Playing The Angel

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Depeche Mode's unique division of labor has been long established, with each of the three remaining members having a distinct role: Martin Gore writes the songs, Dave Gahan sings them and Andrew Fletcher shows up for photo shoots and cashes the checks. So the biggest change on the Mode's eleventh studio album is that they tinker with that formula. After Gahan recorded a solo album (2003's Paper Monsters) and complained that he wanted to write some of Depeche Mode's material, he ended up with three of the twelve song credits here. Of course, they sound pretty much like Gore's tracks: You don't stay in a band for twenty-five years without learning a few things. Otherwise, the formula remains largely the same, although the group adds some production tricks, dialing down the perv factor and turning up some extra chirps and bloops they haven't used before. Ominous synthesizers and portentous vocals, as always, hold steady.

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