This has been a good month for Depeche Mode fans. In most major cities, tickets for their Global Spirit World Tour have gone on sale (and may have sold out). It also saw the release of their 14th studio album, Spirit.
For a band that’s been together for an “I can’t believe” 37 years, they continue to put out solid albums and sell-out world tours along with millions of Depeche Mode t-shirts. Spirit is a solid album. It may pale slightly to their previous release, Delta Machine, but this album is certainly a result of the world’s political climate. We find the doom and gloom 80s band once again singing about the threat of nuclear war, poverty and our culture moving backwards.
Depeche Mode started out as a popish electro band, featuring the current line-up: Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher, along with songwriter Vince Clarke. Their first album was Speak & Spell and featured the still popular song “Just Can’t Get Enough”.
Soon after, Vince Clarke left the band (going on to form Yaz and later Erasure), and Andy Wilder joined. Martin Gore was now the main song writer (with a few tracks contributed by Alan Wilder), and the band’s popularity grew. They were producing an album a year starting with A Broken Frame followed by Construction Time Again which included another bit hit “Everything Counts.”
But their biggest early success would come with their 4th album. 1984’s Some Great Reward. The lead single “People Are People” would put them on the map in the US and MTV world. And who can’t forget the seemingly never-ending remix of “Master and Servant.” And love lorn teen boys were singing along with Martin Gore in hopes of finding that special “Somebody.”
Just when you thought Depeche Mode couldn’t get any darker, they released Black Celebration. It opens reminding us that death is everywhere and that we’re all “Flies on the Windscreen.” At least the US version ended with the more uplifting song of hope: “But Not Tonight.”
The more political songs could easily be updated for today’s issues. Instead of in “Stripped” being able to make decisions without your televisions, it could easily be the Internet. And instead of Princess Di buying a new dress to distract the masses, it could be Kim Kardashian.
Black Celebration has my personal favorite Martin Gore sung song: “A Questions of Lust.”
Depeche Mode’s success kept on growing with the release of their 1987 album Music For the Masses. The lead single was “Strangelove.” The video gave us the unforgettable image of the big red bull horn/speaker.
The single for “Behind the Wheel” had a cover of “Route 66” mixed into it. Surprising many when they heard a guitar riff featured prominently. Matin Gore was beginning to break from all synthesizers to explore his guitar skills.
And a guitar riff rules one of their greatest songs “Personal Jesus.” The lead single for what may be their best album: Violator. Though for those of us who remember, it seemed like forever between the single and the album.
Violator had a string of singles, including another huge hit for the band “Enjoy the Silence.”
Depeche Mode were one of the many bands that shared the late 80s height of the alternative music scene. They were being played in more markets than ever before. Though with the advent of grunge, bands like Depeche Mode were no longer in the main stream, but that does not mean their popularity waned. Their 1993 album Songs of Faith and Devotion was a worthy follow-up to Violator and spurred another one of their mega-tours.
After that, the band experienced some turbulence. Dave Gahan fell into drug addiction and depression which lead to a suicide attempt. Andy Wilder left the band claiming some members were not pulling their weight. Many feared this would be the end of the band, but in 1997, the returned with Ultra, a fine album for them trying to find themselves again with the loss of Andy. Though the band opted not to tour for the sake of Dave’s recovery.
Their next album, Exciter was sadly anything but. (Though “The Dead of Night” is an awesome song.) But the tour that followed showed Dave, Martin and Fletch were still at the top of their game. Dave Gahan even started writing some songs for the band for Playing the Angel. They continue to produce albums every few years, followed by huge world tours. (Not as huge as U2, but pretty damn close.)
With the release of Spirit, I have no doubt we still have many more years of new music to come from Depeche Mode. And that’s a good thing because, I just can’t get enough… sorry I’m obliged to make the reference.