To my Romanian readers: I wrote this in English while I was listening to the album, so bear with me. After listening the album for the 15th time, I added some comments, but generally I stuck with my first impressions

So, the new Depeche Mode album Sounds of The Universe will be launched soon, and is already makings waves on the torrents. Here’s my fan review of it, after the first listening:

In Chains – opens magnificently, then disappoints. Way to slow, dreamy, repetitive and whiny. Couldn’t manage to like it even after listening 15 times. And the lyrics suck.

Hole to Feed – rocky piece of commercial garbage. Easy to sing along, though. Should be fine in clubs, hands in the air.

Wrong – rough, rhythmic gem of a song. No wonder it was chosen as a single! Instant classic. And did you see the video?


Fragile Tension – nice lamentation, kind of PTA-like. Again, too slow, dreamy and whiny. Could not relate to it even for the 15th time.

Little Soul – YEAH! DM singing what they do best: ballads! Colossal one. Second instant classic. I love the beginning, the sounds effects, the synths, the everything. I would like to be buried while this plays from above. SOFAD-like, beware!

In Sympathy - nothingness and abundance of crap. Who composed this shiat?

Peace – superb new wave hymn, remembering the old shiny days. You’ll like it more and more and more.

Come back – Immediately after listening to it in the 192kbps version, I wrote that it’s another insipid ballad. Better than In Sympathy though. Please listen it on the 320kbps version. The boys really transformed it into something completely different. It’s long, very long, but sends you in another Universe. Extremely addictive afterwards. Yeah.

Spacewalker – evidently an instrumental piece. Nicely orchestrated. Moving along…

Perfect – this song appears to go nowhere, but will grow on you. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll know why!

Miles Away – easy to sing commercial piece. The genre you will be humming in the bathroom

Jezebel - been there done that. Contrived song that you’ll perhaps appreciate at the fourth or fifth listening. But not sooner. After listening it 15 times, I can say: YES, it finally sunk in.

Corrupt - the saddest thing about this song is that it ends the album, and ends all hope for a better song on this album too. Not bad, but not good either. Interesting, but not moving.

So, bottom line for my review… Songs of the Universe has only three great pieces of music: Wrong, Little Soul and Come Back, and some solid work, like Peace, Jezebel and Perfect. The rest is, sadly, pretty sappy. Perhaps some songs will grow on you, but we’re far even from Exciter. This album is rather soulless, and this is the saddest thing about it.

What I do like, however, is that it brings back those weird sounds early fans grew accustomed to. Martin did a great job with the eBay acquisitions, and Dave’s voice is perfect. An experiment, even a daring one – isn’t it what Depeche Mode is best known for? I know that for the moment I feel like listening to SOFAD for the first time, but that’s a good sign, isn’t it?

Ah… and I would like to hear the boys singing together, not Martin then Dave then Martin and so on. They’re much better together!!

BONUS: Here is a wonderful kernfusion remix of Wrong by the remix master DominatrixRMX:


ps. BUY the album, as I will.

pps. Feel free to disagree with me, or to write what impression this album made on you!

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33 Responses to Depeche Mode Sounds of The Universe review

  1. Nick R says:

    So, you post a track review while listin’ to it for the first time? Are you some kind of music God that can instantly form an opinion?

  2. zvoner says:

    I’m not a music God, I’m just a fan that grew with Depeche’s music from ’86 onwards. So there you have it: my first impressions about this album.

    Of course it will grow with me, and of course I will end loving it. But this is only because I’m a fan, and I can perceive many things and refferences in the songs that bring back memories from long ago.

    The ‘first impression’ review is what the rest of 95% people will think when listening for the first time this album.

    Since I wrote the review I listened to it some 12-13 times. I still back my initial musings :)

    How do you like the album? It’s an open session of comments here, feel free to express yourselves.

  3. oglo says:

    Disclaimer: I have been a dm fan since 1984 so I too, know one or two things about dm :-)

    To cut the story short, I just give my (personal, of course) votes and a short comment.

