Depeche Mode
Sounds Of The Universe


4.0
excellent

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
March 5th, 2011 | 27 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 30 years in the music industry doesn’t seem to have worn down Depeche Mode's steam or creativity one iota. Familiar yet fresh, 'Sounds of the Universe' is a consistent and satisfying listen.

Where are most bands after 30 years in the music business? Washed up? Outdated? On their last legs? One of those descriptions likely fits a sizeable portion of bands that have been together for 3 decades. But Depeche Mode’s twelfth studio album (Sounds of the Universe, 2009) fits into only one description: satisfying.

It’s satisfying in the sense that if (most) Depeche Mode fans pick up this album, disappointment shouldn’t be an issue as there’s more than a few tracks that are somewhat familiar, but in a good way. Familiarity can sometimes be negative but 'Sounds of the Universe' has a few nice touches up its sleeve to save itself from being samey and uninteresting. Songs like 'In Sympathy' and 'In Chains' might be fairly standard Depeche fare in terms of lyrical content (the latter having an S&M theme, vaguely reminiscent of 'Master & Servant') but still sound fresh.

This is probably down to Martin Gore who seemed to have spent the 4 years in between 'Playing the Angel' and this album shopping around on internet auction sites, amassing a collection of old early 80s synthesizers. This lends itself to the sound of the album quite well - it feels refreshing because synthesizers have moved on a lot in 30 years, so hearing these old, quirky and charming instruments in operation again is an anomaly in modern music and remains a delight. The older sounds woven with newer technology (Ben Hillier’s production probably deserves a good deal of credit) creates music that is nostalgic yet new, familiar yet fresh, redolent of earlier times yet not so outdated that it sounds regressed.

'Sounds of the Universe' is a slightly 'happier' album than what Depeche fans may be used to (and when I say happy, I mean happy for a Depeche Mode record, i.e. slightly less dark), with the opener 'In Chains' featuring an energetic, whirling chorus of electronic buzz, and the Gahan penned track, 'Hole to Feed' containing a squelchy rhythm and bouncy little electronic pops and fizzes bounding around in the background. This slightly jollier theme ends up being one of the albums biggest hooking factors, as it, rather impressively (considering the band has been making music for 30yrs) makes 'SOTU' stand out as a distinctive album in Depeche Mode’s extensive and varied catalogue.

Thankfully, Depeche didn’t forget to neglect their darker side either, as evidenced by the absolute killer 'Wrong'. It’s short and energetic, but razor sharp and catchy. The melody buzzes around like a bee on acid and Gore’s lyrics are as hooky as they’ve been in years. There are plenty of other worthwhile moments on 'SOTU', like 'Peace', 'Fragile Tension' (with a haunting guitar riff on the chorus), or the calculated, Gore sung track 'Jezebel' featuring chilling and glowing atmospheric synths.

Few bands deliver songs of this calibre after as much time in the music business as Depeche Mode. Familiar and nostalgic in all the ways it needs to be but creative and fresh in other areas, proving fans with a satisfying listen. Because its slightly less dark, it’ll take a few listens before your average Mode fan is hooked (although 'Wrong' hooks you in on its first play). With quality like this, Depeche are far from finished and one can only admit that album thirteen can’t come soon enough.



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user ratings (225)
Chart.
3.3
great
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Stephen Gore (3.5)
After a 28 year relationship, Depeche Mode have dumped doom and gloom. But they’ve kept the handc...


Comments:Add a Comment 
bloc
March 5th 2011


34925 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

BOOOOOOOOOO!

Although Wrong kicks ass.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I really like this album. Its not as good as Playing the Angel but after a few listens i thinks there's a lot to like. Wrong does kick ass, one of my favourites.

bloc
March 5th 2011


34925 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Arrrgh, I probably should give this another listen.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Sounds like a good idea, bloc. I wasn't particularly wowed by much on my first couple of listens but i gave it a few more tries and now i really like it.

fr33convict
March 5th 2011


11694 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Meh I didn't think there was much to love about this. It's solid though. Good review, pos'd, etc.,

Did you already do Violator and I missed it or have you not gotten to it yet?

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yep, did Violator 6 days ago! Just click on my name at the top of the review, go to my reviews tab and find it on there if you fancy giving it a read. Cheers for the Pos, btw.

fr33convict
March 5th 2011


11694 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah I decided to go look for it after I asked and I found it. I'm jealous of your drive to write. I've got reviews in a year haha.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Haha, thanks, fr33convict.

That's the Depeche discog done now. I've got a few ideas what i'm gonna do next, though.


Kaleid
March 5th 2011


711 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

At one point, I did like ten in a week. I've managed two in the last two years.

Nicely done. SOTU is very much a grower. The studio version of Come Back was brilliant.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"Come Back. Come back to me. I've been waiting here, patiently. COOOMMMEEE back" ;)

Cheers. I'm glad you agree about SOTU being a grower. I was addicted to Wrong instantly but songs like Come Back took a few listens. I didn't even like Jezebel on first my few times.

Kaleid
March 5th 2011


711 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I still don't like Perfect. I wish they'd included Ghost, or Oh Well, they seem to be having trouble sorting the trash from the treasure these days :/

Congrats on finishing your DM streak, I'll be reading whatever you do next

bloc
March 5th 2011


34925 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The video for Wrong is kickass too

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, its amazing.

G3N3R1C
March 5th 2011


1945 Comments


There's a synthesizer bit in Wrong (that also is reprised at the end of the album) that kinda reminds me of the cave music from one of the old Pokemon games.

scissorlocked
March 5th 2011


3511 Comments


good review man.

generic, the cave music fuckin slayed. so mystical

Digging: Traumprinz - All The Things

G3N3R1C
March 5th 2011


1945 Comments


This is what i was talking about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ee_h7ZVRpos

And yeah, i agree.

bloc
March 5th 2011


34925 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

With this Pokemon music? They do sound similar!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz29y40RjsY

G3N3R1C
March 5th 2011


1945 Comments


I was about to say "yeah" but something didn't quite sound right.... this is actually the one i was thinking of:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4UP5Kd1FTE

Titan50
March 6th 2011


4588 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^oh my god you're right

bloc
March 18th 2011


34925 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wow, I'm liking this much much more now



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