If a machine has been running for quite a long time – let’s say three decades – a little maintenance from time to time is highly important. Especially when you love that machine for its unique abilities. Okay, admittedly, the metaphor feels a bit forced but there is a certain truth when comparing DEPECHE MODE to a machine. Almost constantly working since 1981 they just keep rolling and rolling. After conquering the world in the 80s, peaking and struggeling in the 90s, they made their peace in the past ten years, now entering the fourth decade of their career. And who could have seen that coming from the lovely little Basildon-based synthie-poppers who sang the fluffy Just Can’t Get Enough thirty-two years ago? Being one of the most influential and succesful bands in pop history, DEPECHE MODE clearly don’t need to prove anything to anyone anymore. Let’s face it – they won’t produce another Violator album anymore. And it looks like Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andrew Flecther are well aware of the fact and have embraced their legcay while carefully administering it. And as long as the masses follow it looks like they are the only ones who can stop the machine.
With their thirteenth longplayer Delta Machine, DEPECHE MODE are entering the late phase of their career, it seems. Although this machine got plenty of fire in it and is finally a return to a more coherent form of the good old fashioned album concept. While the previous records Playing The Angel and Sounds OF The Univsere were alright but also indecisive, Delta Machine is focussed and consequent. Taking its name from the New Orleans delta, it is clearly inspired by Gores and Gahans love for blues music. Nothing totally new to the trio, they’ve always had these tendencies and moments in their songs, but never so obvious like here. But of course it’s not just a simple record, not for DEPECHE MODE. The electronic element of the ‘Machine’ teams up with the bluesy ‘Delta’ part. Welcome To My World is a surprisingly reluctant, very straight and clean opener – the tiny outbreaks bring back the essence of DEPECHE MODE. And it really feels like the warm welcome of an old friend.
Although produced by Ben Hillier for the third time in a row, Delta Machine, feels a bit simpler than the previous two records. The sound is clear, very analog and – in certain terms – quite rough. Especially the already known Angel represents this idea. The dirty and pure electronics meet Gore’s edgy guitar play and the vocals of Gahan who almost sounds like a manic preacher man in the song’s verses before resuming calmed down in the chorus: “I found the peace / I’ve been searching for.” And the band is still searching. They discover minimalistic and experimental electronica ground in My Little Universe – a track even Thom Yorke would be proud of – or pay reference to their own roots with classical DEPECHE MODE material like Broken or the spheric Should Be Higher. Gahan and Gore once again explore faith, love and sexuality in their songs. Dirty erotic moments like the bluesy Slow (“I don’t need a race in my bed / When speed’s in my heart and speed’s in my head”) bring us in a sensual mood while the pumping and almost acid-drunken Soft Touch/ Raw Nerve celebrates the fire that is still within the machine.
It looks like in the gap between this one and the record before the sideprojects of Gore and Gahan really helped them finding motivation for the new album, it seems. VCMG, Gores collaboration with former DEPECHE MODE member Vince Clarke, clearly brought the technoid moments on Delta Machine. Gahans joint venture with British alternative gospel band SOULSAVERS on last year’s The Light The Dead See might have helped him finding a spiritual guidance for his voice and songs. And they still got it – of course there are weaker tracks like Secret To The End or Alone who might take another spin before you fully understand them. But there have been far more weaker tracks on the band’s last records. And with the record’s second single Soothe My Soul they actually got another instant hit on this album – although it’s an almost shameless rip-off from Personal Jesus.
“There is no denying how I have been changed / You won’t hear me crying / Now misery is strange” – solaces-spreading words in the records final – again, quite bluesy – song Goodbye. It would be almost to easy to imply a swan song here. But it really looks like they are not done yet. And with the best record in over a decade, we can’t blame them. Their legacy is one for eternity, the moments all the Million fans all around the world have shared with their music cannot be taken away. And even if Delta Machine would have been just a mediocre longplayer, nothing can change that. So, everybody just forget that we are old, that the band is even older, Gahan gets grey hair or that their stadium concerts are somehow big predictable Las Vegas shows. When you hear these songs and the very essence of DEPECHE MODE within quite a few of them you will forgive and forget. It’s just to irristable to not give this old machine another ride.