Sounds Of The Universe – Home Review

With the album finally hitting store shelves in those European markets blessed with Friday release dates, it’s time for HOME to take stock of this new album, and in particular the amazing box set that comes with it. Oh, and there’s plenty of eye candy in the form of exclusive photos of the finished product!!


Let me just come right out and say it from the start. I love the new record. No point denying it. “Sounds Of The Universe” is as solid as anything they’ve done in the past. Album opener “In Chains” is a very retro Mode track, immediately reminding me of tracks like “In Your Room”, “Higher Love” and “Clean”; it builds and builds, you can just feel all the restrained energy waiting to pour out. No wonder the band had this one pegged as a potential show opener… it would make a FANTASTIC start to the shows. Some of that pent-up energy is unleashed on “Hole To Feed” and “Wrong”; the albums two most ‘in-yer-face’ tracks. They certainly do get off to a great start on this album.

The easily forgettable, and slightly unforgivable “Fragile Tension” is the albums first sign of weakness. The vocal seems oddly detached from the music and the track just doesn’t really go anywhere. This is a “skip’er”.

Thankfully we find us firmly back on track with “Little Soul”, a space age lounge track with a wonderfully cheeky lyric. A slightly eerie atmosphere that gives way to “In Sympathy”; another track that is dripping with atmosphere, albeit of a different sort. This track has a late summer, late night, sleazy party feel to it. Lovely. “Peace”, the albums absolute peak for me, pretty much epitomizes everything I love about Depeche Mode. A charming, quirky track that just leaves a nice big grin on my face.

“Come Back” turns that nice big grin into what I can only assume is a look of slight bewilderment. This song could and should have been absolutely amazing. But sadly, the quirky electro charm of the demo is all but gone on the finished product, and substituted with a sort of quasi-shoegazer onslaught of whirling guitars that just leaves me kind of dizzy. (Thankfully, the excellent demo is included on one of the bonus discs in the box set! More on that later on…).

After a short instrumental detour, the album picks up it’s pace with “Perfect” – probably the most radio friendly track on the album and a strong single contender – and “Miles Away” – a track with a great drive to it; perfect for the open road!

“Jezebel”, the albums only song with Martin on lead vocal has loads to offer. Not least of which is one of best vocals Martin has ever done. Simply outstanding. Love the atmosphere. “Corrupt” ties up the album up in a nice, if slightly dirty, way.

All in all a great album. It’s not without its flaws, but no album ever is. The album, at thirteen (and a bit) tracks, is too long – no album needs to be that long. When considering the album’s more poppy trio of songs, “Fragile Tension”, “Perfect” and “In Sympathy”, I can’t help but wonder if all three of those really needed to be on here? Two of the three would have sufficed, and for me, “Fragile Tension”, as one of the albums very few weak offerings, shouldn’t have made the cut.


In addition to the 13 tracks that found their way to the album, the band offers up an additional five brand-spanking-new tracks on the 4 disc box set edition. “Light”, the first of the five additional tracks found on the disc 2, sounds like something out of an early Zelda game or something. Lovely bubbly electro. Alas, the track suffers from the same detached vocals that makes “Fragile Tension” a hard listen.

“The Sun And The Moon And The Stars” is a gorgeous, stripped back track with another GREAT vocal from Martin; “Ghost” a great, haunting (hehe) track. Easily some of my fave tracks from this entire project, and I am slightly baffled by the fact that these two didn’t make the album.

After “Esque” (another instrumental interlude) comes “Oh Well”, the first ever Gahan/Gore co-writing effort. A pretty full-on club track, this is another fave of mine. That being said, I can totally see why it wasn’t one of the 13 chosen ones. It would have stuck out like a sore, but well-crafted party thumb.


Disc two on the box continues with a collection of 6 remixes. I won’t spend too much time on the bulk of these because they simply aren’t worth spending a lot of time listening to, let alone writing or reading about. But they aren’t all bad! SixToes’s remix of “Jezebel” puts a very interesting spin on the track, and it just works. It’s in the same league as Goldfrapp’s mix of “Halo” (easily one of the best Mode remixes ever). The only other noteworthy remix here is Electronic Periodic’s superb take on “Perfect”. The dark and brooding backing gives Dave’s great vocal loads of room to shine. Love it!


