Then I finally got to hear the album in its entirety, and I was disappointed. It has grown on me a lot, but the same things I missed last time are still absent. For example, the beats are hidden very deep in the mix and they are truly thin like tinfoil. I know I'm beating a dead horse, but I really miss Alan's depth and heaviness in the production. One of the highlights, "Peace" - which sounds a bit like it could fit on "A Broken Frame" actually - would have been so much better with some sort of driving rhythm behind it. When it sounds like it's about to take off, everything just fizzles out. It's still a great track, but it's not what it could have been. And one of the worst tracks, "In Sympathy", is almost provokingly boring. The guitar melody is so uninspiring I actually get upset, the chorus is totally forgettable (I couldn't sing it to you if my life depended on it) and the drums are nondescript.
As I said though, the album has grown on me. There are now quite a few songs I really like. I have been listening to it as much as I can to give it a fair treatment, and it gets better. Let me take you through my favourites.
The aforementioned "Peace" for example, with its psalm like quality, and analogue bleeps. "In Chains" opens the album after some weird noises, and becomes a chanting, groovy and powerful electric gospel (sort of). "Come Back", which can also be found on the internet in a special studio session version, is a lot heavier, more distorted and grittier on the album. Here it seems like they have also taken the time to compose a big chorus. Which is nice. We have "Perfect", an upbeat (with weak drum programming though) pop song with a glittering refrain.
Martin's token ballad "Jezebel" is also sublime, with its sweet harmonies complementing his soulful vocals. Special bonus points for the brilliant synth melody coming in after a while. "Sounds of the Universe" ends with "Corrupt", the track that mostly resembles the Depeche of old with its bubbling synth bass and suggestive vocals. A dark, fitting end to this very electronic journey through the universe. Those are just six tracks out of thirteen though. No, I'm not a huge fan of the single "Wrong" either. It's just too repetitive.
So, how to sum this rambling up? Martin and Dave have written more songs for this album than ever before, and they have included a whopping thirteen of them here, with a handful more on the special edition box. I feel they could have trimmed this down a bit, as they have some pretty obvious fillers that I almost always skip. Some songs are a bit awkward and clunky, while others are classic Depeche. After almost 30 years making albums I have to hand it to them; they are not afraid of trying new things. However, they're getting too mellow for my taste.