For me, it is a rare, rare thing when artists that I adored in my youth are able to resurrect themselves and release rock-solid albums in the present. In fact, Morrissey's You Are the Quarry is one of the only examples I can think of, at the moment.
Still, when Depeche Mode releases a new LP, I can't help but hope that they'll find a way to plug back in to their album-oriented prime (which is to say: Black Celebration/Music for the Masses/Violator).
Alas, Playing the Angel does not even come close to breathing that sort of rarified air. Nor, for that matter, can it match 1997's not-so-bad-on-second-thought Ultra. Even 2001's Exciter's top two tracks, "Dream On" and "Freelove," trump Playing the Angel's corresponding pair [see/download below].
Still and all, I hope these "grizzled" veterans will give it another go some two or three years hence. Then, as now, I will hope for the best, fear for the worst, and probably end up feeling pretty damned dissatisfied. But such is life...
Playing the Angel will be released in the U.S. on October 18th.
[MP3] [left-click] "Precious"
[MP3] [left-click] "Lillian"