Disc three is what truly makes this release a historic Depeche Mode release. Fourteen Thirteen demos dating back to 1987’s “Music For The Masses” right up to “Sounds Of The Universe”.

It’s very hard to do these historic recordings justice in a review such as this. Suffice to say, it’s an absolute privilege and pleasure to hear them. The wonderfully charming demo of “Judas” made me fall in love with this track all over again. “Nothing’s Impossible” just blew my mind in a way the “finished” version never really did and “Come Back” is everything this track should have been on the album (do I see a pattern emerging here?). More recent demos, like “Peace” and “Corrupt” gives you an interesting perspective on the final versions, while standing up nicely on their own.

This is the stuff of wet fanboy dreams!



The “Sounds Of The Universe” box is itself a work of art. Measuring roughly 30×30 cm, and weighing about a metric ton (give or take), this release puts to shame recent stabs at “deluxe editions” by the likes of U2. Containing two gorgeous hard back books, a plethora of art cards, pins, posters and other tidbits, three CDs and a DVD full of audio and video goodieness, this is not just the ultimate Depeche Mode release; it will undoubtedly also be in the running for one of the nicest releases this year!







  • Memoryboy


    Great review! But I do disagree about some of the album review, I think FRAGILE TENSION is a new sound for Depeche Mode, they have never done an "electro/Alternative" type song like this and I really love it. I think it's great, as well as the album version of COME BACK. I can see this song on the radio! It's a hit! I love the reviews on the extra box set tracks, can't wait to get mine. And the remixes are of importance to me since I LIVE for remixes! Yay!

  • Adrian


    TSTMTS should made the album instead FT or Jezebel. A long wait but will be worth!

  • wtf


    Little Soul better than Fragile Tension? You guys are smokin' some serious crack!

  • rosso99


    Great review!! Maybe the cause of wich the B sides are not in the SOTU edition is, in my opinion, Because the sound its not like the LP, I mean dirty-retro sound. And the you said a privilege.

  • Jeff G


    I think Fragile Tension is one of the best on the album. Along with Corrupt, Come Back (do love the studio versions of both songs better though) and Perfect. Peace, Jezebel, In Chains and Hole to Feed just plain suck. This is coming from a huge fan since 1984.

  • dre7861


    Execellent review! But it makes me so jealous that you've heard the whole album plus the non-album tracks and I have to wait until next Tuesday. Aarghh! Having said that I did hear one of the pirated versions of "Fragile Tension" and your take on it summed up the words I had been trying to formulate in my mind about it. It is almost like the lyrics were written for another song and then overlaid on another song with a different beat. I signed up for the iTunes Pass so I've heard the Black Oddessey Dub of "Oh Well" and the Lagos Boy Choir Remix of "Miles Away." I loved both and am glad to know that the originals are as good too! But when I heard the Electronic Periodic Remix of "The Sun And The Moon And The Stars" I went ugh. Oddly enough though "The Sun And The Moon And The Stars" is the tune I find myself humming the most from the songs I've heard. So now I have hope that the original is much better than the remix. It's about time that Martin keeps a good song to sing for himself. I also found out by pure chance this weekend that if you pre-purchase the album from you also get two free remixes. Being that I am a nut over the remixes and can't stand knowing there's some that I can't get (usually because I live in the US) I of course bought my second copy of SOTU so I could get Minilogue's Air Remix (weak and insipid) of "In Chains" and Le Weekend Remix of "Ghost," which was awesome. Again good to know the original holds up.

  • Tumara/ Modeangel


    Nice review! I feel like I have the box set already! not really.... is it tuesday yet?

  • Coops


    Fragile Tension is the best track on the album!

