Depeche Mode

Playing the Angel (Sire)

Playing the Angel's first cut is called "A Pain That I'm Used To." Its second is called "Suffer Well." And the disc's back cover bears the epigraph, "Pain and suffering in various tempos."

We get the idea.

Yes, pain and suffering are spelled out — if never actually conveyed — in the dozen soggy dirges that comprise Depeche Mode's new album. Singer David Gahan's bouts with clichéd rock excess have been well publicized over the past few years, but the guy hasn't the slightest idea how to make these tepid dribbles of electro-pop resonate with his anguish — or anything else. Cannibalizing Depeche's past while never approaching its former grim glory, the whole thing feels text-messaged in. "Pain" poetically sums it up: The song opens with a blast of synthesizer that sounds like the sad howl of some dying electronic dinosaur. How excruciatingly fitting.

 
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