    1. in chains (5.5) good sounds, ugly chorus
    2. hole to feed (6) again nice sounds, but that’s pretty much it
    3. wrong (9) by far the best song and an instant classic
    4. fragile tension (6)
    5. Little soul (6,5) nice ballad
    6. In sympathy (6,5) starts like jcge(!!) continue in lylian style, an uptempo song, at last!
    7. Peace (8); great opening, great sounds, possibly the second gem of the album (also, note the way Dave sings the chorus and the listen to “Set me free/remotivate me” (fans will know what I am talking about)
    8. Come back to me (6,5)much improved from the demo
    9. Spacewalker (6,5) Very nice instrumental
    10. Perfect (6) i can’t find highs or lows in this song, very… average
    11. Miles Away (6,5) uptempo song, nice chorus
    12. Jezebel (6) Surely not the best Martin, but I cannot give less than 6 to any of his songs, I just can’t :-)
    13. Corrupt (6,5) opens a là Violator style, reminds me of Clean, then again, pretty average.

    overall, I am slightly disappointed (I know there is only one song below 6 but keep in mind that I am a hardcore fan so should probably subtract 0,5 to all votes :-)
    To me the album shows a not fully expressed potential, there are really good sounds but it is probably slow (tbey will need to rework some songs to make them “live friendly”, some credit to the guys for trying something new, probably not really commercial but does not fully succeed in their goal.
    I have read somewhere else lots of comments stating that this is another violator… clearly they do not know what they are talking about. Violator is DM masterpiece, period.
    To me, it is definitely better than Exciter (I know, I just can’t stand that album), maybe better than PTA, but hey, these guys are not in their 20s anymore.
    Just like U2 I think the glorious days (and albums) are gone … I don’t care though, DM songs have always been the sountracks of my life and this is just another chapter … BONG!

  4. gerry says:

    I hope you are “wrong!” ;-) with your review the last few albums have not been great and Exciter really stinks by far their worst album in recent years (in my opinion). I have only heard a few track “wrong” and “pace” both of which I think are great. Anyway lets see! soon find out anyway

  5. zvoner says:

    Well… I ended up in liking Exciter, but I’m way to subjective to be taken into consideration :D

    Will look forward to seeing the boys in Bucharest, in May, to hear the songs live. :)

  6. mJm says:

    I’ve listened to it once and musically it sounds brilliant, some great sounds, but it is way too slow. The need to up the bpm or get someone to remix it. Hope it improves with more listens.

  7. memoryboy says:

    hahaha, you got the “bad” leak, the low-quality leak that I first got. I know, because you mentioned ‘COME BACK’ a s aballad, and it is not, not on the official album. Try the 320 kbps leak, it’s the official. and sounds way better. This is their best album yet.

  8. zvoner says:

    Well, the next logical step will be to buy the actual album, so I’ll see then :)

  9. oglo says:

    @memoryboy
    Unortunately my review is based on the “official” release, so my judgement stays.

    @mjm
    Agreed, remixes will be better

    @gerry
    it seems you have been lucky, you have heard the best tracks, for me of course.

    cheers

  10. zvoner says:

    Yes, the Come Back from the 320kbps leak is way better. The finished version is indeed enjoyable. But it still is some Miles Away from what DM used to compose.

    Pun intended ;)

  11. Quadro says:

    I have to agree with the slightly negative sentiment – after all the hype SOTU is a bit of a let down. Sure, there a few interesting bits, but generally the lyrics are banal and there are no songs you can imagine singing along to in a couple of years or anyone doing cover versions of. The opening to In Chains kind of sets the tone – pointless atonal intro (could they stop opening albums like this please?), with an opening rhyme to make you cringe (yearning + burning).

    The highlights are Wrong, Peace and Little Soul, but even these are average by DM’s past standards. Every song from Violator, SOFAD and Ultra is better than everything on SOTU.

