Four years after the blah Playing the Angel, Depeche Mode returns to the gloomy playground that en-couraged its best work. Sounds of the Universe sounds like vintage Depeche Mode — cold, soulless and robotic — but without the hooks. There are plenty of moody ruminations and nifty sonic textures, yet there aren't many actual songs. Universe wants to be a new-millennium Violator, but without a "Personal Jesus" or "Enjoy the Silence" driving it, the album just sorta hangs around, waiting for something to pull it along. It doesn't help that Dave Gahan sounds bored throughout. Apparently, singing my-life-is-so-hollow songs like "Hole to Feed," "Fragile Tension" and "In Sympathy" doesn't do much for him anymore. Only the skulking "Wrong" sparks the old energy circuits, pulsating with familiar synth burps and whirs. Mostly, though, it's a pretty lifeless Universe. — Michael Gallucci
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