|Musicfolio.com||Reviews & Recommendations|
|"We're Flying High,
We're Watching the World Pass us by"
-- Depeche Mode
| "Throughout their history, Depeche Mode has
combined success with innovation, producing records that have mixed moving
melodic lines and pop-star preening with completely synthesizer-driven noises,
forever altering the sound of modern music. "
With more than 35 million albums sold world-wide, Depeche Mode is the most popular Synth act of all time. Their first line-up formed by Vince Clark in 1980, included Martin Gore, Andrew Fletcher and Dave Gahan, a quartet that only lasted for one album "Speak and Spell". In 1982 Vince Clark moved on to form Yazoo with singer Alison Moyet, while Martin Gore inherited Depeche Mode's song writing activity. Alan Wilder joined to fill the synth-expertise void left by Clarke, and from 1982 to 1995 this quartet shaped electronic music taking it from the early New Romantic basis of what was once referred to as New-Wave, to darker heights invading the dance underground Goth scene, and occasionally taking a confident step into the land of commercialism. In 1995, Alan Wilder deserted DM to concentrate on his Recoil formation (and Oh! what a waste of energy Recoil has been), while Dave spent a period of time in a rehabilitation program recovering from a Heroin Over-Dose. 1997 saw a strong come-back of DM with the release of "Ultra" proving that the trio is pretty much as effective as the previous line-up.
19 years already, and so many 'just can't get enough' of Depeche Mode, not because they're still stuck in the 80's, but because DM's music grew and matured just like we did, innovating and always daring to produce 'Songs of Faith and Devotion'.
-"Martin, Dave, Andrew and Alan"... Thank you for putting a smile on my face at times when everybody else failed...
-- Said Sukkarieh, Musicfolio 8/99
1981: Speak & Spell
"At the height of teatowel-wearing New Romanticism, Vince Clarke's featherlight tunesmithery on Speak & Spell (New Life, Photographic, Just Can't Get Enough) defied the genre's doomy, tinny, preening, East-European seriousness. Ironically, it was after its decline and Clarke's tour-shy departure, that "the Mode" slid into darker waters."
-- Andrew Collins, Q Magazine, 10/00
"[Rhino issued a CD/DVD edition of 'Speak & Spell' in North America in 2006]. While the first disc includes the album tracks in their original running order, Disc 2 is a DVD that features the entirety of Speak and Spell remixed in 5.1 stereo surround and DTS sound -- adding extra sonic punch -- along with rare B-sides. Longtime Depeche fans will thoroughly enjoy the bonus 26-minute film, 'Do We Really Have to Give Up Our Day Jobs?', which documents the making of the album and includes recent interviews with band members, including Clarke, who left Depeche Mode at the end of their first tour. Attractively packaged in a digipak sleeve, the set is accompanied by a booklet containing lyrics and never-before-published photos of the band taken during their early rise to pop stardom."
-- Edwin De La Cruz, Barnes & Nobles, 6/06
¼ 1982: A Broken Frame
"Following the success of their seminal first album, 1981s 'Speak and Spell', Depeche Mode was faced with a major dilemma. How to carry on without Vince Clarke? Clarke, the bands songwriter and all-around musical architect, abruptly left the group citing creative differences, and a general distaste for the interviews, television spots, and constant attention that comes with a band whose star is rapidly rising. With him gone, it was up to remaining members Andrew Fletcher, Dave Gahan, and Martin Gore to prove to Clarke (and themselves) that they could carry on with Gore as sole songwriter and arranger. What ensues is 1982s 'A Broken Frame', their first album as a three piece, and an album that longtime producer, and Mute Records founder, Daniel Miller would call a transitional album and later refer to as the beginning of the so-called dark phase."
-- El Bicho, blogcritics.org, 12/06
1983: Construction Time Again
Even in the days before Depeche Mode's transformation into goth-synth, this album signified a darker side to synth-pop than most bands of the genre. The music is akin to New Order, pulsing with danceable beats, but with somewhat dark melodies and subjects. No track really stands out, but the entire album is enjoyable and gets the blood flowing. Worth listening.
-- firstname.lastname@example.org , DM fan review on amazon.com
1984: Some Great Reward
Some Great Reward is Depeche Mode's best record, containing everything from the bitter religious doubt of "Blasphemous Rumours" to the socio-sexual role playing of "Master and Servant" and the egalitarian "People Are People." Seamlessly blending unsettling concrte sounds--like synthesized factory din and clanking chains--into the music, the group achieves a masterful music/life mix few of the same mind have approached.