  • ericson


    I am personally very disappointed with this album. I loved "Wrong" and the In Studio video version of "Come Back". I do enjoy listening to "Peace" even though I think it borrows greatly from The Beatles " Across The Universe" a bit to much. Perhaps that is where they got the idea for the album title. I think that the producer grew a little too comfortable with this album and it is more his work than anything. I hope they find someone else for the next project even though I loved Playing The Angel. This album is too slow and distant, and other than "Wrong" not too radio friendly. The opener "In Chains" is a 6 minute slow song that does not get me pumped up for the album like " A pain the I'm Used To" did. Funny I liked the demo for "Hole To Feed" alot more as well. The album version just seemed too forced. The non album tracks seem alot better. I still think nothing tops "Newborn" & "Suffer Well" from their latest work. I am a die hard fan and have been since the late 80's but I will like no album unconditionally. So sadly this album comes in last behind "Exciter"

  • Headstar69


    Love the review! My personal favourites off the album are Wrong, Hole To Feed, Peace and Corrupt, though this changes on an hourly basis!! It's all classic Depeche Mode with a nice feeling of retro synths. When I first heard Peace, I thought it sounded like Yazoo meeting A Broken Frame which is brilliant!! The Demos are interesting. Walking In My Shoes sounds great in this form. Although this track is a DM classic, in my opinion they didn't make the most of the song. The simpleness of the demo is beautiful where as the single version has always sounded so crowded and claustrophobic. I agree with what has been said about Come Back....Are DM wrecking some of their own songs!!

  • emil


    Fragile Tension IS THE BEST Track on the album!!!Bad Taste

  • gus vi


    Good review, totally agree on FT. All ablums have a weakest link and this time is FT. All in all a good ablum but some bits bring me memories of Exciter, which is worrying!!

  • Kaleid


    Thank you for the nice review. I get on my way to the retailer now. Count me to the camp of Fragile Tension lovers.

  • Paolo


    Great review, I love it like I love this wonderful Sounds of the Universe!

  • Richard Monahan


    Great album,sorry but fragile tension is one of the best tracks on the album,little soul for me is the skipper very weak, and biggest let is jezebel its like something out of a 70's porn movie,all in all a great listen but i think the days of a classic depeche mode albums such as black cellebration are gone

  • Basildon Boy


    Really good review, and agree with most of it, apart from Fragile Tension, which I really liked. I dont think Comback is a bad track at all, but as you say, once you compare it to the studio version you see it lacks the passion & emotion, and the harmonies between Gore & Gahan. Enjoy the "The posters came from the walls" Im the sad bloke in the green jumper they inetrview in the middle of Basildon town centre.

  • Clint


    One thing to keep in mind; when Depeche Mode play live, they do change things up and play a remix version of their own. Maybe when the live versions are released, we will have something better than the album version. Also, you guys need to hear the remix version of "Comeback" available on Youtube.

  • d_m101


    Fragile Tension is the best song on the album, with In Chains slightly behind, with such judgements always being subjective.

  • Ivan B


    Can't wait to put my hands on the Sounds Deluxe! All in all, SOTU soundz pretty weird. Weirder than any other DM album. Violator vs Speak and Spell. Give it a few spins and somehow it seems to flow...just like PTA did. My favs are Peace, Little Soul, Fragile Tension, Jezebel and BRILLIANT Spacewalker. Not sure about In Chains as an opener. Well, OK. But it ain't high as Higher Love. I give the new album generous 4 stars for it's Depecheness. Woo-hoo Depeche!

  • kb


    Album is quite good. I agree with the review, on FT especially the last verse sounds like it's out of sync with the music. Too bas because after the first verse I'm so excited about the song. But it doesn't go anywhere after that.

  • Neo_19


    Nice review But what about the documentaries ?

  • Robert


    Like you I could have wept when I heard what they did to Come Back, can't bear to listen to it its awful!! Demo version is far superior. Loved DM since I first seen them in Feb 82, and I would agree with 'Ericson', think its time for a new producer.

  • Martin


    excellent review. But I would rate fragile tension as an unusual song as second best behind "Wrong". Then perfect and peace, corrupt, brilliant songs. But maybe this album needs time !

  • Martin


    excellent review, excellent album. But Fragile tensions I find is the nicest song.

  • Mondo


    I wished I agreed with the review, but I think along with exciter SOTU is a big disappointment. It blows my mind as to why the extra tracks didn't make the final cut.

