Showing posts with label darkwave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label darkwave. Show all posts

Thursday, October 18, 2018

video review: 'afterlife' by alterity

You know, I will say I'm surprised this did not wind up on the Trailing Edge for me... but to be honest, I wound up having plenty to say on this one, so I'm okay with a review even if it doesn't get a lot of traffic.

Next up, let's deal with Ella Mai - stay tuned!

album review: 'afterlife' by alterity

So just so you all understand my point of reference, let me describe how I handle artists who are more of a Bandcamp/independent stripe that wind up on my schedule. Most of it would seem self-explanatory: unless they absolutely blow me away or I literally have nothing else to talk about on my schedule - like in early January - I typically put these artists on the Trailing Edge. And for the most part folks have been fine with this: the acts are just starting out or are very underground, after all, and sometimes bringing down my full critical scrutiny can be a lot to handle, and while there's often a consideration on my part when it comes to traffic, there's also the acknowledgement that a lot of these acts don't exactly give me a ton to say.

Of course, there are exceptions where I do have a little bit more - I'm sure some of you are familiar with my Eric Taxxon reviews by now - but Alterity is a bit of a different case. A duo of producers who also happen to contribute to my Patreon - no guarantee of a positive review or not winding up on the Trailing Edge, for the record - they've patiently voted this up the schedule and I'll freely admit after checking out their debut EP I was pretty sure this was going to wind up on the Trailing Edge too. Not that it was bad, but more that I was generally a little underwhelmed by their sound and approach, of which I'm very familiar and have some pretty strong tastes on what I like in this collection of subgenres. But okay, what then is there to say about their follow-up Afterlife?

Monday, September 25, 2017

video review: 'hiss spun' by chelsea wolfe

Well, this was haunting... really, the more I listen to this the more it gets under my skin, especially with this subject matter... chilling stuff.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN... and then I have no idea, the next vote on Patreon is bound to be pretty crazy. Stay tuned!

album review: 'hiss spun' by chelsea wolfe

So here's something I don't often talk about when it comes to artists releasing albums in a sequence that shows the sound getting progressively 'bigger'. You might start off small or frail, relying more on haunted atmosphere and fragile tunes, but as you get more of a budget or presence you might be inclined to add more instrumentation, thicken the mix depth, wrench the progressions into weirder or darker or even heavier territory.... and yet unless you're a band like Swans, eventually the excess is going to hit a breaking point and you run the risk of losing the subtleties and power that were your original strengths.

That was honestly one of my biggest concerns going into this new record from Chelsea Wolfe. The haunted gothic folk of her early records was often sparse and bleak but there was something primal and chilling about its ramshackle side that pulled me in, especially her 2011 record Apokalypsis. And while I did have some appreciation for Pain Is Beauty in its fuller, slightly more theatrical sound, I worried that something might end up getting lost... and then Abyss happened two years later. Diving straight into doom metal and noise and thunderously gritty walls of sound, if anything it felt more representative of her themes and style than Pain Is Beauty, but I wondered how she could follow it, especially as her record this year Hiss Spun looked to be doubling down. Granted, getting Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Happy Fangs drummer Jess Gowrie, a guest appearance from post-metal band Isis' frontman Aaron Turner, and all being producer by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou showed an impressive commitment to going there, so okay, what did Chelsea Wolfe unleash with Hiss Spun?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

album review: 'spirit' by depeche mode

I've talked in politics in music a lot in this series: hell, one of the first things I ever clearly delineated were my criteria for political art to work, I've been focused on this for some time. And initially, given the aftermath of the election last year down south, I was expecting a lot more politically-themed art to erupt from the woodwork, artists who now have a clear and present threat erupting forth to make their statement.

But in watching a Dead End Hip Hop conversation with MC Uncommon Nasa - who I have covered a few times on this show - he raised a few points that got me thinking, the first being that hardship rarely precedes great art. Like it or not, when by necessity you have to be concerned where your next meal is coming or whether you can make rent and your art doesn't have the necessary focus, it can feel slapdash... and while that can work for some punks or true prodigies, that added rush to say something can also lead to ideas that aren't fully thought out or explored. And that's the other thing: everyone is going to want to rush to make some sort of statement, cash in quickly to be the standard bearers - and that means a lot of acts who aren't normally political will try to become political, and that can have disastrous results.