1985: Catching Up with Depeche Mode
A compilation of some of DM's best hits covering the 1981-1985 period, including the tracks Shake The Disease, It's Called a Heart and Fly on the Windscreen, which were only released as singles prior to this album. Fly on The Windscreen will end up appearing on the upcoming "Black Celebration" album, where it perfectly fits the gloomy atmosphere.
½1986: Black Celebration
"Black Celebration is arguably Depeche Mode's darkest effort yet, where Gore's lyrics reflect pain, agony and nihilism. "Death is everywhere, there are flies on the windscreen... there are lambs for the slaughter, waiting to die". But as DM look at a 'World Full of Nothing', they deliver one of their most powerful releases with hits like Stripped, A Question of Timeand A Question of Lust. If I had to recommend only one DM album, I'd make it a Black Celebration!"
-- DJ Avalanche, musicfolio.com, 8/99
½ 1987: Music For the Masses
"... The darkness was still there, as were the portentious vocals and nihilistic lyrics. But the integration of more organic elements and heavier use of guitars gave the band a more stadium-friendly sound. For the first time, these were songs that were designed to be far more effective live than on a stereo system. But that isn't to say that the album isn't an impressive listen from start to finish. In fact, the first song is the perfect way to open the album, not least because it is quite astonishing and destined to go down in the Mode's history as one of The Legendary DM tracks...Never Let Me Down Again. You should really hear this song live before you die. It starts with a chugging guitar riff, enters into some softened metallic sounds backed by massive drums, before a jazzy piano effect brings it into the first verse. And that's just the first 30 seconds. When the song finishes to those horrible, creepy choral sounds that make you think that the world as we know it is about to end, you suddenly get the message that this is all about one crazy, euphoric drug trip. Then you start to imagine how it would sound live in an arena... So that's track one. And I suppose that, if I were to describe the rest of the album as a huge comedown after that ultra-dark high, some would think I meant it in a bad way. But this is Depeche Mode. Pain is good.
(...) [Music for the Masses] is not as interesting as say, 'Black Celebration' but it sounds slicker. The group effectively used this album as a training ground for the masterpiece that was to follow."
-- Ste (Spike), sputnikmusic.com, 12/061989: 101
" A live album and a greatest-hits album all in one, 101 proves that Depeche Mode are just as capable of performing onstage as they are working in a studio. The listener is easily swept up in the hysteria of the fans screaming in the audience"
-- Beth Bessmer, amazon.com
¼ 1989: Violator
" (...) Creative but disciplined and always interesting, the dance rhythms work neatly while the arrangements rise, fall and build to good effect, often carrying much of the melody rather than the vocals and given added other-worldly effectiveness by the occasional edge of harshness or arty film soundtrack noises. It may lack traditional notions of glamour and drama but it works well and certainly makes for all round satisfying listening."
-- Ian Cranna, Emap Consumer Magazines Limited
1993: Songs of Faith and Devotion
"What separates 'Songs of Faith and Devotion' from every album before it is the simple fact that while the band always wrote about the dark side, for this record they were living in it. When the band reconvened in Madrid in 1992 after a long hiatus, they returned as different people. Dave Gahan who was now adorned in tattoos and shoulder-length hair was the most outwardly changed but the dynamic between all four members was skewered. They were unable to connect on any level as factions between band members, divorces, personal turmoil, and substance abuse combined with the pressures of following up their career defining 'Violator', made initial working conditions unbearable. At some point in the recording process they did connect, and while relationships were still strained, they ended up making (arguably) one of their finest albums. Much has been said of the records pronounced use of guitars and real drums but this is Depeche Mode not Deep Purple, so any talk of the band selling out and, going Rock N Roll is ludicrous. There is no question who you we are listening to here; things are just a bit louder. Kicking off with the sleazy I Feel You, it may be easy to think that they have gone against their old adage of all synths but the track really is a continuation to the one chord stomp of Personal Jesus, which also featured guitar. Throughout the album, the band continually updates their sound for the Grunge era and succeeds on all accounts. Dave Gahan scores a career best vocal performance with Condemnation, and tracks such as In Your Room and Walking In My Shoes remain concert favorites to this day."
