen to truly enjoy. "Come Back" and "Jezebel" both didn't sound that great at first, now I totally love them. Therefore, it might be possible for multiple listens before "you feel a little love".
There has been some praise of this album and some criticism as well. This is common for any type of media. Nevertheless, I would like to take a moment to address the criticism towards SOTU. Under the assumption a person just dislikes this album and hates the way it sounds, that is cool, we are all have different tastes and it is hard to please everyone. In contrast, to report that this album sucks because it doesn't sound like "Violator" or "Songs of Faith and Devotion" (or any of their works) is really asinine. To set oneself up to thinking that every new Depeche Mode album is going to sound like one of their former albums is going to produce only one result........disappointment!!
For instance, REM is never going to make another "Out of Time", Pearl Jam is never going to make another "Ten", Metallica is never going to make another "Master of Puppets", U2 is never going to make another "Joshua Tree", and The Cure is never going to make another "Disintegration" and Depeche Mode is never going to make another "Violator". Everyone one of the following bands has evolved over time and is still around. I believe they do this by staying fresh and doing different things, if a band doesn't shake things up then they become predictable and boring.
Depeche Mode didn't get where they were today by repeating themselves. They keep it fresh and try new things; perhaps some albums are stronger than others but the approach is the same. I am just glad they are still around; there was a point in time where I wasn't sure. Besides think of any band, author, actor or movie director (or whatever) that has been around for almost 30 years. There is going to be some deviation from the mean, just to keep it new and exciting. It is hard to pigeon-hole Depeche Mode because they have touched so many different genres perhaps their strength is also their weakness.
As for criticism about the production of this album being bad I don't know what to say. I can say that I like the way this album sounds and I enjoy the songs. For agreement's sake if I wanted production to be better I wouldn't know where to start. Since I have never produced an album before, yet the criticism states to bring Alan Wilder back. Would Alan even come if requested? In addition, what type of "Depeche Mode Fan" is sitting around waiting to listen for "The Next Violator"? "Violator" is almost 20 years old and Alan Wilder has been away from the band for fourteen years. Depeche Mode has released four albums since Wilder's departure; it appears this longing for a copycat album is a moot exercise. I can think of many other elements in contemporary times to grip about than wishing that Depeche Mode would/will rerecord "Violator".
The one thing I do know about SOTU is I believe it is a solid and great album from a band I love. The theme that this collection of songs presents is a polished, robotic and arcane cacophonies that are mired in emotion.