Woke up this morning in a world where the new Depeche Mode single, Wrong, was already doing rounds on the internet. DM fans were naturally creaming their pants all around the world. There’s nothing wrong (hah!) with that in itself – after all, I used to be part of that crowd myself. Any new material from DM was greeted with great enthusiasm, with not a sliver of critical thinking affecting my commentary. Once Alan Wilder departed, my mindless devotion was tempered with a healthy dose of cynicism, resulting in carefully measured optimism and wishful thinking. Every news of them going back to the studio sprang thoughts in the vein of “Oh, they’re going back to their synth roots this time… I hope”. It’s been a rather disappointing 14 years, I don’t mind telling you.
After their 2005 album, Playing The Angel, and especially after the dismal world tour that followed, I had pretty much given up on Depeche Mode. I couldn’t fathom them recording another album, much less a brilliant one. When the news of another album broke, my reaction was quite simply “Meh”. Then came the rumours. Martin spending a lot of money buying old analog synths on eBay; DM allegedly embracing their electronic past; the new logo and album art reminiscent of their Black Celebration era… and I have to admit getting my hopes up, again.
Only to have them smashed brutally against the rocks as the YouTube video of DM performing ‘Wrong’ live (as if!) on Echo Awards 2009 played on my screen for the first time. What…the…hell.. was that? Did they play a single B-side by accident? (And a poor B-side at that, I might add.) Seems to me the song consists of a bunch of verses without a chorus, unless the chorus was that bit where Gahan chants “WRONG!” a few times in FX-laden monotone. No, really, where’s the FRACKIN’ CHORUS?! FFS, honestly! Has Gore’s well of catchy choruses dried up this badly? Sure, the signs have been there for years but I hadn’t realized the situation was this dire.
Then there’s the production. It’s basically a rock song with growling synths on top. The funny thing is that I can hear a wall of synths there, but the song in whole doesn’t sound at all electronic. Is that a good thing? Not in my books. Much of the synths are simply random bleeps and squelches filling in the spectrum; there’s no proper melody there. Remember when their songs used to be filled with fantastic melodies played on solo synths?
The YouTube video managed to add insult to injury, too. I had been extremely disappointed with DM’s previous two world tours, referring to them as Monsters of Rock tours. Light on synths, heavy on guitars and live acoustic drums. I first saw DM live on the Black Celebration Tour: three guys behing synths, as it should be. Now it’s Gore strumming a guitar at the edge of the stage with a live drummer banging away like he’s auditioning for Metallica. This YT video showed there’s no change in their live set-up. That pretty much means Tour of the Universe will be the first Depeche Mode tour I won’t be attending in almost 25 years.