Like a ghost in a machine, or a mechanical ghost, – whichever is more fitting alright? – Depeche Mode returns with its 11th studio album. The band seems to move in and out of genres and sounds the same way they have descended from the 80s and still hold tight to the music scene.
Unlike usual rock 'n' roll, which thrives on garage-raw sound to capture a band's element, Depeche Mode depends on harnessing technology. This allowed them to grow musically as technology in music advances alongside their endeavors. There aren't acoustic drums in sight, and each guitar and piano/synthesizer note is played in silenced aggression. All that said, Pink Floyd fans can appreciate Depeche Mode's similar analogue format of songwriting – pop melody colliding with otherworldly soundscapes in front of sorrowful vocals.
"A Pain That I'm Used To" starts out the album as if serenading an insane asylum. Using an annoying siren-effect, the song quickly drops to an almost inaudible level of ambience. This is a strange craft but ends up working out; the song becomes a haunting flag-in for disparity and futurism.
"Precious" is the first single and definitely stands out as the album's best track. The song will give you goose bumps with its layered synthesizers and guitar effects. The lyrics are equal parts remorseful and full of hope as the song tries to explain the struggle of having an innocent child trapped and torn within the conflict of the parent's divorce: "Precious and fragile things/need special handling/my God what have we done to you/I pray you learn to trust/have faith in both of us/keep room in your hearts for two."
"Nothing's Impossible" is the spookiest electro-jam on the CD. A heavy and steady drumbeat marches the ghostly whispers of backward instruments, making for a rather positive song, despite the cloud of ghostly sounds, of course.
Futurism in music was huge in the 80s, (this was, perhaps, a consequence of plenty of B-rate alien/android/robot movies and bad fashion sensibility). Lately, it has become more prominent in modern music – and not just with Depeche Mode. Radiohead influences are heard more and more frequently in the sounds of emerging bands and Nine Inch Nails is stronger than ever.
Perhaps "futurism" or "futuristic" music (much like jazz) is left for the ears of the intellectual to collect in their fascination for complexity. Can dance-rhythms go together with electronic rock? Techno and disco died for good reasons, yet rock 'n' roll (and Depeche Mode) will find greater strength in swallowing-whole the industrial sentiments of technology in music.
Nicholas LoFaro is a senior English major.