Posted on BONG on 24 Aug 2005
"Found this on a DM
newsgroup, I think this is the best PTA review I've seen so far. Some of you have probably
seen this one already, but I think it deserves to be posted here.
All I can say is, after reading this it will be very hard to wait for October, especially
after hearing Precious which frankly blows away anything on Exciter. Now this time I just
have to have the patience of not listening to any more MP3s before the album comes to
shops... (didn't have it back in 1997 and 2001, unfortunately)
NOTE: the review is *not* written by me. :)
I just heard the album. And I'm blown away... Almost at least. This really
is the DM album I have been waiting for since 1990. The overall sound is
like a mixture of DM albums from SGR to SOFAD, with some very modern touches to brush off
the retro accusations. The album resembles in mood perhaps mostly SOFAD, but this is a far
more electronic album, without SOFAD's murkiness. The beats are oppressive, almost
industrial, but the songs are lightened and livened up by those big old-school DM style
swathes of grandiose synth-sweeps like on say Halo or Fly On The Windscreen. The modern
elements come from clever distortions of the sound and the way many songs have almost
wrong-sounding bursts of blips and static to break the clean, otherwise a bit retro sheen
of sound. Ben Hillier has done a tremendous job. PTA is the sound of a band envigorated,
it's almost like they have become 15 years younger since the last we heard of them.
As for the much-feared Dave compositions (at least feared by me), well I'm
glad to tell you that musically they are on par with the rest of the album. Which means:
they are very good.
1. The Pain That I'm Used To - it does begin like Dead Of Night, but fear not, by the
30-second mark it has settled into something that could have been dragged from the deepest
recesses of Violator. Both dark and light on its feet, this is PTA exemplified, with a big
chorus that is almost underused, since it collapses under a landslide of distorted guitar.
A very strong opener.
2. John The Revelator - hard bubbling electro-blues with Dave taking the
role of the crazy preacher man we already know from GRWM. This is very heavy on biblical
references, as the title hints, and the gospel choir harmonizing on the chorus makes me
think of Condemnation meeting the glam-stomp of Marilyn Manson's version of Personal
Jesus, but with much more electronics. Good, but not exceptional.
3. Suffer Well - Opening with an ETS-style processed guitar riff (a very
often used motif on this album), this is indeed the first Dave-penned track. Either he has
really been taking some lessons from Mart or his songs have been partly ghostwritten by
somebody else, because this is so much better than anything on PM that it's almost
ridiculous. The song has the typical DM trick of holding back the chorus for a couple of
verses, and just when the listener starts to worry that there isn't one, it comes up
served on a bed of some glorious synth whooshes and classic Mart-Dave harmonies. Think
4. Sinner In Me - BOAG style beat, but speeded up. "If I could hide the
sinner inside and keep him denied" goes this plea for a personal redemption, that
climaxes in a beautiful chorus in a slightly slower tempo. The usual bursts of static and
clicks scratch the inner surface of the song like there is another beast under the smooth
skin - the sinner in me not content on keeping hidden inside perhaps?
5. Precious - we know this one. And especially, when heard in the context of
the album, it is astonishing. One of the best things they have ever done, I feel.
6. Macro - DM at its most avantgarde, this is like Comatose beefed up a bit.
Martin is on a much finer vocal form here than on C2 or Exciter. The almost atonal verses
settle into a pretty, very mystical chorus that goes "see the microcosm in
macrovision / our bodies moving with pure precision / one universal celebration / one
evolution, one creation". Heavy stuff, eh? This is the track which will divide the
opinions the most, although I did like it a lot straight away.
7. I Want It All - far better than I expected. A slow-burning, almost
pastoral mid-tempo slowie that is let down by some vintage Dave lyrics:
"Sometimes I try / sometimes I lie / with you / Sometimes I cry / sometimes I die /
it's true". Oh dear. But still, an okay track overall, even though the length of six
minutes is overdoing it more than a bit.
8. Nothing's Impossible - a very nice surprise! Dave's third track is nearly brilliant
slice of understated mid-80's DM synthpop. Overcast oppressing synths crossed with a
catchy pop melody make this sound like To Have And To Hold on a date with, say, Two Minute
Warning. Like on all his songs, Dave keeps tributing Martin's lyrics here too "Even
the stars look brighter tonight / nothing's impossible" goes the chorus.
9. Introspectre - a Board Of Canada -ish 1.44-minute instrumental, that
sounds like a soundtrack to one of my more melancholic hangovers but not
10. Damaged People - Alongside Precious, this is my fave track. A tender,
sensual, ultraromantic Mart ballad that could have been a highlight on both BC and MFTM.
"When you're in my arms / the world makes sense", goes the first chorus.
"When your lips touch mine and I lose control / I forget that I'm old and
dying", goes the second, and this is blissful stuff. Martin or DM haven't sounded
this much in love with love, flush with romantic abandon, since the late eighties. It's
like we're all teenagers again and the world is the most wonderful prom disco ever, where
everyone falls in love with everyone and the floor is strewn with petals... Fabulous!
11. Lillian - Very old school synth-pop with endearingly lightweight lyrics about some
Lillian that breaks hearts for fun. The tune is merely okay, but still it's nice to hear
DM being able to still have fun, to lose some of the portentousness and world-weariness
that has weighed them down a bit since SOFAD. Sounds almost like The Bravery, like
somebody here has always stated.
12. The Darkest Star - actually this was perhaps the only disappointing
track for me, but that's only compared to my expectations. A slow-burning
final track, that never really reaches the climax it hints at. But I'm sure it's very good
too, once I learn to listen to it without the burden of it being labelled "the best
song Mart has ever written" (it's not).
Well, that's all after one listen only. Tomorrow I'll receive a copy of my
own, so plenty of chances to dig deeper then. I was expecting a lot, but I
got a lot. This is up there with the 86-93, although not quite on par with
BC or Violator, at least on first impressions. Thank you, Depeche Mode, you really have
surpassed my expectations. " "