As such, when I had heard long-running darkwave group Depeche Mode was breaking from tradition to release a more politically-themed record... I had mixed feelings, to say the least. On the one hand, they have explored complex emotional, spiritual, sexual and even socially relevant themes before, but the complexities of modern politics are a very different animal, and I wasn't really confident they'd manage to bring together the writing to make this work. And to further qualify this, I wouldn't say I was a hardcore Depeche Mode fan - I think between '86-'93 they put out good records, which is a longer 'good' period than most critics give them credit, but outside of isolated cuts before and after a lot of it can start to run together for me. But hey, they're also an English group, probably looking to focus more on the political scene in their own country, and the longer time to deliberate probably helped, and Lord knows their writing has felt stale for years so maybe uncharted territory would be good for them, so how did Spirit come together?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

video review: 'blood bitch' by jenny hval

Man, this was a weird record... and to the point where I wish I liked it more, to be honest. Ugh, frustrating, frustrating.

Anyway, one more record and then year-end lists, stay tuned!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

album review: 'blood bitch' by jenny hval

It's often considered one of the great contradictions of American popular culture that for as much it worships at the altar of violence and the military industrial complex - and Canada isn't that far removed, I'm not kidding myself here - everyone tends to get skittish around sexuality. You can have plenty of gore in your movie in your movies and still walk away with the PG-13, but show exposed breasts and you can expect the R, to say nothing of if you want to show a penis or vagina. Kind of amusing how parts of the entertainment industry gives a free pass to plenty of penis extensions that deliver death yet get antsy when confronted with the real thing.

Now music is a little different, mostly because you're not dealing with the image outside of the album art... but not that different. Let's get real, with rare exception the majority of modern music is a lot more comfortable talking about male sexuality than female, and even then it's often masked in innuendos or played as a tease. To actively dig into the fleshy, messy side of things, peel back the sensuality and bravado to get to something more primal but no less real, that's explored far, far less. And that's no surprise: for as much as some artists threw open the doors to openly embrace sexuality in their music, it's usually paired with a desire to make it sound accessible to an audience who isn't as comfortable, entice rather than get into the explicit details.

And then there's Jenny Hval - Norwegian singer-songwriter and experimental musician, while much of her music has been characterized by droning, oddly structured soundscapes full of weird experimental shifts - to say nothing of an odd pop sensibility that keeps creeping through - what's always caught my ear are the lyrics. And the best way to describe them is something akin to the inverted metaphor of the film Shortbus - usage of plainly sexual acts and language in order to say something more, rather than the other way around saying or doing something to imply sex. Of course, her themes and abstract writing have gone further than sex, but at the end of the day her music approaches the flesh-driven reality of sex with the sort of unrestrained frankness and language that for certain can startle and shock even the most sexually-comfortable and well-adjusted person. As such, her music for me has always required a concerted effort to fully contextualize and understand - one of the reasons this review is so late - but I have to say I was really looking forward to digging into Blood Bitch. Blending elements of 70s exploitation films, timetravelling and genderbending vampire iconography, and an acute focus on menstrual blood - seriously - into an experimental pop framework partially inspired by the drones of Norwegian black metal and produced by noise musician Lasse Marhaug, this was going to be the sort of trip that I expected to be challenging, but hopefully hugely rewarding. Was I right?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

video review: 'ghost culture' by ghost culture

Ah, it's nice to find something off the beaten path that actually turns out to be pretty great. Seriously, give this is a listen, I really dug it.

Next up (either today or tomorrow, depending on RL) will be Billboard BREAKDOWN! Stay tuned!

album review: 'ghost culture' by ghost culture

So one of my goals this year is to be open to trying and embracing new genres of music. As much as I looked back on my year-end lists with some pride, I do feel that there are certain genres I haven't quite delved into as deeply as I'd prefer. And while this does mean there is definitely a requirement to explore more deeply into the rougher subgenres of metal (and really, I'm on the cusp there anyway) or the murkier sides of post-rock, a larger part of this will involve continuing my journey into electronica. Last year was very exploratory for me - be they the evolving mechanical sounds of Objekt, the warped melodies of Arca, the high-concept jazzy feel of Flying Lotus, or the retro charm of Aphex Twin, I found a lot to like last year.

