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Seven New Songs by Depeche Mode In A Rush
by Thomas Vänker of Intro magazine, translated by Niggels Uhlenbruch

Monday, 4th of July , 5:27 pm, London: A quick handshake by Mute boss Daniel Miller and here we go, deeper into what looked like a normal English house from outside. In fact it´s rather one of these private clubs, of which folks like us only hear about from the tabloids, when Boris Becker gets foisted yet another child upon him (okay, that happened actually in a high-end restaurant but you get the picture, don’t you?) or when some banker gets arrested red-handedly because of some sort of dubious financial transaction.

Today the ground floor of this salacious and beautiful club (a harmonic mix of British conservatism and Greek-ish interior design and art) is in the hands of the most important band in the world – no, not Kiss, I´m talking about Depeche Mode!

Miller is aware of the jumpiness of the attendees – journalists coming to Depeche Mode are always a little more excited as with any other subject; not to mention the also attendand label employees. This is a fans’ world, through and through. Miller keeps his speech accordingly short: The album will be called Playing With Angels and be released on 17th of October, and now we´re going to hear the world exclusive premiere of seven songs off the new album – unfortunately yet unmastered. A fact which Miller, the old perfectionist, visibly feels quite uncomfortable with. But there´s no other way. With a tour time-phased for January and the release of the album the Depeche Mode machine has restarted once more, four years and some months after Exciter, and the machine imperativly needs to be fed.

And one thing is clear after this bombastic listening session (bombastic both concerning the environment – the album was played on an unbelievably loud PA – and in respect of content): Nothing can stop the Depeche Mode machine!

Playing The Angel is a dark, thunderously rocking album, which lyrically digs into the infinite abysms of human existance and, in doing so, avails itself musically of a range from Industrial to contemporary electronic avantgarde. But after all it always comes back to this certain self-reliance and independence which is Depeche Mode known for for 25 years know.

So, here are the first hard facts. After a single listen. That is, don´t kill me if it feels a little different afterwards.

1. 'Precious'
Will be the first single. And deservedly so. The song works from the start. Very homogenous and self-contained all in all, in short moments nevertheless with the very libertine Depeche Mode always get away with. For example the shortest fragment of a melody ever: Just a tap on the piano-synth and catchiness and significance still add up. It reminds myself a bit on the Black Celebration period but it’s also reminiscent of Violator. Pathos doesn´t get missed out, too. Excerpt: “If God had a masterplan…” – despair right away, then. As the track was played once again at the end of the listening session people virtually danced to it. Fire test has been passed with flying colours. The word ‘classic’ is in the air all over the place.

2. 'The Sinner In Me'
A very dark, Industrial-like track which be could be as well Nine Inch Nails – well, until the vocals come in. The Italo lot among the British colleagues shiver in the face of too much harshness. Once more about agony and pain:”…still recover, still go over all the suffering..” (by the way, no warranty for accuracy at all when it comes to quotes off the lyrics). Towards the end the track appropriatley vanishes in digital noise and swoosh.

3. 'Suffer Well'
And once again suffering – even though I Freudianly misheard “Suffer Weil”. Well-fitting to the flow of the record, Gahan talks later on about “one of the darkest Depeche Mode records ever”. This song, a very strong, lusty anthem, is penned by him, by the way. Just like another one in this listening session and a third one on the final album (which – so much for now – will be finished by the end of this week). The track ends with a surprising Hip Hop scratch of noise sounds. Once again one of those ambitious, at first intriguing  but then sense making elements which the band has such a good grasp of.

 4. 'Macrovision'
"...Overflowing senses... I hear my blood flow…" Aptly to this short quote there´s only the voice present at the beginning of the song, haunting, coming in for  all things – and when the wall of sound joins the voice still leads the track to higher levels. Nonetheless:  A difficult track at first listen, somehow it has something pretentious about it. A feeling which is ultimately blotted out by the intoxicating melancholy, though.

 5. 'John The Revelator'
One of these tracks which work after a few seconds already, which needs no big introduction , which just enters the room and can be assumed as well-established.  The leading 80s synth sound recalls slightly on “Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass” by I-F and is the ideal leitmotif for a song which has the ability to blend the best of the worlds of Rock and Electronics. Potential single. I would say.

6. 'I Want It All'
The second track by Gahan in this session. And so far the least enthralling for me. A ballad and therefore very much produced pertinently for his voice which, blessed with all presence possible, narrates over layers of click sounds. Towards the end the sounds take over, step by step, grinding and rattling like the colossus in Björk’s “Army Of Me” video clip.

7. 'A Pain That I'm Used To'
The track begins with an unsettling vocal line, which in its flow rather reminds on Italo-Pop-House canto than Depeche Mode. But at latest when the sublime melody rises above the darkness of the words, when the elevated raptures presage, the song  falls back into the world where it really belongs. Perhaps the track with the best dramaturgy on the album. Another potential single for me.

The Bottom Line: An album like a lustful punch in your face -  so to speak the “Fight Club” album of Depeche Mode. No chance at all to step aside and evade.

source: -  original text written by Thomas Vänker of Intro magazine - translation into English  by Niggels
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