-- Marco Passarelli, musictap.net, 11/06
¾ 1997: Ultra
"Lyrically and musically, 'Ultra' depicts the band grappling with its recent scars, particularly Gahan's smack problem. From the self-loathing and acoustic turbulence of Barrel of a Gun, the first sequel, to the mechanical gurgling of the outro, Painkiller, the shadow of a syringe falls over the album. Gahansings of "a vicious appetite" and pines for "the spirit of love" with an earnest intensity that usually overcomes Gore's occasionally banal lyrics. His high register and emotionally laden delivery on songs such as Love Thieves and Sister of Night (Little 15 redux) are reminiscent of the days of See You and Get the Balance Right, before Gahan settled into the deadpan baritone croon that carries most of the Mode's later hits. Perhaps due to the band's travails, 'Ultra' is the most experimental Mode album since 1983's 'A Broken Frame', when these same three fellows lost their leading songwriter, Vince Clarke, to Yaz (and subsequently Erasure). As a result, with the exception of It's No Good, a catchy and confident tune that's A-1 formula Mode, there's no hit single potential on 'Ultra'. There are, however, a good number of interesting songs that gradually seep into your system. (...) "
-- kevincmurphy.com, 1997
1998: The Singles 1986-1998
... featuring only one previously unreleased song (Only When I Lose Myself) in anticipation of a major tour. Sound suspiciously like a shameless cash-in? Sure. But The Singles, 86-98 needed to be made. This is a worthwhile purchase for casual admirers and completists alike. The two-disc set contains revamped versions of the major singles from 1986 to 1998 and a version of Little 15 that was first released only in France. The set's "grand finale" is the live recording of Everything Counts, from the 101 album.
-- Beth Bessmer, amazon.com
1998: The Singles 1981-1985
... another "Catching up with Depeche Mode".
½ 2001: Exciter
"Since the departure of their multi-instrumentalist Alan Wilder, DM have opted for the route of simplifying sound effects. Ultra was surely calmer than Songs of Faith & Devotion, and Exciter continues the trend. While keeping the same dark and slow tempo mood of their preceding album, DM have chosen a more minimalist approach on Exciter where many layers of sound were stripped down in comparison to other DM releases, resulting in songs that emphasize on tunes and vocals. Real drums, base, electric guitars, piano and other instruments, that were very much present on the last two albums, are almost entirely nonexistent. In short, the absence of Wilder and a good producer is strongly felt. However lyrics, tunes and vocals are very much entwined, forming a very strong and coherent package of songs that still maintains the level that DM have always made us anticipate. The melodies are as delightful as ever and David Gahan shines once again in a world-class vocal effort, where he displays a whole spectrum of tonalities. At times, he can barely be heard whispering the words like on the two moving lullabies Goodnight Lovers and When the Body Speaks. After all, it's hard to ask for more from a band that has exceeded everyone's expectations over so many years. Exciter would surely not deceive any DM fan; if anything it's another justification for the huge loyal fan base that this band has built and kept over the years."
-- Sami Alajaji, for musicfolio.com, 3/01
2004: The Remixes 81 > 04
"For nearly 25 years Depeche Mode has been making groundbreaking music, including being at the vanguard of remix culture since its inception. A "greatest hits remixed" collection, Remixes 81-04 is both a celebration and a flashback of the evolution of the remix and of Depeche Mode. Rleased as a limited-edition three-disc set, featuring a bonus disc of rare remixes, and a "best of" single disc, Remixes 81-04 features some of the most renowned remixers of the world, including Underworld, Goldfrapp, Air, Kruder+Dorfmeister, Timo Maas, Flood, Francois Kevorkian, Adrian Sherwood, William Orbit, Portishead and, of course, Depeche Mode."
¼ 2005: Playing the Angel
Tracklisting: 01. A Pain That I'm Used To 02. John The Revelator 03. Suffer Well 04. The Sinner In Me 05. Precious 06. Macrovision 07. I Want It All 08. Nothing's Impossible 09. Introspectre 10. Damaged People 11. Lillian 12. The Darkest Star.
"Following the rather disappointing 'Exciter', the mediocre solo releases of both Dave Gahan and Martin Gore in 2003, and Gahan's public statements as to his lack of interest in pursuing the band if he wasn't part of the songwriting process, many were skeptical whether DM can still pull off a decent album.
Well, to all the skeptics out there, you could not be more wrong! The greatest synth band of all time is back with arguably one of their strongest releases to date, reclaiming their throne as the indisputable masters of dark electronic music.