As such, in the doldrums of early January, when I heard about the self-titled debut from Ghost Culture, I was immediately intrigued, especially by the comparisons to Andy Stott - whose album I unfortunately missed last year - and especially Todd Terje, whose record I thought was all sorts of cheesy yet moving fun. And considering we're in early January and I desperately needed to wash the taste of Rae Sremmurd out of my mouth, I figured what the hell and gave his debut a few listens - what did we get here?

Monday, December 1, 2014

video review: 'mess' by liars (RETRO REVIEW)

Huh, I wish this was better. Ah well...

Next up is the new Sundy Best record - hoping they pull off two in one year. Stay tuned!

album review: 'mess' by liars (RETRO REVIEW)

And now we're coming to the part of the year where I talk about artists and albums I might have otherwise missed throughout the course of the year and just never got the chance to really discuss. The biggest reason why these reviews tend to be as late as they are is fairly simple: they've either slipped the net, fallen off my schedule, or have such lengthy, complicated discographies that it makes talking about them at length a real endeavor.

And that's before we get to a band like Liars, a LA band that has only two consistent elements: a dark, menacing, groove-driven sound, and the fact that they'll keep evolving and pushing said sound in weird directions. They're a band that's infamous for making left turns, and thus expecting any sort of consistency from them was doomed the second they dropped They Were Wrong, So We Drowned and alienated a massive chunk of their fanbase. From there, they got noisier, darker, and heavier with their krautrock-inspired Drum's Not Dead, the more spacious and brutish self-titled album, or the warped, more gothic side of Sisterworld. They then followed it with WIXIW in 2012... which I didn't really love. The choice to go for more stiff, brittle electronic-inspired rhythms just wasn't to my taste, and while it is a subtle record, the songwriting didn't really grip me either. It was also a record that eschewed some of the darkness of earlier work, which for me was a slight misstep - I like Liars when they get surreal and creepy and ominous, and while there was that brand of feeling coming from WIXIW, it was muted to the album's detriment.

So when I heard about Mess, I was intrigued, not just by the critical acclaim but by the fact that the recording was apparently very different, a lot more confident and strident. And given that Liars can make some genuinely thrilling music, I was definitely interested - what did we get here?

Monday, July 28, 2014

video review: 'jungle' by jungle

Ugh, this was a dud. You hope indie projects in this vein would turn out better than this.

Okay, I need a little more time for Shabazz Palaces and Common, so next up will be someone you normally haven't seen and might not expect. Stay tuned!

album review: 'jungle' by jungle

Let's talk a little about disco.

As a genre, it tends to have a much worse reputation than it really deserves for a lot of wrong reasons. It was scorned because it was dance music made primarily by producers instead of songwriters... but then again, we now live in an era where EDM has become one of the hottest selling genres worldwide. It was hated because it was synthetic and electronic and felt plastic... in other words, like every other genre that touches pop music in the mainstream for the past twenty years. It was loathed because it emerged from the gay dance club scene and thus the backlash that had been seething against that music and much of the black culture that had supported the jazz, funk, and soul of its roots finally had an outlet to explode, and I shouldn't even have to tell you why that backlash was at best misguided and at worst moronic. If we're looking for a more legitimate reason why disco died in the late 70s, it was the same reasons any music trend dies: musical evolution in sound and style; and sheer overexposure.

But given the current musical and political climate and especially the resurgence of soul, dance music and even reggae-inspired tracks on the charts, it wasn't a surprise that acts began jumping towards a new incarnation of disco, even in the underground where with the rise of the internet it has never been easier for unknown acts to snag chart smashes. So with that comes Jungle, a band that began as a viral sensation in 2013 before signing to XL and dropping a debut album they described as 'midtempo 70s-inspired funk'. That, if anything, was enough to attract my interest, so I gave that self-titled debut a few listens: how did it go?

Friday, February 14, 2014

video review: '†††' (crosses)' by ††† (crosses)

Okay, my schedule got busy in a hurry, but I wanted to get this out. 

