Tuesday, May 7, 2013

►▲▲ : Delta Machine

I'll never forget the first time I heard one of their songs: I was on Route 28 in Branchburg, N.J., late for class at Raritan Valley Community College (where I'd either play "Pole Position" or sit in my car and read The National). Some pervert was breathing over top an Ennio Morricone Nintendo song, and I'll be damned if it wasn't the greatest thing I'd ever heard.

They've provided the soundtrack to my life ever since, and if all they did now was play skiffle on a colander, I'd listen. But something weird happened after Songs of Faith and Devotion: I stopped enjoying their work.

When I heard they were back in the studio, I likened it to the Mets being back in spring training. I heard the usual marketing ploy, "This is the next Violator", and filed it away. Then I heard "Heaven" and I was truly apoplectic. It's like they're doing everything in their power to NOT sound like Depeche Mode!

I wasn't sure if I would share this, because who really gives a rat's ass? I'm sick of writing about the usual stuff, though, so here goes:

Status Crow's Semi-Serious Review of Depeche Mode's new album, Delta Machine

"Welcome To My World": They really roll out the welcome mat for you on this one. Either that or you're walking into what a Hideo Kojima nightmare must sound like. There's Ol' Scratch and "One Caress" strings telling of life and love and hard-earned peace. It's already my favorite song on the album.

Favorite line: "Watch the sunrise set, and the moon begin to blush. Our naked innocence translucently too much. And I hold you in my arms and keep you by my side, and we sleep the Devil's sleep just to keep him satisfied."

"Angel": A 33rpm "Condemnation" played at 78. They seem to have forgotten what middle eights are, but it's the greatest @#$% song so far.

Favorite line: "The angel of love was upon me, and Lord, I felt so clean. Like a preacher on Sunday my heart was serene. I waded into the water, I was bathed, I was drowned. Like the sinners before me, I knelt down on the ground."

"Heaven": The songwriting and vocals are superb. But do you recall how the intention for "Enjoy The Silence" was the harmonium version until He That Shall Not Be Named (Or Linked To) turned it into their most sublime achievement? Like "Peace" and "Freelove", this arrangement deserved a similar fate. This is my second-most favorite song on the album.

Favorite line: "I will scream the word, jump into the void. I will guide the herd up to heaven."

"Secret To The End": It's like "Sister of Night" giving the finger to that Some Great Reward couple. What assholes - this isn't a song about the altar, it's about the courthouse. It's the other 50%, the fine print you don't bother to read and therefore you don't have anyone to blame but yourself. Its the official theme song of divorce, and its closing is a relentlessly fitting dirge. I love this song. It's my favorite.

Favorite line: "When I look around this room, there must be something that I can do. Can I convince you that it isn't true? We've come to the end. Did I disappoint you? I wanted to believe it's true. Our book of love was not enough to see us through."
"My Little Universe": This one really is a Nintendo song, until it turns into my favorite song on the album. If its overall theme was bytes getting the blues, then this is the very heart of the machine.The syncopation is difficult, the Gahan-Gore tandem lead vocals finally giving way to a modular synthesizer having an orgasm. I can't believe what I just heard.

Favorite line: "Limited consciousness preserves me. It protects me and just connects enough to keep the wolves at bay. My little universe is expanding slowly, and those who know me say I’m growing every day. Here I am king, I decide everything. I let no one in. No one."

"Slow": They turn on their heels. There are no machines here, only the Delta and an occasional 104º breeze. And seeing as how there's really nothing else for us to be doing right now...

Favorite line: "Let the world keep its carnival pace, I prefer to look into your beautiful face. What a waste. Let the stars continue to fly by, I don't have one desire to understand why. I don't try. Slow, slow, as slow as you can go, I want my senses to overflow. And doesn't it show?"

"Broken": Imagine a "Lie To Me" that stops, turns around and says, "You know what? You suck, but I'm better for having endured the pain you put me through." It's the forgiveness and grace that only the years can give. I hear Marty Balin's "Hearts" in there somewhere, which is nice, but he's not my favorite Martin.

Favorite line: "When you’re falling, I will catch you. You don’t have to fall that far. You can make it, I will be there. You were broken for the start."

"The Child Inside": A Timothy Burton script got into their lyric sheets. And they recorded it anyway. It's seriously disturbing, and Johnny Depp is probably listening to it right now thinking, "This is the greatest song ever." Which it damn well is.

Favorite line: "I've spent so long in the darkness, I'd almost forgotten how beautiful the moonlight is."

"Soft Touch/Raw Nerve": Ladies, imagine "A Question of Time" tearing into the parking lot, only now he's a little older and a lot smarmier. And you go home with him anyway. The song fittingly fades with that low synth part in the build-up of "Stripped", which automatically makes it my favorite song on the album.

Favorite line: "Am I on the right track? Have I picked a bad time? It's seeming that you're dreaming through my eyes. Why protest when your success is my prize?"

"Should Be Higher": It's a bawdy strut. The cadence is Gahan's "Walking In My Shoes" prowl from Devotional, only this time he's not pleading with a jury. His range and delivery are all over the place here; dare I say it's his best vocal ever? It's certainly the best song on the album.

Favorite line: "I dream of a day when I dare to believe you're the answer. When the shame and the guilt are removed, and the truth appears. With the touch of your hand I lose who I am if I want to. I try to resist, but succumb to the bliss of your kiss."

"Alone": By the time you realize this is your favorite song on the album, a bittersweet "Any Second Now - Voices"  sends you on your way. Alone, of course. There's a lot of old Depeche Mode lurking in this album, and it's never more evident than on this track. It's their finest song in 20 years.

Favorite line: "I was there when you needed me most, I was there when you wanted me least. I was your father, your son, and your holy ghost and priest. Through your failures and success, through your losses and gains, I didn't see much happiness or pain."

"Soothe My Soul": Who got their Violator in my Songs of Faith and Devotion?! This is their greatest anthem since "I Feel You", and has a similar structure throughout. The lyrics read like an Ike Turner rap sheet and there's no discernible synth or guitar lead/break, but it's still my favorite song on the album.

Favorite line: "I'm coming for you when the sun goes down. I'm coming for you when there's no one around. I'll come to your house, break down the door. Girl I'm shaking and I need more."

"Goodbye": Dead men walking. The chains clank as you trod along, one man in front of you, another behind. The sun's in your eyes whichever way you look, and you're so thirsty you'd stoop down and drink the dust. Why does it have to come to this?

You reach the platform, make an abrupt turn and start up the steps. The three of you face the crowd, and a man emerges from behind. He carefully places a noose around the man to your left's neck. You hear him whimper, then mumble a prayer. The man to your right starts bellowing curses, and looses his bowels as the knot is tightened around his throat.

Then the man stands in front of you. He looks you dead in the eye and reaches behind his back. You can no more run from this than you could a train, and how you wish you would have realized this years ago. Just think of how easier life would have been, how different, how many would have been spared. You reach out and touch the Book, marked to Micah just like you'd asked. You read aloud for all the condemned the unwavering requirements of justice, mercy and humility, and no matter how quickly you walk away, you always hear the trapdoors fall. That's why this is my favorite song on the album.

Favorite line: "If you see me walking to the Golden Gates, turn around, start talking, stop and hesitate. I'll be waiting up there with my fate in the air for you. Goodbye, pain."

I love Delta Machine. It's a stripper pole in a church, with Leonard Cohen and Tyler Durden doing ecstasy in the confessional. It came to America, sold out the Rose Bowl, caused a riot in the streets of Los Angeles and died the rock 'n roll dream. Then it got resurrected, divorced, battled cancer and finally found peace:

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