    For all the talk of his new found productivity and sobriety, Martin’s songwriting skills are in decline. Compare the main hookline of peace (Peace will come to me) with, for example, the lyrical genius of Walking in my Shoes, and you’ll conclude it’s definitely time for DM to stop.

    Shame – looks like this is the first DM album I won’t be buying :-(

  12. Virgil says:

    @Zvoner
    Listen the album for a week and you’ll change your mind.
    It’s one of the best DM albums. It is a “back to the roots” album with different sound.
    It represents the true Depeche Mode music we all love.

  13. zvoner says:

    @Quadro, oh no, it’s not the time for DM to stop. :) Even if sometimes they don’t compose up to their own standards, they still rock!

    @Virgil… it’s on heavy rotation, and as I expected I started to like more and more songs I discarded initially, like Peace, Jezebel and especially Come Back.

    But I still would have liked some 3-4 additional months in the studio, and some 2-3 other, more complex songs.

    I bet that this album will be preferred by remixers, as the material is so simply laid out. It will be great for remixes.

    I mean… I love the ’80s sounds that they returned to, but this is mainly because I love them and I can relate to that. Those who became fans later will certainly be dissapointed.

  14. Quadro says:

    @zvoner

    “… 3-4 additional months in the studio “

    I think you hit the nail on the head. It sounds like they simply haven’t spent enough time on this album – I remember last summer wondering how they managed to record it so quickly. It misses the subtle layering and structure that we’ve seen on earlier albums. And with the exception of Wrong (and perhaps Perfect), Gore’s lyrics are increasingly predictable and unimaginative. (I hate it when I know what the rhyme to one line is going to be before I even hear it!) A Violator for the 21st century this most definitely isn’t.

    Ok, I will buy it (having been naughty enough to download it) – it’s listenable (kinder on the ears than PTA) and I’m sure it will grow on me (the best DM songs take many listens).

  15. Adamski72 says:

    I heard this album several days ago and I am like many people on here a long term devout fan, however, any true DM fan will be slightly disappointed by this album.

    IMO most of it sounds like B Sides.To rely on remixes to make songs better for a band of this stature is simply not right.I think the single WRONG and FRAGILE TENSION are superb and DM at there best but on the whole this album is worse than PTA and Exciter…really disappointed

  16. glen says:

    …well, i’ve been listening for a week now and first impressions weren’t great….

    but with ALL dm albums the delights come to those who persevere and when you get to know the songs…

    true, there are some lyrics that are predictable – but you try writing over 200 songs and then coming up with something original…

    i love the return to the synth sounds, PTA was getting just too far into the grunge…SOTU is like coming back full circle – the intro of Peace harks back to See You, and the dissonant anvils on In Chains remind me of Some Great Reward….there are a whole plethora of sonic references to early DM thrown in throughout…

    one last point….all the downloads that seem to be out there are nowhere near the quality of a proper CD – and I suspect don’t do it any justice – DM have always had great production and what I have listened to just doesn’t have the crisp clear sound that they have always had. i’ll be buyng this one, in fact PTA is the only DM album I have never bought and IMO it’s the worst.

  17. Ade says:

    The problem I have with all these reviews is people saying best album since SOFAD or ULTRA etc etc.
    The fact of the matter is the best DM albums were during the Alan Wilder period, Some Great Reward, Black Celebration and Violator are the best DM albums full stop and none of the albums since SOFAD have been great (Ultra was OK). DM will never be the same DM without Alan because he added his sound to the tracks but life moves on and we have to accept that DM isn’t the same band that it was in the 80′s and early 90′s. On the earlier albums synths ruled and thats why alot of people got into DM because it was fantastic synth pop. On SOTU I feel it is more a return to that and getting away from the guitar that has generally been more prominent in recent years. So for me SOTU is not perfect but from the tracks I have heard (peace, come back, wrong, jezebel, in chains, fragile tension, corrupt) it is getting back to the synth roots and that is fine by me, so by all accounts it has got to be better than at least the last 2 albums. Plus Remember these guys are approaching 50 years old and their music is still miles better than most of the dirge on offer these days.