Next up... well, Cynic, Beck, and Frankie Ballard. Not quite sure about the order, but stay tuned all the same!

album review: '†††' (crosses)' by ††† (crosses)

Let's briefly talk about nu metal. Born in the early 90s but exploding in the latter half of that decade, it was a genre I only happened to listen to in retrospect years after its popularity crashed, taking its rock-bottom reputation with it. Widely considered by metal purists to be a mainstream sell-out branch of 'real' metal, it's a genre that tends to inspire a lot of negative comparisons - and while there is some material of quality if you look for it, there isn't much. And while I tend to be more forgiving of nu metal than some critics, the lack of authenticity and texture in their instrumentation combined with atrociously whiny lyrics and a meatheaded attitude tended to set my teeth on edge. At least when hair metal or crunk got sleazy and borderline misogynist it sounded attractive and fun, while nu metal was content to wallow in misery - and since I never had an 'angry white boy' phase, I can't take it remotely seriously.

And the depressing fact is that I think it might be coming back. Though I didn't review Of Mice And Men's most recent album Restoring Force (I didn't feel I knew enough metalcore to give the band an objective opinion, but overall I was meh on it), I definitely heard plenty of the hallmarks of nu metal on that album. And combined with new acts like Emmure and Hollywood Undead, and the popular revival of acts like Korn and Staind and Limp Bizkit (God help us all), I get the unpleasant feeling we haven't seen the last of this genre.

But here's the somewhat ironic fact: nu metal's worst critics tend to be former nu metal artists, and this takes us to Deftones and lead singer Chino Moreno. Deftones has a better reputation than most nu metal acts, mostly because they were a bit more abstract in their lyrics and they jumped off the bandwagon faster towards the alternative metal/post-metal scene. I've never really been a Deftones fan, but the critical acclaim the band has received was enough to get me to look into the debut album from Chino Moreno's side project Crosses, with promises that it was melodic and thoughtful in comparison to his work with Deftones, leaning instead towards electronic rock. Did those promises follow through?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

video review: 'trouble' by natalia kills

Jesus, I'm exhausted - lot of reviews in a short time, and I'm not even done yet. Ariana Grande still waits in the wings, and I'm more than aware that this is only the first wave in September. 

Either way, here's the review of the new album from Natalia Kills, complete with a bit of a rant on trends within record labels and an examination of how this album compares with one of my favourite albums from last year (and long time readers of this blog should know exactly which one that is). 

In any case, I need food and sleep. Next review comes tomorrow.

album review: 'trouble' by natalia kills

If I were able to disregard certain artists just by looking at their record label, it would save me a lot of time.

I should explain. While you typically have your huge record labels - Universal, Warner, and Sony - you also have your smaller labels that are dedicated to putting out a specific style and format of music, and can sometimes even be headed up by the lead artist on the label, or were even founded by said artist (Dr. Dre in the case of Aftermath, for example). And with this rough categorization and the knowledge that certain producers work across multiple artists on the same label, you can detect trends that crop up in the music of artists signed to these labels, and if you dislike those trends, you have an easy target to blame.

And recently, the label Cherrytree Records has come up in my line of fire more than once. This is the record label who put out LMFAO and the Far East Movement, and they handle the distribution of La Roux, Robyn, Ellie Goulding, and bizarrely Marianas Trench in the United States (Marianas Trench should really be on Fuelled By Ramen by now). They also gathered considerable fame for putting out Lady Gaga's first two albums, The Fame and The Fame Monster.  They pride themselves as being a label for up-and-coming artists and for promoting what they call 'alternative pop'. Okay, noble goals to be sure, and I can get behind that, particularly if they're promoting a more baroque or riskier style in their pop music.

The problem with Cherrytree Records is that their producers are seldom ever up to the task of matching their artists' creative ambitions, which can lead to glossy instrumentation that approaches interesting material, but lacks the skills behind the production board to truly elevate it beyond shallow, occasionally disposable pop music (obviously there are exceptions to every rule). And when your artists have no desire but to make the shallowest and most vacant of material, or they lack the talent to make anything greater (looking at you, LMFAO and Far East Movement), you end up with a label with a reputation for superficial flash but little underneath.

But let me be fair here. There's nothing wrong with shallow party music if it's executed well, and so far this year, Cherrytree did deliver with Colette Carr's Skitszo (an album that, much to my surprise, has remained pretty solid for me throughout the year), and thus, I was at least a little interested when I heard about the sophomore album from Natalia Kills. So, out of curiosity, I checked out her first album Perfectionist, to see what she was like, and...

