30 April 2017

Depeche Mode - Spirit

I am not sure what I can say about Depeche Mode that has not already been said before, but I need to write some sort of introduction to this review.  So, instead of talking about their past, I will do a little introduction to how this album was created.  It has been four years since they released 'Delta Machine', an album I sadly did not have time to review, but it was still a good record.  Since we have last heard from them, there has been various solo records from various members of the band and when they regrouped, they have looked at the current state of the word and it has not been to their tastes.  On 11th October 2016, they announced the tour to support this album which was recorded at Sound Design (Santa Barbara, California) and Jungle City Studios (New York City, New York), it was produced with James Ford who has worked with the likes of Florence + The Machine, Jessie Ware, Foals, Peaches and other artists.  The album was released to a lot of hype, there was a lot of talk about the message of the album, about how political they had become on this record.  So, let us see how it has turned out....

01 - Going Backwards

From the beginning of this album, it is clear from the very beginning of this record that the state of the world is at the forefront of Martin Gore's mind.  He has written a song that focuses on how the world is in danger of destruction with the human race regressing and not progressing with our political and weapon enhancements.  As you have come to expect with Depeche Mode, it is a lucious alternative synth pop number, it has a powerful message and it does it without looking reference to their own past.  Fourteen albums in, still moving forward.

02 - Where's the Revolution

The first song to be released from the album, one that bemoans the lack of fight by the common people as they are being repressed by proxy and the lies are being fed as truths.  They say if a lie is said often enough, with the right amount of conviction and passion, it will become the truth.  That is an argument that I agree with, this song that embodies that message, driving the message home to the listener whilst mixing it with some of the best hooks I have heard from Depeche Mode in a while.  It was an obvious single, it has that big chorus that you can imagine be sung in unison at their upcoming world tour. 

03 - The Worst Crime

This minimalist song is looking at how humanity is currently being driven by fear that has been fed to us by our leaders, making us scared of everything and we are going against our inherent good nature and letting ourselves down in the process.  It is a stop/start affair and it does not really gel for me musically, it does not have a constant flow and just as it is getting interest, it stops and restarts from the beginning.  But I cannot deny that the powerful lyrics makes this song interesting, if not a little frustrating.

04 - Scum

'Scum' in contrast to ’The Worst Crime' is a sound explosion, but to be honest that is not very hard.  It is a simpler beast, biting at the pond life of the political elite who are in charge, how they are only interested in things that benefit themselves and it is laid out on a glorious, but sparse electronica tune.  It is a great song, one of the best on the record.

05 - You Move

One of four songs on the album that features writing credits for Dave Gahan and the only to be co-written with Martin Gore, this song is a contrast for the political leanings of the rest of the record.  It is a song about sex, it does not have anything to with the state of the world.  It is a welcome relief in many ways, also musically it is a dark as anything on this album with sinister synth sounds echoing from speaker to speaker at it is played.

06 - Cover Me

This song is about how you cannot expect to achieve change by doing nothing about it, about how the momentum for things to difference that you desire.  This is achieved by telling the tale of a man who travels to another planet, only to find he cannot escape his own nature, but if he worked for it, he could achieve so much more.  It is a slow number, one that sort of drifts along for a lot of the song and does not really go anywhere.  It ends a lot better than it begins, the instrumental section of this song is uplifting and is in direct contrast to the first half which is a little bit too morbid to be honest.

07 - Eternal

An interlude which features vocals from Martin Gore, this little tune speaks of protecting a loved one and making promises that might be hard to keep.  It is good, but it is over so soon for my tastes.  I like it, but it could have been so much more as it contains some of the best music of the album, but it is far too short.

08 - Poison Heart

Another Dave Gahan song, one which Martin Gore has gone on record and said is possibly the best that Dave Gahan has ever wrote, this is an unintentional break-up song or at least that is what David Gahan has said about it.  It is a larger than life tune, one with melody, passion and drive that is sometimes missing from parts of this album.  It is a really good song, one that deserves praise and will be spectacular when performed live.

09 - So Much Love

'So Much Love' is a song about having so much love, so much goodness and compassion inside of yourself, yet not being able to show it as you are scared due to the way that the world seems to perceive these emotions as weakness.  This is another song that brings some much-needed energy to the record, it is almost a ray of light that shines out like a beacon in the night.  I mean, it is still a dark synth pop number, but it is such a good tune that it adds some much needed of positive energy on this album.

10 - Poor Man

The post-industrial machine is in full flow on 'Poor Man', this dark synth number is a hymn for the repressed, who are awaiting the trickle-down economy is allegedly working for the great unwashed, but in reality, it never really happens.  It is one of the heaviest songs on the album in terms of music, it is also biting in the lyric department as well and it adds another layer of interest to this album.

11 - No More (This Is the Last Time)

The penultimate song of the album is about the end of a relationship, where everything is coming to a close and the writing is on the wall.  With more melody that you get on quite a lot of this album, 'No More (This Is the Last Time)' has a dark passion at its core, this influences the music and to a certain extent it also hinders it.  It seems like it could reach a high peak, but it sorts of plateau's when it is about to take the next step and reach that peaks which can make a Depeche Mode song so good.  It is sort of like that sneeze that does not happen, or the itch you cannot scratch - there is no satisfaction once it has finished.

