Album Review: Depeche Mode – “Black Celebration”

Black Celebration is Depeche Mode’s fifth studio album, and was released in 1986. The U.S. version of the album contains an extra song, “But Not Tonight,” which was used in the film Modern Girls; in the UK, this song was the B-side of the “Stripped” single. Since it is the U.S. pressing of the album that I own, I will be reviewing that version.

Black Celebration is one of the band’s “darker” releases. It is also the Depeche Mode album to feature the most songs with Martin Gore on lead vocals. Martin provides the lead for “A Question of Lust,” “Sometimes,” “It Doesn’t Matter Two,” and “World Full of Nothing.” The remaining songs on the album feature Dave Gahan on lead vocals.

The album opens with the title song, and it ultimately sets the tone for the entire release. It’s definitely “darker” in sound when compared to the four previous albums released by the band at that point. “Fly on the Windscreen-Final” is actually a re-worked version of a song that was released as a B-side for the “It’s Called a Heart” single. The song was re-worked to include new effects and to make it more stereophonic. Personally, I don’t think the new effects really added much to the song; however, I think making it more stereophonic strengthened the music. “A Question of Lust” is one of the ballads on the album. It’s not only my favorite song from Black Celebration, but it also ranks up there as one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs of all-time.

“Sometimes” is a roughly two-minute ballad sung by Martin Gore. The vocals use a lot of echo, as well as layering several layers of vocals. It’s not a bad song, but it’s not as strong as “A Question of Lust.” “It Doesn’t Matter Two” runs for about three minutes, and is a midtempo ballad. The previous album had a song called “It Doesn’t Matter,” but I’m not entirely sure if this song is meant to be a “sequel” to it or not. Personally, I prefer “It Doesn’t Matter” over “It Doesn’t Matter Two.” “A Question of Time” is one of the more uptempo numbers on the album, and for the sequencing of the album, is a welcome change of pace after going through three ballad and/or midtempo tracks in a row.

“Stripped” is more a midtempo song, and probably ranks right below “A Question of Lust” as one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s basically a song about how the speaker wants to get to know the “real” person that they’re talking to, which is best shown by the lyric, “Let me see you stripped down to the bone.” “Here is the House” is a song where the speaker is reminiscing about memories made with a love interest in the house that he is in. “World Full of Nothing” is another slower song; it’s not as good as “A Question of Lust,” but is stronger than “Sometimes” or “It Doesn’t Matter Two.”

“Dressed in Black” runs for about two-and-a-half minutes, and is a midtempo song. It’s not a bad song, but it’s not one of personal favorites on the album. “New Dress” is a song blasting the British media, because at the time the song was written, it seemed the British media was more interested in what new dress or outfit that Princess Diana of Wales was wearing, instead of the more important and hard-hitting stories of the day. On the U.S. version, the album closes with “But Not Tonight,” which is probably one of the most “positive” songs on the album. Personally, I like the song, but it really does stand out like a sore thumb compared with the rest of the album.

Black Celebration is a decent Depeche Mode release, but for me, it just doesn’t quite rank up there with Violator or Some Great Reward.


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