Depeche Mode

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Depeche Mode – The Singles 86.98 (1998)

Depeche Mode - The Singles 86 98 (Cover)About the safest bet going for a classic compilation. This two-disc set summarises Depeche Mode during their most successful era, reeling off the classics one by one, from ‘Stripped’ right through to the new song ‘Only When I Lose Myself’, not a single weak track to be found, and climaxing on the ‘101’ live version of ‘Everything Counts’, placed here to highlight exactly how massive this act has become.

Depeche Mode – 101 (1989)

Depeche Mode - 101 (Cover)A good live collection of Depeche Mode’s work so far. Not all the songs deviate that much from the albums, but this double set survives on it’s own merits – it captures the live essence of a DM concert. It’s clear which songs worked out best on stage – ‘Never Let Me Down’ is clearly an Anthem with a capital ‘A’, whilst the version of ‘Everything Counts’ is probably one of the best live recordings of all time, the sounds of ten of thousand Mode fans singing long after the band had stopped playing signifying exactly how huge this band had become.

Depeche Mode – The Singles 81.85 (1985)

Depeche Mode - The Singles 81 85 (Cover)A useful summary of the ‘Mode’s early years. Some of their early pop efforts sound rather simplistic dated up against anything they’ve done recently, but with the likes of ‘Everything Counts’, ‘Master & Servant’ and ‘Leave In Silence’ on board, you can forgive them for twee uber schmalz like ‘The Meaning of Love’. This disc is also the easiest way of obtaining the non-album singles ‘Shake The Disease’ (excellent – a must for all fans of the ‘Mode) and ‘It’s Called A Heart’ (weaker by a long way). The thumping Some Bizarre version of ‘Photographic’ is included as a sweetener.

Depeche Mode – Playing The Angel (2005)

Depeche Mode - Playing The AngelThe first Depeche Mode album in four years, and the first since both Martin Gore and Dave Gahan took time out to record solo efforts. Thankfully, they’ve rediscovered a little of their old magic, something which was missing from 2001’s ironically-titled ‘Exciter’. The delivery is more committed and the overall sound is richer than its predecessor. The anarchic opener ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ brings back happy memories of the dirty rock textures of ‘Faith and Devotion’ era Mode, whilst the delicate, melancholy lead single ‘Precious’ will please most long-time ‘Moders.

This is one of several tracks that sees Gore’s regular ‘riske-but-not-quite-blasphemous’ forms of religious and questioning (the scathing ‘John The Revelator’ probably the most memorable of these). Dave Gahan contributes three songs, though these (Suffer Well, I Want It All and Nothing’s Impossible) are not amongst the album’s strongest. These and a couple of wobbly Gore tracks (the confused ‘Macro’ in particular) keep this album from being regarded as a particularly great one – a partial return to form, but the glory days still seem increasingly distant.

Depeche Mode – Exciter (2001)

Depeche Mode -Exciter (Cover)Depeche Mode seem to have lost some of their teeth since all their turmoils have been sorted. Martin Gore can still write a decent song and David Gahan has lost none of his singing talent. It’s just all seems a little bit low-key. There’s nothing actually WRONG, for example, with the delicate acoustic guitar and percolating electronics of opening track (and lead single) ‘Dream On’ – it just doesn’t seem to want to impress you.

Most of the rest of the album follows similar lines – the elements are all there, they just don’t gel into something indicative of greatness. ‘The Dead of Night’ is the one exception, a harsh gothic stomper that makes up for some of the rather thin, unmemorable songs that surround it. There is the occasional memorable turn of phrase, a couple of songs (second single ‘I Feel Loved’ and the subtle biblical references of ‘Breathe’) that are at least quite good, but generally the whole album just sounds too pedestrian, making the title sound ironic at the very least.

Depeche Mode – Ultra (1997)

Depeche Mode - UltraNow without Alan Wilder, there were questions about whether the group should even continue, but they did, and this was the product. Given the circumstances it was recorded under, it was never likely to be an absolute great, though they still come up trumps several times – especially with the dense, claustrophobic ‘Barrel of a Gun’, one of their best guitar-heavy songs, whilst ‘I Feel You’ provided at least one piece of classic Mode mastery for those that didn’t care for all this musical progression.

The redemptive Gore-sung ‘Home’ and the melancholy ‘Sister of Night’ are the other key highlights, though the album is let down by a number of rather aimless instrumentals that seem to serve only to boost the track listing. There are also a number of songs which are largely forgettable, with the country-tinged ‘Freestate’ and the turgid ‘The Bottom Line’ resulting in the album crawling towards its conclusion rather than building up to any kind of climax.

Depeche Mode – Songs Of Faith and Devotion (1993)

Depeche Mode - Songs Of Faith and Devotion (Cover)The most guitar-heavy of all the Depeche Mode albums, this disc demonstrates what one of the world’s most-loved synth bands had to do to survive in a climate of grunge and lo-fi recording values. The screechy intro and dirty riff of opener ‘I Feel You’ offer instant proof that this no longer a happy, bleepy pop band, as if they ever were. The murky expanses of ‘Walking on My Shoes’ then gives some clue to the pain the band went through to produce this album, as well as showing how far they’ve advanced since their days as a badly-dressed pop band.

It’s an album laden with surprises – the gospel-tinged ‘Condemnation’ for example, or the Uilleann pipes featured in ‘Judas’, whilst ‘Rush’ offers hints of NIN-style electronics, signifying the then-growing industrial rock sound. Despite this, it’s still very Depeche Mode in terms of the songwriting, slightly morose, ever so slightly pervy – it’s just that the environment in which those songs are set is so different.

Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)

Depeche Mode - ViolatorProbably the most blatantly ‘pop’ DM album since the early 1980s, which probably explains why it spawned four singles, including ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with THAT guitar line, arguably the most recognisable (and most covered) Depeche Mode song of all. We also get the bluesy stomp of ‘Personal Jesus’, once again bringing religion and fetishism dangerously close. The non-single tracks are also quite strong, with ‘Sweetest Perfection’ the best of the bunch, though fans more devoted than me would insist ‘Halo’ was worth a mention, so here I have. In many respects, this is the kind of album best enjoyed without a reviewer telling you why you should, so just ignore me and go and grab yourself a copy.

Depeche Mode – Music For The Masses (1987)

TDepeche Mode - Music For The Masses (Cover)his is the point where Depeche Mode really hit the mainstream and did so ‘their way’. This one has the superb ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ kicking things off, a song which successfully introduced guitars and rockier percussion to the bands repertoire without compromising the integrity of their sound, plus the terrifying epic ‘Little 15’ and the brooding ‘Behind The Wheel’, as well as the more straight-ahead synth-pop of ‘Strangelove’. Also watch out for the clever innuendo hidden within the confines of ‘Sacred’, whilst grandiose instrumental track ‘Pimpf’ is also impressive when played through a decent system (or, so I’m told, a club PA at midnight during a Mode special).

Depeche Mode – Black Celebration (1986)

Depeche Mode - Black Celebration (Cover)This album demonstrates better than any other how enjoyable gloomy music can be. The title track is a huge, aching tribute to the utter futility of day-to-day existence. Things lighten slightly for the ballad ‘Sometimes’ and the upbeat but dubiously themed synth-pop of ‘A Question of Time’, but the real highlight (or lowlight, depending on your mood) is ‘Stripped’ an utterly bizarre (and distinctly perverted) but totally infectious piece of dark-synth pop – probably one of the most influential DM tracks, certainly if the sound of the European darkwave scene over the past few years is anything to go by.