  • adiscloud


    I agree with Robert, demo version of Come Back is far better than the album version...I really can't understand why they made such a decision. The only song I really love is beautiful,but even this one,at the end...has a clumsy keyboard part. Chains is good but the begining has no sense. Milles Away again is good...but the guitar and some sounds are too loud and quite annoying. Wrong is good...powerfull..dark but doesn't blow my mind. Fragile Tension begins with good vocals and continues with bad ones, Peace is a strange mixture...I don't know if I like it or not, the combination of sounds is not fluent, they don't really form a whole, tries to be a retro DM..and makes me think of Sawing the seeds of love by Tears for Fears, Hole to feed has good parts...and bad ones...Specewalker is ok(but ok for DM is not ok), Little Soul is ok...but only ok, Corrupt doesn't touch me...the begining sounds a bit like Clean, Perfect is not perfect, In Sympathy is weak. The bottom line is that no song on this album will become an DM hymn. Maybe Wrong has a chance, and Jezebel will become a DM classic. I hope the other 5 tracks are better and will save some of my tears. Anyway...I will always love them and I can't wait seeing them in Bucharest on 16th of May.

  • Depeche Jr.


    I guess NIN had a bigger influence than I thought; re: expensive box set release of the album.

  • Sean


    I really don't agree with this review at all. Fragile Tension may be the best track on the album. If you like the more Violator/SOFAD sounds you will probably put the tracks in an order like this: Fragile Tension, Corrupt, In Sympathy as tops. In Chains, Come Back and Hole to Feed (which the album version is awful compared to the earlier leaked version) are all ok. Peace, Jezebel and Little Soul are easily skippable. Single wise you are looking at Fragile Tension, Corrupt and In Sympathy. I don't see any others with single potential.

  • JHB.


    Worst Depeche Mode Album Ever. Worst lyrics, worst music, nothing inspiring for an old fan like me. It's sad to say, but to me they are just not into it anymore. You guys should listen to Violator, you forgot Alan wilder's sound.

  • Recoil


    Wow... I'm really surprised by some of the opinions here. Just goes to show how differently people think. Personally I think Fragile Tension is an excellent track, especially when the guitar riff comes in during the chorus. I predict that Peace is going to be a new favourite when it's played live, for some reason it almost gives me same vibes that "Never Let Me Down" does. What amazes me is that many of the songs on this album have the potential of being singles. Martin hasn't lost his spark :)

  • Clint


    I think we are waiting for another "Violator" to come out. There were 5 singles from that album alone. The new album in my mind has only 1 single in my mind.

  • Know-it-all


    Sorry Clint, but "only" 4 singles from Violator.

  • Memoryboy


    and all these opinions based on our leaked copies.... But from what I've heard from the leaked version, this is Depeche Mode's best album yet.



    I really like sounds but it did take several listens to appreciate. I dont compare past albums I judge a new release as NEW material,SOFAD+VIOLATOR seem to always be the benchmark that certain "FANS" compare any new material to.I think mode move perfectly with the times,Useing retro equipment on this release works really well a real plast from the past with the sounds.My only critisium is the chorus for miles away could flow a little bit more smoothly but still a great track. There is still far to much negativity about depeche on forums and in the press,WRONG if promoted by the important but truly pathetic xfm and radio 1 would have been an absolute smash hit but the general public are not aware of the release.WRONG bieng a hit would have pushed album sales up,and there would have been an even bigger demand for tickets,it still only the hard core fans that know the mode are still going.Look at what british radio have done for u2 they can release absolute shit and get arselicking amounts of media.I think mode management could work the promotion a lot better if the radio wont play them get them on johnathon ross or another popular chat show,Its ashame the kimmel show and jools holland apperance didnt come before the release of wrong because that really would have helped .To sell albums you need hit singles FACT!!!!!!.The tour will be amazing and im shore the new material will work live.YAZOOS tour sounded great with the analouge sounds blasting out so im sure modes new material will to.

  • quintana


    Hi, good review. Thanks. I like SOTU at all. I don't feel that Fragile Tension and Come Back are bad. They both fit in very well. Especialy FT fits very well after wrong. It has no "building up" feeling but a "flowing away" feeling to me. Very nice.

  • adiscloud


    I've just listened the 5 bonus tracks on youtube. All 5 should have been on the album...and I think it's quite a different mood in them...a real DM atmposphere. I like it.