From the wailing sirens and the subtle guitars of the opener A Pain That I'm Used To, to the soaring chorus of the 6min 38sec closing track The Darkest Star, stellar songwriting and production infect every song. Listening to The Sinner In Me for the first time brings chills to your spine as the dark tune fades and slows down for a few seconds, only to pick up again with an addictive guitar riff, pounding faster and harder bringing the song to a climaxing end. Precious, the first single, is a more radio-friendly track, that appeals to the average listener. Nothing's Impossible, one of the three Gahan-penned songs, is another highlight of the album. Unfortunately I Want It All --another Gahan-penned song--, offers the dullest moment on 'Playing the Angel'. Martin Gore takes two vocals, as usual, with Macrovision and The Damaged People, and both work very well. Noticeable throughout the record is the use of distortions giving many of the songs a more industrial feel, reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails.
'Playing the Angel' is a solid record with a fresh new sound from a band that shows no signs of slowing down after 25 years of existence."
-- DJ Avalanche, musicfolio.com, 10/05
½ 2006: Best of Volume 1
Tracklisting: 1.Personal Jesus 2.Just Can't Get Enough 3.Everything Counts 4.Enjoy The Silence 5.Shake The Disease 6.See You 7.It's No Good 8.Strangelove 9.Suffer Well 10.Dream On 11.People Are People 12.Martyr 13.Walking In My Shoes 14.I Feel You 15.Precious 16.Master And Servant 17.New Life 18.Never Let Me Down Again
"Depeche Mode sound as relevant today as they did when they first bounced onto the electro-pop scene in 1980 with Just Can't Get Enough. This collection collates their most important songs, if not necessarily all of their biggest hits from the impossibly catchy Vince 'Erasure' Clarke era, such as New Life, through to the dark yet strangely beautiful territory Martin Gore took the trio into with songs like Master And Servant and Personal Jesus. Significant highlights on this well-put-together 18 song collection include singer Dave Gahan's first foray into songwriting, the surprisingly brilliant Suffer Well from 2005's 'Playing The Angel'. That shamefully overlooked mid '80s gem Shake The Disease and the essential DM fan favourite, cum arm waver at gigs, Never Let Me Down Again. Add mainstream hits such as People Are People, Enjoy The Silence, I Feel You, new track Martyr and you've got the most rousing electronic music known to man."
-- Mike G, albumvote.co.uk, 11/06
¼ 2009: Sounds of the Universe
Tracklisting: 1. In Chains 2. Hole To Feed 3. Wrong 4. Fragile Tension 5. Little Soul 6. In Sympathy 7. Peace 8. Come Back 9. Spacewalker 10. Perfect 11. Miles Away / The Truth Is 12. Jezebel 13. Corrupt
"On 2005's noisy 'Playing the Angel', frontperv Dave Gahan and his bandmates seemed eager to prove that they were still as edgy as heirs like Interpol and the Rapture (A Pain That I'm Used To was the ominous lead track). Their point apparently made, 'Sounds of the Universe' comes on a bit softer, with less industrial guitar clang and more of chief songwriter Martin Gore's dreamy atmospherics; there's definitely nothing as breezy as Just Can't Get Enough here, but cuts like Fragile Tension and Peace coast along on the kind of catchy synth-pop grooves Depeche Mode specialized in throughout the '80s.
-- Mikael Wood, spin.com, 4/09
"There's a sense of thunderous invasion in the sheer power behind these songs, and even when they do stop for pause in token "slow song" Jezebel, the ballad style of the vocals is eerily at odds with the sinister click-clocking and minor backing. Though primarily synth driven, punctuating guitar stabs, booming bass, thumping beats and entangled secondary rhythms endow this record with depth and peculiarity. There are the usual strong harmonies, but the reverb soaked vocals can sometimes make 'Sounds of The Universe' feel dated. Whether this is purely because Dave Gahan's voice is so recognisable and so hugely associated with DM's early hits is up for debate. DM have certainly picked an apt title, having done their best to include as many different sounds and noises as they possibly can, which is strangely both the appeal and part of the problem with 'Sounds of the Universe'. Though the curious and intriguing placement of synthetic percussion and random blares of assorted synth sounds are what makes Sounds of the Universe interesting, it can feel cluttered in places, and after a while seems almost as if they've inserted random sounds into any available gap, purely to distract from the fact that the tunes themselves simply aren't strong enough."
-- Jenny Mulligan, entertainment.ie, 4/09
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