Band Review: Depeche Mode

The first time I remember hearing of Depeche Mode was in 1987, when the single for “Never Let Me Down Again” was released. My local Top 40 radio station played the song quite a bit, and I remember seeing the video almost every time I turned the TV on to MTV. I have to admit that I grew tired of the song quickly, and didn’t care much for the group.

However, about a year later, a new remix of the song “Strangelove” (“Strangelove ’88”) was released. When I heard this for the first time on the radio, I fell in love with it. I was very surprised to discover it was Depeche Mode. Shortly after that, my older sister bought a cassette copy of the People Are People album, and I really ended up liking the song “People Are People.”

I think I can say I truly became a Depeche Mode fan in 1990, when the Violator album was released. I liked the song “Personal Jesus,” but the single that finally made me a fan of Depeche Mode was “Enjoy The Silence.” In 1993, the band released the Songs Of Faith And Devotion album. While it was rather different sonically, I really did enjoy the singles that I heard. “Walking In My Shoes” became one of my favorite songs of 1993.

A couple of years later, when I first started hanging out with the man who ended up becoming my husband, I started to hear older songs from the band: songs from the Speak & Spell, A Broken Frame, Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward, Catching Up With Depeche Mode, and Black Celebration
eras. After hearing these albums, I realized how much great music I had missed up until that point, and I gained an even greater appreciation for Depeche Mode. He also introduced me to Depeche Mode’s b-sides and remixes.

During our last year or so of college, Alan Wilder left Depeche Mode, and Dave Gahan had a near-fatal drug overdose. We were afraid that it might have meant the end of the band. Luckily, shortly after we got married in November 1996, Depeche Mode released the song “Barrel Of A Gun,” which was the lead-off single from the upcoming album, Ultra. While “Barrel of a Gun” had some similarities to the material off of Songs of Faith and Devotion, there was also a progression as well. “It’s No Good,” “Home,” and “Useless” were three more singles off of Ultra. “It’s No Good” kind of reminded me of “Policy Of Truth,” the third single from Violator, while the other two singles had a more “unique” sound to them. To me, while Ultra may not have been as strong of an album as Violator, it still was a rather solid album.

The next new material from Depeche Mode was the single, “Only When I Lose Myself,” from their 1998 greatest hits album, The Singles 86 > 98. This song has a rather “haunting” feel to it, but that’s a major part of its appeal. I would definitely have to rank this song among the top songs in Depeche Mode’s catalogue.

Depeche Mode fans would have to wait three years for their next album, 2001’s Exciter. While there are a couple of good songs on the album, I always felt the album was a little mis-titled. For the most part, the songs on the album weren’t much to become excited about. The first two singles, “Dream On” and “I Feel Loved,” are probably the two strongest songs on the album.

Next was the remix album, The Remixes 81-04, which had a new mix of “Enjoy The Silence” being promoted as a single from it. This new remix was done by Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. There was definitely more of a “rock edge” added to the song, which I thought was rather interesting. Personally, I liked this remix, and thought it helped to breathe new life into a song that was fourteen years old.

2005 saw the release of Playing the Angel. While this album isn’t as strong as some of the albums in the back catalogue, it was stronger than Exciter had been. Songs like “Precious,” “John The Revelator,” and “Lilian” really stand out on this album, and are probably some of the best songs that Depeche Mode have released in more recent years; the only song in that time frame that would probably rank higher would be “Only When I Lose Myself.”

In 2009, Depeche Mode released Sounds Of The Universe. There are some decent songs on the album, but overall, it’s not as strong as Playing the Angel; however, I would have to say that it’s stronger than Exciter. My favorite songs from this album are “In Chains,” “Wrong,” “Little Soul,” “Peace,” “Come Back,” and “Miles Away / The Truth Is.”

Remixes: 81-11 was released in 2011, with a new remix of “Personal Jesus” being promoted as a single from the release. While the new mix of “Personal Jesus” is OK, it isn’t as impressive as the new mix of “Enjoy the Silence” that was promoted as a single from the first remix album. When it comes to this remix album as a whole, there were only a few tracks on the release that are worth listening to. Unfortunately, most of the new mixes created for this release were either repetitive, boring, or just plain forgettable.

When you listen to all of the material and back catalogue that Depeche Mode has accumulated, you can hear why this band is so well respected in the synthpop community.

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