  18. Peter says:

    I am a fan since 1983, Everything Counts times. Will be buying a SOTU boxset as I have all DM’s releases on my shelf so this one goes there as well. It will be on my stereo for a while, although not as long as PTA, which was so much better than Exciter. I think SOTU is pretty average and I am disappointed to see Hole to Feed being mixed into an electronic-meaningless track while the demo version was a dark, moving, beautiful thing that could easily become one of the best ballad-like DM songs. Sadly they decided otherwise. Wrong is probably DM’s best single since It’s No Good while I cannot see any other obvious material for a great single on SOTU. Surely they can release Peace or Perfect but it will not do much in terms of any chart success (not a big deal of course, who cares about the charts these days). Two most disappointing moments are In Chains, which is very weak for an opening track and will put off many people from listening to the rest of the album and In Sympathy which is a big nothing, a b-side experiment that found its way to an album. Still DM is a magical brand and I hope there will be at least 2-3 more album to come, meaning another 8-12 years waiting. I will wait.

  19. dazz says:

    so i have listened to it one time for now, as many more will follow. and i know each dm album will require more listening than 1 time only to base you conclusion at. But i know the feeling i had when hearing pta for the first time, not that long ago. longing for a new dm album that much, pta came as a pearl and big surprise to me. sounding new, refreshing, an evolved dm.
    sure i understand with people saying 80s and 90s dm was the best they have ever made, and maybe i agree. but times go by, people change, live, get experienced, in a bad or good way. visions change and i feel music is made through a lot more than the people involved in it.
    either way, sotu is at first hear a little disappointing. the leaked demo’s, the videos on the site, they promised a lot, maybe too much as it turns out.
    but i agre too that some albusm require more listening than 1 time only. like exciter, that i thought was disappointing at first too, but as some pearls i replay a lot if not every day.

    i agree with zvoner in my first impression, but surely will be back after hearing the album 15 times as well.

    must admit i love to read all reviews, thanks everyone for that.

    from a true dm fan, only seeing them 3 times upcomming tour.

  20. Depeche Arsenal says:

    I sadly have to agree with you Zvoner. Your analysis is virtually spot on! – you and I appear to think very alike (btw I too have followed the band since 1986).

    I am very disappointed after the first few listenings. This is nowhere near as good as PTA and let me put a few people right about Exciter:

    As good as “Wrong” is, it is not up there with “The Sweetest Condition”, “Freelove”, “When the Body Speaks” to name but a few. “Jezebel” is no “Comatose”. I could go on and on. I’m not the biggest fan of Exciter, but I still think it far outstrips SOTU. My favourite track? Probably “Little Soul” which reminds me of PTA, but even that is poor compared to, for example “Damaged People”.

    All in all, I’d have to say SOTU ranks as the band’s worst album since “Speak and Spell” and that makes me sad. SOTU sounds very middle of the road which DM has never been. The album lacks the cutting edge that is usually the case with any DM work. Maybe I’m just growing old. I will of course buy the album and I will be following the tour, but I cannot see my views changing to any large degree. Never before has it been so apparent that the band is missing Alan Wilder.

  21. Martin says:

    After listening to the album a number of times I still have some questions:

    WHERE are the melodies?
    WHERE is the magic?
    WHERE is the tempo?

    I think the title, Sounds of the U is very fitting since the album contains zero songs, just sounds.

    This is, head and shoulders, the worst DM-album ever.
    People bash Speak and spell but at least it had some songs on it.

    My biggest problem with SOTU isnt the album itsfelf though. No, its the fact that this will totally destroy the upcoming tour since they will insist on playing at least 6-7 of the “songs” from the new album. Horrible.

  22. pocox says:

    I think this is really pointless discussion.
    No way of having something similar they did before, this is not the point. They are musicians, making music, and having fun over it. Have one of you ever tried to write a song? Have one of you ever played on a concert having an instrument in your hands or a mic in front of you? This is something you never understand if not.