12 - Fail

Ending the album is 'Fail' and there is no hope on this one, there is only the sound of a man who is looking at humanity and not enjoying the view.  It is something I can relate to; the world is not in a positive place at the moment politically and it could get worse before it gets better.  Musically, the sound is very industrial and it sounds harsh, Martin Gore's vocals reflect the pain of the words and it is a fragile and damaged number.  It is a powerful statement that mirrors the feeling and words of ‘Going Backwards‘, maybe not my favourite of the album, but not one that I dislike either.

I like the way Depeche Mode have never rested on their previous albums, always trying to alter their collective sound in a way and never being afraid to try to say something new.  It is a brave album and after 'Risk to Exist' by Maxïmo Park, it is the second biggest political statement of the year.  It is a shade too long for my tastes, especially when you consider that there is a deluxe version of the album with another five tracks on it.  There is not much light on this album and not one that rests easy on the listen, but that is by design and you are not meant to feel comfortable after this album.  You are meant to feel angry and wanting to take on the political elite and bang their heads together, which it achieves this to a certain degree, but it is a little bit too forceful in places.  The lighter passages (in a given sense of the word "lighter") of this album come when Dave Gahan is in the writing chair, which helps balance out the album.  It means it is not all minimalist political statements (however spot on these statements are, it gets a bit too much in places) and this helps with the flow of 'Spirit'.  Also, for a band that has been a round or so long, you naturally as a fan compare it to their back catalogue, trying to figure where it stands in that illustrious list.  At the moment in time, the jury is out as it will take a while to settle, but it is not a poor album by any measure.  However, when comparing it to their 'Songs of Faith & Devotion' or 'Violator' period, it does not quite match those standard.  They are not trying to recapture those albums and that is to be applauded as they are all about moving forward, yet you cannot help but compare to those high-water marks.  But at the end of the day it is a very good album that will keep the faithful happy, even if it is a little preachy in place.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Poison Heart

You can purchase Spirit from Amazon here.

You can visit the Depeche Mode website here.

You can follow the activities of Depeche Mode on Facebook here.

You can stream the deluxe version of Spirit on Spotify here.

You can stream the normal version of Spirit on Deezer here (you can also find the deluxe version on Deezer as well).

You can stream the normal version of Spirit on Tidal here (you can also find the deluxe version on Tidal as well).

Maxïmo Park - Risk to Exist

When I was offered the chance to review the new Maxïmo Park album a few days before its release, I was sort of taken a back.  Here is a band that are based in my local area (North East of England) who have made some great albums, whilst they have also had some releases that did not quite work for me.  They are a sort of institution up here and their last album ‘Too Much Information’ (my review cleverly linked here) was in my top 20 albums of 2014, which has grown in stature for me since its release.  It was a moment where they changed from being an act who had done good for themselves into being one of the leading lights in the Indie music scene in my eyes.  It has taken me a little while to complete this review as I wanted to absorb the album, give it time to sink in rather than a gut/from the hip reaction.  Risk to Exist’ was recorded in the latter half of 2016 with Tom Schick producing the album, it is also an album I have been looking forward to reviewing, but how does it sound?

01 – What Did We Do to You To Deserve This?

This is a timely politically charged song that is an indictment on the age old tale of the rich protecting themselves and the poor being repressed (same as it ever was), when the strain of being in charge is also coupled with an attack on public by the establishment and the lies are coming out of the cracks on a sinking ship.  It has a large portion of Northern Soul to the music which gives it a warm, retro feeling as soon as you drop the needle.  I love the sound that they have created on this track, you can dance to it and it makes you think at the same time.

02 – Get High (No, I Don’t)

This song is a simple number in some ways, a song about not wanting to get wasted and even if it was right or legal, would you want to do it?  It holds conflict in the chorus, the verses are centred around the bass and it all adds up to a song which was released as a single before the album was released.  It also has a fantastic false ending that will catch out a lot of people upon their first listen.  It is fun, but with a serious message message – great song.

03 – What Equals Love

This song could be read in many different ways.  It could be about a failed relationship, it could be a song than contains a political message in the mix, it could just a simple Indie Disco hit.  What I can confirm is that it has an 80’s vibe to the music (don’t let that put you off) and bring the fun along with the message (whatever that may be).  I am really enjoying this song as it works on so many different levels, it is such a fucking joy.

04 – Risk to Exist

A song about refugees, their plight and how we should be acting to assist then (instead of inbred nationalism and closing the door), this song looks at why these people are risking their lives to escape the hell that they are in.  It is a brilliant song, it has that mix of their sound which was starting to develop on ‘Too Much Information’ and a hint of other influences to their current sound (Northern Soul, 80’s synth, disco) and creates a brilliant number that contains a political and humanist heart and message.

