Depeche Mode, 'Sounds of the Universe' (Mute/Capitol/Virgin)

Critical Mass

by Mikael Wood

This is Depeche Mode's 12th studio album, but it's only the second they've released since the dance-rock style they helped invent caught fire among crate-digging hipsters half their age.On 2005's noisy Playing the Angel, frontperv Dave Gahan and his bandmates seemed eager to prove that they were still as edgy as heirs like Interpol and the Rapture ("A Pain That I'm Used To" was the ominous lead track). Their point apparently made, Sounds of the Universe comes on a bit softer, with less industrial guitar clang and more of chief songwriter Martin Gore's dreamy atmospherics; there's definitely nothing as breezy as "Just Can't Get Enough" here, but cuts like "Fragile Tension" and "Peace" coast along on the kind of catchy synth-pop grooves Depeche Mode specialized in throughout the '80s.

Of course, the lighter sonics hardly convince glamourpuss Gahan that it's puppies-and-rainbows time: "The way you move has got me burning," he moans at the top of opener "In Chains," the latest addition to what certainly must be rock'n'roll's longest S&M-themed songbook. Later, in "Hole To Feed," the singer breaks the news that "this world can leave you broken inside," while lead single "Wrong" catalogs the considerable mistakes that Gahan has made over a lifetime spent chasing women and wine. Dude doesn't sound sorry in the slightest.

Watch: Depeche Mode, "Wrong" Depeche Mode - "Wrong" (official music video)



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