  • Ivan B


    THANK YOU DEPECHE MODE! My prayers have been answered! (Come Back (shockingly) rocks!) Great album! Gret BOX! Great badges! Great electronics! I bought 2x CDs + 2x DVDs + 1x BoxSet, like a real DM nerd. And I entered the 'meet and greet' competition. Hope my ass gets to be in the same room with the boyz backstage. So much excitement going on...wah

  • Clint


    World in My Eyes, Personal Jesus, Halo, Enjoy the Silence, Policy of Truth. I have all five singles.

  • steve bryant


    Halo a single? I dont think so , Clint!

  • Mode Boy


    Clint Halo was not an official release it was a promo only... but if you have a copy your a lucky man! Box looks unreal I cannot wait to get mine...

  • Clint


    The single I am dying to have is the promo single of "I Feel Loved" with the Butcher Bros remix. It is amazing.

  • Hatchet


    Ok, first listen, first impressions...pretty happy so far but know its gonna need a little time to bed in as all the best one do. Initial stand out tracks are wrong, fragile tension, peace & miles away. Wasn't sure at all about hole to feed. Jezebel seems to be only track with what I would call an old school keyboard riff. Rest of album uses vocals for melody and instruments for texture. Think there should be more simple synth melody.

  • Decoder


    I would love to pass comment, but my box set, due to arrive today, didn't. To say I have been bubbling under with anticipation is an understatement and when it became obvious that today wasn't THE day, I must admit, I shed a tear. Here's hoping tomorrow is my day for the delights in a box................ All hail the Mode!

  • dre7861


    I don't want to single anyone out but I have notice a trend among some of the commentators in this post and others that run along the lines of "If only DM would make some good singles then the rest of the world could discover how good they are" and "If only the band would do another Violator" Both lines of thoughts have some serious flaws in them. Let's tackle the latter and most frequently heard one about making another Violator. You do realize that if DM made another Violator album it would be Violator. Do you really want the band to re-release the album and maybe change the names, like 'Personal Gandhi' or 'Enjoy The Quiet.' Something tells me that if Depeche did that these fans would still not be happy. They would gripe "It sounds too much like Violator." Face facts the band is never ever going to make another Violator and any fan who sits down with SOTU or the couple of albums down the road before the boys retire expecting to hear Violator is really just setting themselves up for disappointment. [The corollary to this one is "If only Alan Wilder were back in the band he could make these songs good." Again lets face facts - Alan is never ever in a million years coming back. There is no incentive for him or the band for Alan to come back. Both have moved on. Now I love Alan and miss him in the band but this notion that Alan and only Alan can come in and take these 'sow ears' that Martin is writing and turn them into 'silk purses' is completely ridiculous. For one thing it is horribly dismissive of Martin's and now Dave's song writing abilities. And if Alan was such a musical genius then why isn't Recoil the number one band in the world?] In regards to "If only DM would make some good singles then the rest of the world could discover how good they are" I find this one the strangest of all. Did it never occur to these fans that music tastes are not what they were in the late 80's/early 90's? For one thing a few of their recent singles have done pretty good, 'Precious' coming most readily to mind and 'Suffer Well' was nominated for a Grammy. And certainly I think that the band can produce other hit singles. But if Depeche were to produce hit singles for today's audience then it would not sound like the Depeche Mode we love. I can only speak for the American market but the top songs are hip hop/rap, overblown music that passes for Country Music now days and American Idol scream-a-thon type songs. The occassional alternative acts that break the Top 20 to me all sound alike. If you were to hold a gun to my head and ask me to identify The Fray from the countless other alt bands of the past ten years or you would shoot then I'm dead as dead can be. The few Dance tracks that become hit singles are entirely sung by women - so unless Dave wants to have a sex change I don't see that happening. Just try to imagine the DM songs that would have to fit those styles of Hip Hop/Rap, 'Country' and Amrican Idol in order to become 'hits' - 'A Pain I'm Gonna Lay Upside Yo Head,' 'The Peace' and 'Oh, My Precious Darling Love For All Times And Forever.' If that's the kind of songs you guys want to listen to then great but count me out. Again I'm not trying to pick on anyone - and I guess I have too much time on my hands what with being 'inbetween jobs' while waiting for the new album tomorrow. I know once I get SOTU into my hot little hands tomorrow I plan to get rid of expectations, any comparisons and just listen for a couple of times. I imagine I will like some songs and some I will be less than impressed. But I do plan to enjoy it in the moment and not live in the past.

