Album: Depeche Mode, Delta Machine (Columbia)

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An artist's most avid fans are often their worst friends, relishing their pain and suffering from a safe distance.

Depeche Mode are a case in point. The period when Dave Gahan and Martin Gore were battling addiction, sickness and personal problems may have been tough, but the art that emerged from it was their very best. It's nice that they've now resolved those issues, but do we really want to hear the results?

The 13th Depeche Mode album is filled with redemption songs: "I was lost, I was found" and "I've found the peace I was looking for" are typical lyrics, "Angel", "Heaven" and "Soothe My Soul" typical titles.

On "The Child Inside", you find yourself strangely glad that the trauma it describes appears to be unresolved, then feel guilty for feeling that way. The sound is typical late-period Mode: watercolour synth textures moving at a grandiose medium pace, often in gently pulsating waltz time. Surprises are few and what Delta Machine lacks is one big, arena-ready, fist-in-the-air synthpop stormer. The nearest misses are the dirty electro-glam of "Soothe My Soul" and "Soft Touch, Raw Nerve".

The intention this time, Gore has said, was for the listener "to get some kind of peace". But is peace what the listener wants?

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