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Sounds of a still great Band!,
This review is from: Sounds Of The Universe (2LP+CD) [12" VINYL] (Vinyl)
After to listening to the album in it's entirety a good 4 or 5 I'm pleased to announce Sounds is not a Depeche Mode by numbers. Infact it's an interesting evolution in the band who been referred to as the techno U2.
That label may sound insulting to some especially if your view of Bono and Co is not favourable but I feel it is a fair approximation of the Mode, when both bands have manage to stretch over 3 decades re-inventing themselves and taking their fan base most faithfully with them. Yes many may have dropped off when they went rock on the superb Songs of Faith & Devotion and it caused a member to leave but this band have a loyal fan base who have kept them nearly as successful as their Dublin peers.
The album introduces itself with a an analogue buzz before Dave Gahan's rich vocal takes over and the opening In Chains is undoubtedly a highlight. To think this was the guy who rather blandly sang the vocals on their early 80's hits
has now blossomed not unlike Bono (sorry with the U2 comparisons) to such performances as 2001 Exciter highlight the soulful When The Body Speaks, the years, drug addiction and a near fatal overdose which saw him die for a moment to be bought back to life, ironically seem to improved his voice no end.
Each subsequent DM album has seen his voice improve and SOTU is no exception. It does seem to have displeased a faction of fans but for those disappointed their will no doubt will be those revel in the band looking back, with the acquisition of analogue synthesisers but giving their sound a noughties flavour by using subtle stabs of guitar so the sound of their new addition isn't too anchored in their past.
The first single sees a minimalist sound as Gahan repeats the title over and over again before the song kicks in and he continues intone what is wrong, the lyrics are simple but work and its a fine single to introduce the band back to the world.
Just like on Playing the Angel was for the first time Gahan has taken song writing duties with Eigner & Philpot who collaborated with him on his 2nd solo album and is writing on PTA and one of their collaborations the lush Come Back is the best of the three on show. Martin Gore chief song writer takes credit for the remaining 10 tracks and it's the Gore penned Jezebel which is the weakest thing on offer here, considering Gore's vocals are lent to such tracks as the haunting One Caress in 93 and the highlight single of 97 album Ultra, Home. Jezebel feels like Mode on autopilot and where sometimes Gore's lyrics aren't that impressive on this track they feel particularly trite.
Gore still delivers on the first single Wrong, the cracking opener In Chains, the likely singles In Sympathy and the Kraftwerkian Peace, in fact the influence of the German electronic pioneers permeates throughout the album. The album has a natural flow to it and you will no doubt get even more benefit from a purchase of the quality 180 gram vinyl pressing over the CD version with use of the analogue synthesisers, incidentally the vinyl version comes with a copy of the CD as the package. A pricey box set not unlike the one U2 released with No Line On the Horizon is also available for you rich or completest fans out there but for my money the 180 gram vinyl version is where you will get the most benefit if we are talking primarily about the sound of this album.
Many fans may feel it's time for DM to call it a day and they have had their run but on the strength of this myself and other fans who supposedly according to some factions are responsible for this album and the fact they claim accepting any old rubbish they will continue to produce this kind of album which they have so much of a problem with. Well on this evidence if they continue to keep coming up with albums of this quality, there maybe a good few years and albums left in this band from Basildon.