    A musician needs to do music in any cost, or he/she dies. The soul, the meaning dies.

    And you cannot repeat yourself, this is not possible. And you never try, you go on, with your sprit with your soul and give it a musical body, a birth.

    This album is one of those creations. This is like a baby is fantastic, every living form is. Creation is something that gives meaning for all. Then you can like it or not, but comparing or expecting something like was before, another violator or another Music for the masses is crazy, and also pointless, as I said earlier. (I think they could easily do that but was never the aim for any of them.)

    Try to write a song. Then listen to the album again, or any dm album.

    That is why who they are.

    Amongst the few still creating.

    peace,

    pocox

  23. zvoner says:

    @pocox, it’s in the human nature to compare things. We all love Depeche Mode, but we all love them for different reasons.

    Mainly, I love them because they lightened up my teenage years. My first love and my first kiss and my first tears from love were all lived while listening to their songs. I grew up with them, and they were expressing my feelings so well, I felt there was some magic bond.

    Nobody’s music can therefore resonate so powerfully in me as DM music. Heck, I’m born on the same day as Dave (6 years later :D ). And I think many who love them feel the same.

    Yes, the new album is somehow disappointing, but we still love their music. I don’t expect another Violator, as I have other preferences and the songs I love the most in DM are not the hits, but rather obscure. And I don’t think many would expect a new globally acclaimed album that would smash the hit charts.

    But while I do love their new songs – most of them – and while I listen on and on and on to songs like Come Back, which are so spot on to what happens in my life today – I do feel something is missing. They had great fun doing it, and I’m happy for them. They still make great music, yes, but the passion is not as high as it used to be.

    The greatest songs and albums come out of pain and troubled times, not of joy and peaceful times. Especially DM’s. That’s the truth, but I really hope in another 2-3 weak albums from 3 happy boys rather than hoping in 3 strong albums from 3 unhappy though inspired human beings.

    That being said, I’m counting the days to the concert in Bucharest, in May :)

  24. deckardm says:

    One of the worst dm albums ever. Empty, uninspiring… only one or two really good tracks.
    It´s a shame to hear things like Peace, Perfect comeback….

  25. leo.thisworld says:

    i like the album. i liked it from the beginning. being skeptikal by nature, i expected worse. but, also modest by nature(!?), i don’t consider any of the artists being forced in any way to please me, to meet my expectations. i’m one of their fans too, i’m listening to DM since 1983 when i was 16, but i’m just happy that i’m still on the same wave-lenght with their work. because i think that this is the problem with the music in general. the music is made by people and people have lives and experiences, and grow old or tired, or… beter. but the listeners also have their own lives. another year, another point of view. this year, my mood is tuned to enjoy this album, as i was in 2005 for that album and so on… i think that they’re making music because it’s their way of life, and it reflects their spirit at that time. it’s NOT thir problem if someone doesn’t like their music. it’s a big world and it’s something for everyone in it. i’m just happy that this time, good news, i like their album AGAIN.
    that’s all.

  26. pocox says:

    Maybe Martin shouldn´t have stopped drinking…:p and yes comparision is always on. Unfortunately.

    I can´t leave that feeling that Dave was listening the Animals before writting the hole to feed song..it is almost the same as the house of the rising sun…I have read that before from someone on another forum…and laughed..and then listened to it…and yes it is really like that, hope someone will come up with a mix having both track in the same song!

    I think it is a good album, but as I was growing up on their music as well, now I am 37…had several bands and concerts performed, inspired by them, what can I say? I still want to make music..:)

  27. steve says:

    hey opinions opinions…

    you have to face facts… DM lost direction when Mr Wilder left..

    ULTRA, Exciter, PTA and SOTU only cantain a handful of trademark DM tunes.. the rest are fillers… Its a real shame coz like most DM followers, I wait 4 years and I end up somewhat disappointed….

    Could be worse tho I guess..

