Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pain and Suffering in Various Tempos (Tempi?)

After the bittersweet success of their last CD, 'Exciter', I had reservations about buying this latest offering from the holy three: Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher. But I have to admit, this CD is an eye-opener. I would certainly rate it their best collection of music since 'Violator' but it doesn't equal it. Not bad for a band I had almost consigned myself to remember only for its past triumphs. This album is definitely a shot in the arm of the listener declaring "Don't count us out just yet".
Here's the play by play:
I was scared half out of my wits after turning up the volume and playing the first track. It sounded like more 'Exciter' stuff. A distorted guitar amped out to the max going up and down in pitch, but it's a clever ruse. The guitar ends in a major scale tonic and Gahan begins "A Pain That I Am Used To". This song is quite addictive. I was impressed. I have learned that after "Precious" this is slated to be the next single and I can't disagree. It's a much better song than "Dream On" from 'Exciter' in my opinion.
The second track sounds like a cut from 'Speak & Spell' or 'Construction Time Again', but the analog synths disappear to reveal a deep bass line and Dave singing a very syncopated lyric and a beat that can't help but move you to gyrate in the living room. This is 'John the Revelator' referring to St. John the Divine (the guy who, according to legend, penned the Apocalypse or the Book of Revelations). Dave has a dim opinion of St. John, although I do take issue with his lyric 'He stole his God/From the Muslim too' as Revelations was written about three centuries before Mohammed was born. But I'll overlook such a trivial fact in a catchy tune such as this.
'Suffer Well' is the next song which is one of the three tunes on this CD written by Dave Gahan. This is the first time Dave has been given credit for songwriting on any DM album as it is usually Martin Gore, but for a freshman effort this song rocks. The chorus is classic Depeche Mode, almost a throwback to the mid-80's, but so what? That's what I preferred anyway. I think the track should have been longer though.
'The Sinner in Me' has a lilting chorus that is ethereal and dreamy. The beat is raw and reminiscient of pre-Violator DM. It quits at a point where you think it will end and then erupts again into chorus before falling away into ultimate quiet. A good tune all told.
The fifth track, 'Precious', is the first single off this CD and sounds akin to 'Enjoy the Silence' in its beat and analog synth style. The lyrics are about having children and caring for them in a modern world. I imagine that's why the cover art for the CD resembles a child doll made of angel's feathers. It's a reference to 'Precious' and the constant referral to angels in the lyrics of this album. It is a nice tune, but not spectacular. The video is interesting as well using ghostly clockwork prehistoric animals threatening a Titanic-esque ocean liner.
'Macro' is okay. Something I can listen to once in a while.
I have heard people say that the next track, 'I Want It All' (another Gahan tune) is the worst song on the album, but I disagree. I like the slow, rhythmic arpeggiations of a clear guitar and the celeste-like synths serving as backdrop to Gahan's slow, thought-provoking lyrics. A good song to meditate to. It's also the longest offering on the CD clocking in at 6:10.
The next track is another stunner: 'Nothing's Impossible' uses a robotic undertone to Gahan's and Gore's unison to great effect. The analog synths are used perfectly here to accent the catchy chorus. This tune rates as one of the best on the CD. Btw, this is the third song written by Dave.
'Introspectre' is the obligatory DM instrumental. Interesting, but I've heard better - just filler I imagine.
'Damaged People' is another memorable tune, with Gore adding a beautiful minor turn to the end of the chorus as well as poetic lyrics "When your lips touch mine/ it makes me forget that I'm cold and crying/ it makes me forget that I'm old and dying." Awesome.
'Lillian' is a decent tune. It sings the praises of a girl named Lillian whose every dress she wears is a loaded gun...
The final tune, 'The Darkest Star' is an excellent way to end the album. It is another hit. This is the song that has the lyric "playing the angel" in it which happens to be the CD's title. It is a slow ballad with a crunching, fortissimo at the close of each chorus. The minor ninth chord really darkens the hell out of this song. I love it.
In summary, this CD is really a surprise. I almost wrote these guys off, but they just won't go away. Their dark tunes inebreate. Their lyrics permeate. In short, give this CD a spin. If you like good music this album will not disappoint.


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