  • BombayMan


    I agree with Alex. Peace is the worst track on the album. My faves are htf, ft, is, matti and corrupt. As I live in europe, I hope you'll all have a lot of fun on the American leg. Cheers everybody

  • Alabastard


    dre7861, that comment was like everything that I have thought and battled with. You are awesome. As for the Alan Wilder Controversy, I don't believe as evinced by DM's catalogue that Alan is an especially deft songcrafter. Now as someone who CAN clean up and tweak and modify, the man inarguably brought something ineffable to the table, but that's (almost) neither here nor there. As for the the album... it's beyond solid! Be sure to get the B-sides, ZOMG! and other FOUR letter WORDs! They're as GOOD, if not better(as usual) as wot's on the album proper! And as a fellow jobhunter, its simply more time to Enjoy the Sounds!

  • Zachery Allan Starkey


    My lord, some people are hard to please. I have just finished listening to SOTU, and I think its an excellent record. Its just as good as PTA, and because it has a few more dance oriented tracks on it (being a big New Order fan, I like dancier numbers). I think I may prefer SOTU to PTA. Martin's songwriting is superb, as usual, the production is dirty and hard, and I love the whole dirty electro sound of the whole record. I don't expect DM to change the face of music with a new album. They already did that in the 80s with records like Black Celebration and Violator. All I expect from DM now is a good, strong album of good, strong songs. And with SOTU, they deliver. I have to say that my favorite track on the record is In Sympathy. Wonder electro dance track with great melodies and production. I like Fragile Tension a lot as well, Wrong is great of course, and on the whole, I think the whole album is pretty strong. As good as PTA, if not a smidge better.

  • SDC


    I Love this album. To me, it is their most enjoyable and certainly eclectic work since Ultra. Don't shoot the messenger but I felt that PTA was a little too dark of an album for my tastes, and at times it seemed underproduced (Macro and damaged people) I just couldn't get into that album although there are some good singles on it...suffer well being the best. Exciter is good, but it seems to blend together at times, as if the producer had a very limited pallete to work with. Its almost the same as SOFAD (not sonically)but in the sense that the album flows together in a kind of strange sameness.. SOTU is a breath of fresh air. It borrows heavily from their past while placing them back in the forefront. Pushing boundaries and reminding everyone from the killers, to MGMT, interpol, and others why they have been so influential. I personally like the length of the album. Each song is produced in and of itself, not one bleeding into another, demonstrating a band that cared about each one. This album is definately a journey worth taking. I do think that Ghost could have been swapped out for little soul, or hole to feed, and that TSATMATS should have been put in as well (inplace of spacewalker?) It seems weird to only have one Gore song on the album. All hail Depeche Mode ahhhight?

  • ibierce


    I've only listened to it twice, but I think Fragile Tension is one of the best songs and Jezebel one of the worst. Oh, and the "in studio" version of corrupt with the jazzy guitar, love it lots more than the one on the CD. I think this will be end up being a middling DM cd, better than Exciter and Construction Time and definitely Speak and Spell, but not a SOFAD or Violator and, yeah, those two are the yardsticks in my opinion. Of course, I am one of the few people who love a Broken Frame. So, why is Recoil not the biggest band if Alan is such a genius? Same as why a Michael Stipe solo project would probably blow--Alan had the brain to work with Martin's songs, he needs a top notch songwriter like Martin to inspire him. He was at their best with him and Depeche Mode was best with Alan Wilder in the band but those days are gone. Considering their royalty rate, I don't think Dave, Martin, Fletch, and Alan will ever do a reunion for money, but who knows. We can't live in the past can we? I think DM needs a new producer, someone visionary to kick Martin and Dave up the ass. Too bad Phil Spector is batshit--what about Brian Wilson? Can you imagine? What about a combination of Brian Eno and Flood? I think their choice of producers has kind of kept the quality not as high as it could be. What if they could get Bowie? Ah, dreams are fun, aren't they??

  • sdc


    love the new album....looking forward to jimmy kimmel live..