Saturday, April 25, 2009

depeche mode - sounds of the universe

"only teenage girls and, really, really honest people go out and pay for music anymore.".

- Bono out of U2, Rolling Stone interview 2009.

it's rather odd that Bono, who loves shooting his mouth off about everything in the guise of some sort of expert, can't quite get a statement right in regards of the art that has made him his fortunes. i don't know too much about the teenage girls side of things, but either there are considerably more "really, really" honest people in the world than his depressing opinion suggests, or he is just flat wrong.

the phenomenon, if you will, of downloading music is indeed real, with tunes being downloaded legally and not quite so legally. to suggest, however, that not many want to go and buy the music and actually own something other than a data file is ridiculous. a good many of us are, as we have always been, happy to go out and purchase music that we like. nothing beats owning a quality record, and a download is not even better than the real thing, Mr Bono.

sure, if you are U2, and release a single that just features two songs that will feature as is on the album, you can't really expect people to rush out and buy it. likewise, there is a good deal of rubbish, and here i think of horrid, awful sounding "internet phenomenon" the Arctic Monkeys, as well as all the lazy, sampled/remixed tracks that seem to get issued by people with nothing better to do, that just isn't worth buying as it's either talent free or made on the cheap anyway. and if those self-absorbed, vastly inflated opinion of themselves wielding clowns Radiohead wish to put their album on the internet and say "you don't have to pay for this if you don't want to", what would one expect to happen?

musicians who are not quite so pompous and dismissive as U2 (as good as the recent album from them is) know this, and put as much effort into how their records are made and released now as they did before anyone thought to shove cables into computers and share music. recent singles from Oasis and Morrissey have come with lavish packaging, extra tracks and what have you, making them ace to buy. some musicians still care about a quality product being delivered to their fans, likewise their fans appreciate it enough to go out and buy it.

which brings us to the return of Depeche Mode. they have released not only an excellent song in the form of the single Wrong, but have also released it in a very desirable set that made someone like me, a casual fan of the band, very much wish to buy it, which is what i did.

if you haven't heard Wrong yet, well, switch on the radio or, even better, purchase it from your favourite store or the link above. the band, yet again it has to be said, retains their distinct sound yet deliver a fresh, new tune that's rather difficult not to turn up that bit louder on the stereo.

as well as being a great song, the album of course gets one interested and, if you will excited, about what else is to follow. and, sure enough, the album does not disappoint.

sounds of the universe is an actual, proper album. it's not a collection of songs put together to fill up a compact disc or to be just listed on some music download site. it's a record that you want to play from start to finish, with the tracks selected and put in this order with some care and consideration by the band. this is a compliment these days, once upon a time this was how all music was made and released.

how does it sound? well, "standard Depeche Mode" really, even though that's a touch lazy of me. the inherent sound and direction of the bands' music prevails here, but as ever they find a new angle or edge in what they deliver this time. the only real oddity is perhaps the title - it's a collection of introspective, soul searching songs rather than some reach for universal ideals as the name suggests. and this isn't a bad thing.

beyond the single Wrong, there's some amazing music on here. a particular standout is In Sympathy, a track which reminds one of the best the band has done, and as consequence will be ripe remix material should they (wisely) put this one out as a single in the near future. Hole To Feed is an elegant mix of a thumping funky beat and Dave Gahan reaching for the all out rock voice last heard on I Feel You. Martin Gore's obligatory go at lead vocals on this one is a great song called Jezebel; a restrained electro-jazz number which tips the hat to two bands who themselves owe rather a lot to Depeche Mode, Massive Attack and Portishead. the same could be said for Spacewalker, a beautiful instrumental piece of a sound that, now that i think of it, gives some credit to the lofty ambitions of the album's title.

if the album comes anywhere close to not being perfect, it would be the track Peace. now, unless the song is by John Lennon, any and all songs with the word "peace" in the title should be approached with caution. whereas this one isn't bad musically (the ace bass intro is quality), the lyrics, although for the most part as introverted and personal as the majority of the album, often sound a bit like that which Bono would jot down after a meeting with the Pope, the Dali Lama, Steven Jobs, Bill Gates and Dick Cheney. except that, going on the sound of his bands' last album, Bono couldn't write a sing this good right now.

so then, if you haven't worked it out, sounds of the universe is an album well worth your time. give the single Wrong a listen - if you can get into the groove of that, then do not hesitate in purchasing the whole album.

now if only more bands (like, for instance, U2) put this kind of effort in.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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