05 – I’ll Be Around

A song about feeling helpless when the system seems to be fixed in favour of the rich and powerful, leaving the people who actually need and require help/assistance to the dogs.  It has a simplistic style about it, it is uncomplicated and very much to the point.  Musically, it is a number that lets the words do the talking, but it brings in horns when required, rises the keyboards when called upon and they come together with the rest of the band to make one of those songs which may well end up being the sleep hit of the album.

06 – Work and Then Wait

A song about defying people who are suppressing you, standing up for rights and the curse of the right wing of the political spectrum. It is a powerful message that is fitting for the current state of the world and one which I totally agree with.  It is a great song, I truly love every note, word and the message is powerful.  However, one small thing – the main chorus riff is awfully close the ‘Where Is My Mind’ by the Pixies, there is enough distance between each song, but it is only just.

07 – The Hero

A song about the injustice of the world, but to a beat that has such a danceable quality that it should come with a health warning. There is the aforementioned injustice of the world, there is the need to remember when to compromise and when to stand true to oneself, plus a reminder that your heroes do not always walk the right path for you.  I love the way this sounds, it is a subtle number that gets under your skin and leaves a lasting impression.

08 – The Reason I Am Here

This song is about looking forward and never looking back, the stupidity of blaming all their issues on foreigners as directed by the media/the political parties and that it always pays to have an openand questioning mind.  I like the lyrics and they have depth and continue the good form of the album.  The music though, that does not quite meet the highest of other songs on this album, which is a little bit of a shame for me.

09 – Make What You Can

A song about the cultural change in the world, how it has become socially acceptable to be (for want of a better word) a self-serving dick.  But it also contains the message that you must at least attempt to get your point across to these people as they are wrecking the future for everyone.  It is a strong message that gets to the point straight away, musically it is one that takes a few listens to show itself properly – i.e. a grower and that quite often than not, works in the favour of the song in the long term.

10 – Respond to The Feeling

At this point you may think that the band might have changed tact and stop talking politics – think again.  This is the strongest political statement on the album, one that gets to the root of a lot of political arguments that are currently in vogue.  It is a brilliant number, one that has some biting comments and the music is subtly brilliant!  From beginning to end, this is the top track of the album, hands down.

11 – Alchemy

A song about the jargon of the modern-day messages, their forms, ways of communications and how it can be frustrating and confusing to a lot of people.  It is not the big bang ending that some people will have been expecting, but musically it is in keeping with the album and it has a great hook in the chorus.  Also, I think it was the obvious choice to end the album out of all the tracks on offer, it seems to build itself up into a peak with such ease and composure, it brings in the ending of this album with everything having been said and done (for now at least).

It really comes to something when Maxïmo Park are releasing the biggest political album of the year (and just after an early general election has been called in the UK) and I do not mean that with disrespect, it is such a huge revelation that I cannot help but applaud the band.  It is also something that makes this band a little more endearing to me, raising their profile higher and it was pretty high to start with.  It is not as if they have not done this sort of thing before, but they have gone out, looked at the current state of the world and nailed it to the wall on this album.  Their hearts (and political) motivations are placed with pride on their sleeves, it sings to me in way that I was not expecting when I first started to listen to this record.  They are not going through the motions on this album, they are fighting with everything that they possess and have come back with an album that matches ‘Too Much Information’ in terms of quality and style.  'Risk to Exist' is another contender for album of the year, make no mistake about that.

9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost

Top track – Respond to The Feeling

You can purchase one of the versions of Risk to Exist on Amazon here.

You can visit the Maxïmo Park website here.

wecamefromwolves - The Peak Beneath The Sea

It has been just over a year since I last heard from the brilliant Glasgow act wecamefromwolves, something that change just the other night when I received an email from them to annouce their first release of 2017, 'The Peak Beneath the Sea'.  Originally from Perth, the band have been going from strength to strength over the last few years with tours around the country, selling out venues, playing festivals, even winning the Scottish Alternative Music award as voted for by the Scottish Music industry and their fans.  It is great to see the band doing so well, riding the momentum that they have been building.  So, how does the new song sound?

01 – The Peak Beneath the Sea

Starting with a fade in, they start this song in strong style as they deal with the subject of wanting to reach safety and trying to access the refuge that all people seek when everything becomes too much.  It is a strong song, the hook in the chorus is catchy, the performance is as good, prehaps a bit better than their previous material and it make you want to hear further songs from the band.  It still sounds like them, but with improvements on each level that comes from experience and working together.

As it is only one song, the review is going to be a bit short, but the quality is not in short supply.  This is a dark beast of a song, one which sounds as if it has been crafted with the intent of being a high point in their live set.  It sounds huge and hopefully it is a good sign of things to come, the release date is the 5th May 2017 and it should be huge!

4 out of five – This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track – (saying as there is only one……) The Peak Beneath the Sea

You can visit the We Came from Wolves Bandcamp here.

You can follow the activities of We Came from Wolves on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, The Peak Beneath the Sea is not available onSpotify.  However, once it does become available on this platform, it will be on the We Came from Wolves page which Ihave linked here – you can also check out their previous releases as well.

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