  28. Roman says:

    One of the things i like more in this new DM album is the slow bpm’s …it seems that no one like it…i’m sick of those fast bpm’s of today… in my opinion this style works better slow..this is no psy trance or tekno garbage of nowdays:this guys really know how to use the machines!

  29. Jonathan M says:

    I’ve been a big fan of DM since ’81 when I was 10 years old, thanks to my older brother, and I like their old and new material equally. Depending on my mood, I’ll either listen to one of their old 80′s albums, or a newer one. Simply put, DM are my favourite band, and will always be! OK, now that I have got my DM fan credentials out of the way, let me give you my 2 cents regarding SOTU. I’ve only listened to it 3 times which in all honesty, is simply not enough to appreciate a DM album. So, I will be giving it many more spins over the coming weeks, and no doubt the album will continue to grow on me like mould on stale bread. Fortunately, DM albums have a much, much longer shelf life then bread…pass the butter, thanks. I do however, feel a bit disappointed with the album, probably due to the “ultra” high expectations that I, like so many other passionate DM fans had for SOTU. It does seem lacking in the hook, line and sinker department…there don’t seem to be any real hits on the album, aside from maybe Wrong, which sounds about right for a hit. This ain’t no commercial pop, rock(rabbit)chart climber, which is OK, ’cause it’s DM after all! But having said that, a few catchy foot-tapping numbers would have been a real treat, but DM can’t be everything, to every fan, every time. Keep that in mind. I’m particularly disappointed with Martin’s lyrics on this album, they’re just not up to his usual high standard. Some of his songs could have been written by Dave, not to be too nasty, but Dave is no Martin Gore when it comes to writing lyrics. It’s almost as if Martin has simplified his lyrics so that Dave’s songs would not seem out of place on the album. I feel that Dave’s contributions on PTA were of a higher standard, but in all fairness, I need to give this new album more of a chance. BTW, I have both of Dave’s solo albums which I absolutely love, but not for his lyrical prowess, or rather lack of, but rather for the overall atmospheric, melodic sound of the albums. I sincerely hope that he continues to put out more solo CDs. I actually prefer Dave’s solo albums much more then Martin’s last solo effort, so there! I digress, so back to Mode, I felt far more disappointed when I first heard Exciter back in ’01, and now, I’m not ashamed to say that I actually like that album. SOTU is much better then Exciter, which is anything but exciting. So, bottomline…SOTU has lots of potential. It needs to be listened to with headphones, a few times, and then you will hopefully appreciate it, or not! Oh, and just for the record, I too, fantasize about Alan Wilder returning to DM, but I seriously doubt that will happen, so, the reality is that DM will probably remain a trio until they bow out, but hopefully not until they have given us at least another 2 albums to enjoy as the continuing soundtrack to our lives.

  30. Xander says:

    Very Nice Jonathan. Like you i grew up with DM since 1981 (when i was 13:-). And i recognise a lot in what you say! Had my first spins of SOTU. “Fragile Tension”, “Hole to Feed”, “In sympathy”, “Corrupt” and “Miles Away”(OK all a bit up tempo) are the first songs on SOTU i like (and Wrong is OK). Will grow up on me and we’ll see them live in june!

  31. NatCat says:

    Well I think that Sounds of the Universe is a wierd album, you don’t get it on the first listen. But after several “sessions” you start to appreciate the tracks. I’ve been loving Perfect, In Sympathy and Corrupt, but i’m not really into Jezebel and Peace. SOTU is really worth attention but it’s not DM best album anyway.

  32. Jon says:

    SOTU is a fantastic album and a return to form. Fragile Tension, Come back and Corrupt are especially good.

  33. Levente says:

    After having listened a couple of times you begin to like it, you try finding something in them you can relate to or might sound similar to some older glorious song.

    However the one thing is there, it’s Dave’s voice.

    Have you ever tried to imagine Dave singing ANYTHING,and what it would sound like? Perfect, anything sang by him, I mean any known song.

    If he sang Boyzone or a Madonna song, I would like every second of the track. Even Ronan Keating. Beautiful!!

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