Depeche Mode's new album begins with a bang--15 seconds of harsh, grinding, construction-site screech seemingly designed to quell suspicions that these dance-rock elders have been softened by age and irrelevance. You can hardly begrudge them their determination; since 2001, when the trio released Exciter, their moody synth-pop moves have been taken up by industry-savvy youngsters half their age, and the resulting audience is likely unaware of anything by Depeche Mode beyond that old VH1 chestnut "Enjoy the Silence." Legendarily hard-living frontman Dave Gahan may resemble Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry these days, but he and his bandmates aren't giving up their alt-rock market share without a fight. Good for them: It's kind of a kick to hear Gahan sneer self-serving nonsense like "I can't conceal what I feel, what I know is real" over Martin Gore's brushed-chrome keyboards and car-commercial beats in opener "A Pain that I'm Used To," and it's even more fun to hear them outdo the Killers' attempt at perv-gospel gravity in the clanging "John the Revelator" ("inspired," Playing the Angel's liner notes claim, "by the traditional work of the same name"). They've got no souls, but they're soldiers.
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