Well, she's pretty good but if I'm looking for the classic example of an artist who is handicapped by the production weaknesses of her label, Natalia Kills would be a prime example. She has a pretty good voice and some interesting lyrics that actually put a bit of meat in her claims to be inspired by Kate Bush, but her attempts at a gothic darkwave sound on that album fall flat no matter how hard she tries, mostly because the sound feels distinctly derivative of and/or sampled from older darkwave and industrial acts like Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, and especially Nine Inch Nails with a hint of the same gloss Lady Gaga's material was splashed with on The Fame Monster. I have the feeling that if Natalia Kills were given the producers behind Charli XCX's True Romance, she might have a better chance of realizing her vision - but at the same time, the other unfortunate thing she shares in common with Charli XCX is self-obsession. Natalia Kills has said she's a perfectionist and the album revolves around said desires, but at the end of the day, most of those desires appear to be for wealth and fame (with love discarded by the wayside), and none of it is made to sound all that exciting or attractive or all that interesting.  Yeah, she's a good lyricist and she's got some interesting ideas where to take said lyrics (some which raised serious questions, 'Acid Annie' in particular), but she hasn't quite sold me on why I should really care one way or the other. Now all of that being said, she's a much better lyricist that I expected and occasionally had a few songs ('Not In Love' and especially 'Broke' stood out for me on Perfectionist) that I found genuinely engaging, so there's definitely potential here if pointed in the right direction.

So, on that note, does Natalia Kills manage to make me care on her reportedly darker follow-up, Trouble? Normally, darker sophomore albums are the death knell of young artists' careers, but given that Natalia Kills was already heading in a darker direction, will she break the cycle?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

album review: 'true romance' by charli xcx

Today, let's talk about electronica trends in pop music.

I'll admit right of the gate that I'm not entirely up to date with everything coming out of the EDM/dubstep/trance/house scene, mostly because I don't tend to find much of that material all that interesting or engaging. I admit that most of this comes from my personal preferences in music: I like songs to have coherent lyrics, that tell stories and convey a message. I like music that can move me on both literary and musical levels, which is why I find songwriters like Nick Cave and Jim Steinman and Arjen Lucassen so compelling. These guys explore deep, complex themes in their music, and they support that music with intricately constructed lyrics that are poetic and have a lot to say.

EDM (short for electronic dance music), on the other hand, tends to operate on a different level, often without lyrics entirely. It runs more on feel and emotion and flow to evoke its  image, and thus I find it difficult to parse out what this sort of music is trying to say. What I have managed to discover is that a large quantity of this music (not all of it, settle down) tends to be about losing oneself in the dance experience and little more.

And so when we look at the pop charts now, I can't say that I like the trend of EDM creeping into pop all that much. Now, there are exceptions where this can work excellently (the immediate example is Swedish House Mafia's 'Don't You Worry Child', featuring John Martin), but one of the unfortunate remnants of the club boom is the presence of house/EDM DJs becoming power players in pop music. And it really doesn't help matters when the two leading collaborators in this genre, David Guetta and Calvin Harris, are really goddamn boring and seem to sap the individuality and personality from anyone they work with. 

Part of this problem comes, I theorize, from three things: tonal dissonance, lyric simplification, and a lack of restraint on the part of the DJ. The first factor comes into play when you realize that most EDM is written for dancing - and not all pop music is intended for this. I remember hearing so many attempted remixes of Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used To Know' last year, the DJ trying to turn it into a dance track - which completely shatters the atmosphere that Gotye and Kimbra were trying to create. The problem gets worse when you have artists actually trying to write their lyrics to the EDM beats, which can lead to a stripping away of nuance and pacing. This happened twice with David Guetta last year in 'Turn Me On' (featuring Nicki Minaj) and 'Titanium' (featuring Sia) - in both cases, the lyrics feel token and trite compared to the instrumentation, which unfortunately happens to be boring as all fuck. But the worst case of all comes when the DJ's production completely overpowers the singer and renders his/her presence superfluous on the track. Calvin Harris is the most egregious offender here, somehow managing to overpower Florence Welch (lead singer of Florence & The Machine and one of the most powerful vocalists of the past couple of years) on 'Sweet Nothing'.

Most of these problems can be linked to a lack of restraint and modulation (the usage of both soft and loud sounds in the mix). You'd think that EDM DJs, who have more access to the track layering than most, would have better control of these factors, but when you also consider that they tend to remix music for the club, you can understand why the modulation gets stripped away. But either way, it tends to mean that a lot of the little factors that can make EDM/house music actually interesting fall away when it comes onto the pop charts. 

