Depeche Mode has always presented itself as a band that constantly evolves and always has something to offer its fanbase. Even throughout the band’s 30+ year tenure and numerous style changes over the years, the fans continue to flock when a new album is released, Delta Machine is no exception.
Delta Machine is the third installment of albums produced by Ben Hiller, and is Depeche Mode’s 13th studio album. I was worried that Depeche Mode’s transfer to Columbia Records would have compromised the band’s ability to produce their signature style of music, but I was proven wrong after my first listen of Delta Machine.
Depeche Mode, in many aspects, present listeners with a minimal approach to their music on this album, but also continue to infuse underlying layers of complexity, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy their music. “Welcome to My World” and “Angel” are both examples of the framework the band uses: a simple and minimal beginning that builds into a powerful and compelling chorus, with the latter taking a darker, Pentecostal theme. After hearing “Angel” during Depeche Mode’s October press conference, Gahan’s aggressive vocals paired with metaphoric lyrics pertaining to glossolalia and supernatural experiences are still an attention grabber.
“Heaven”, Delta Machine’s lead single, embarks on a style and tone proprietary and unlike any other featured on the album. Almost a pop song, “Heaven” taps into a gospel/blues hybrid that reminds me of the Paris mix of “Condemnation” from Songs of Faith and Devotion. That, in itself, is a loose comparison. The song is catchy, but still remains faithful to the fans of Depeche Mode, new and old.
“Secret to the End” is lyrically and instrumentally one of my favorite songs on this album. What caught my attention most was the instrumental production; not as dark, more spacious, and complex. The song seems to play on elements and effects from Sounds of the Universe that I really liked. “My Little Universe” on the other hand, I found to be one of the weaker songs on the album… the first one I came across on the album. Simply put, it just doesn’t stack up with the rest of the album so far. Not a bad track, but it doesn’t speak to me. It sounds like a blend of “Little Soul” and “All That’s Mine”.
“Slow” is where Depeche Mode clearly epitomizes their take on the blues and delta influence with Gore’s opening guitar riff. The track is very Violator-esque, or at least echoes the album. “Slow” is down tempo, passive, and provides an ambient transition into the second half of the album. “Broken” takes on a faster tempo and builds into a poppy-synth groove, again breaking any type of direct consistency (which is a very good thing).
“The Child Inside” is the Martin Gore vocal song on the album. Like every Gore track on a Depeche Mode album, this song is a lyrical masterpiece and again exemplifies Gore’s abilities as a songwriter. Though the song didn’t stick out to me on the first listen, it should not go unnoticed, but I will say that I would have preferred the b-side “Always” (another Martin track) to have been included on the album, even if it doesn’t fit the overarching style and theme of the album.
“Soft Touch / Raw Nerve” is the most pop driven song on this album, hands down. Unfortunately, I heard this song first during the Live on Letterman webcast and prefer live renditions of this song better than the studio version, since I don’t hear the energy that’s presented when the band plays it live. Skewed opinion on this song? I certainly have one, yes. “Should Be Higher” and “Alone” offer more redemptive qualities after listening the studio version of “Soft Touch / Raw Nerve”, and are very lyrically strong. Maybe I just need to let this one grow on me.
“Soothe My Soul” is the second single from Delta Machine and also has a poppy, but bluesy sound to it. It makes sense that this was chosen to be the next single from the album because I believe that it encompasses more of the stylistic elements the album has to offer. It also reminds me of something I’d hear out of Mad Moxxi’s Bar while playing Borderlands 2.
“Goodbye” is the final track on the album, and rightfully so. Not only is the title fitting, but is one of the most climactic pieces on Delta Machine. The final serene singing of the word “goodbye” is a warm send off to listeners, and gives me hope of future releases from the band.
My friend Paul Gleason stated, “This is the blues – Depeche Mode-style”, and I couldn’t agree more! I wouldn’t be opposed to Depeche Mode taking on a blues approach for any future releases they release post-Delta Machine. While Sounds of the Universe didn’t sit well with me in the long run, I believe that this album truly demonstrates that Depeche Mode are still pioneers in music and will continue to be innovators.