However, that's not to say that EDM trends can be interesting and engaging when done correctly, or that dance synthpop can't be just as good as other music - the careers of Kylie Minogue and Robyn are a testament to that. So when I'm confronted with the debut album of Charli XCX, an English synthpop artist, I was immediately intrigued (although significantly cautious when I read this album has been in the works for the past three years and was shelved for an entire year). Is Charli XCX the next big EDM pop princess, coming to drive Nicki Minaj back to rap where she belongs?

Friday, March 29, 2013

album review: 'delta machine' by depeche mode

Normally, the best part of writing my reviews is listening to the pile of previous material that the artist produced before their newest outing. For me, I like to use this time to get an idea of where the album fits within the context of the artist's career, to get an idea of what this album might mean. And particularly when it comes to acts that I've never heard of or listened to before, I find it a great opportunity to tear through some of my massive backlog.

And going into this review, I couldn't help but feel a little encouraged by the task ahead of me. I mean, the last time I tackled an artist with over a dozen albums worth of material, it was Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, of whom I have no qualms stating is one of the best acts of the past thirty years. And most synthpop acts from the 80s don't last if they don't have something to say, and Depeche Mode has been hailed as one of the greats of the genre, with critically acclaimed albums and a fervent cult following. And given their tendencies towards gothic electronica and being one of the most influential members of the darkwave movement (and given I'm a fan of The Cure and Sisters of Mercy), I was definitely looking forward to powering through the discography of Depeche Mode and taking in their rich history. I was looking forward to becoming a fan.

Twelve albums later, I emerged exhausted, exasperated, and distinctly dissatisfied. Twelve albums of bleak, dreary synthpop and electronica - and I'd be hard-pressed to call three of them good (Songs Of Faith and Devotion, Violator, and Playing The Angel). Four if I was pushing it (Music For The Masses). And even the four I considered good, I only consider them good. Nothing spectacular, nothing I couldn't live without, nothing that moved me on any emotional or intellectual level, hardly any songs that sent a chill down my spine.

What a letdown.

What makes matters worse is the fact that there are a lot of thing that frustrate me about Depeche Mode, a lot of little things that would so quickly elevate this band into more than the sum of its parts. The band has a unique, heavily-synth driven gothic sound, and when they finally got a decent synthesizer and grabbed heavier samples, they had a real talent for writing intricately composed melodies. Lead vocals from David Gahan and Martin Gore were pretty damn solid as well, and the two have a gift for harmony I wish they utilized more. And when the band really tried, they could write thought-provoking and wryly insightful songs.

Unfortunately, there's a thin line between 'really trying' and 'trying way too hard', and here's where my first big problem with Depeche Mode comes up. Now I want you all to remember that nerdy kid in high school who suddenly decides he wants to be 'dark', so he starts wearing black leather and only listens to gothic music (be it metal or otherwise) and starts talking about sex with a forced casualness that just makes everyone feel uncomfortable (for those of you about to get annoyed or offended, keep in mind for a brief period that I was that kid). The funny thing is about half the time, that kid does manage to make it work and it surprises everyone - and the other half of the time, it's awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved. 

Here's the interesting thing - Depeche Mode occupies the peculiar position that they both play the music that nerdy kid would listen to, and they occupy the exact same image themselves. There are points where they nail the balance between goth and synth-nerd, and it works and all of the elements come together and that dark, brooding gothic aesthetic pays massive dividends through great, potent songs - and there are other points that just inspire cringing sympathy. 

But keep in mind this is all happens when Depeche Mode is trying. There are also the stretches - the long, long stretches - where they really aren't trying to the same extent, which leads to my biggest problem with them: Depeche Mode can get really fucking boring really fast. Outside of isolated moments of brilliance, long tracts of their first four or five albums blur together in my mind because there's nothing that really stands out amongst the bleakness. And while I get the gothic dreariness is part of their style, you'd think they'd at least have some strong hooks or memorable lyrics or compelling themes to make them stand out - but more often than not, you get nothing but a bland slurry of stylistically unique but individually uninspiring synthpop songs. By the way, for those of you who are curious why I haven't begun my deeper exploration of Nine Inch Nails, it's pretty much due to a fear of this very phenomenon.

So does Delta Machine, Depeche Mode's thirteenth album, stand out among the flurry of bland boredom, or have they made something truly intriguing?