Album Review: Depeche Mode – “Music for the Masses”

Music for the Masses is Depeche Mode’s sixth studio album, and it was released on September 28, 1987. The earliest memories I have of hearing Depeche Mode on the radio or seeing the videos on MTV was during the Music for the Masses era; the first song I distinctly remember hearing “Never Let Me Down Again.” At the time, I didn’t really like that particular song, but it grew on me over time as I got older and learned more about Depeche Mode. The song that really sold me on this album, and on the band as a whole, was the 1988 remix for “Strangelove.”

Music for the Masses opens with “Never Let Me Down Again,” which was the second single for the album. Sonically, this song makes for a great album opener. It has kind of a “heavy” sound to it musically, especially in the bassline, but it is still accessible to a mainstream listener. As the title suggests, it’s a song where the speaker hopes that they won’t be let down by a good friend. This directly segues into the next song, “The Things You Said.” It has a “darker” feel to it musically, and it’s a sound that kind of fits into the “Depressed Mode” label that the band had picked up at that point in time. Lyrically, it’s a song where the speaker is confronting someone they know, saying that they heard about the things this person has been saying about the speaker behind their back.

The next song on Music for the Masses is “Strangelove.” It was originally released as the first single from the album; it was later re-released with a new mix known as “Strangelove ’88.” Musically, it’s one of the more “mainstream” sounding songs on the album. Lyrically, it can be seen that the speaker is in a relationship which has facets to it that may not necessarily seem “normal”; an example of this is the line “Will you take the pain I will give to you, again and again, and will you return it.” This song directly segues into “Sacred,” the next song on the album. Musically, it may not be quite as mainstream as “Strangelove,” but it’s not as “dark” as “The Things You Said.” Lyrically, the speaker is professing their romantic interest in another.

Next on Music for the Masses is “Little 15.” It was released as a single only in France, but ended up being released in the UK as an import and had some minor success there. Musically, the song has a “darker” sound to it, and it features a synth sound that is emulating the sound of strings. Lyrically, the song is about a girl who is about fifteen years of age, and the speaker expressing some confusion over this girl. This is followed by “Behind the Wheel,” which was released as the third single from the album. The music in this song brings up the tempo of the album; it’s definitely one of the most upbeat songs on the album. Lyrically, the speaker is telling their romantic interest what they prefer in a relationship.

The next song on Music for the Masses is “I Want You Now.” Musically, it’s a rather haunting, yet seductive song. Lyrically, the speaker is expressing their feelings to someone they have an interest in. This song segues directly into “To Have and to Hold.” Musically, it’s probably one of the darkest songs on the album. Lyrically, the speaker is expressing negative self-esteem, but at the end, there is an expression of hope, that “there’s someone who cares with a heart of gold, to have and to hold.”

“Nothing” is the next song on the album. Musically, this is more upbeat than most of the other songs that appear on the album. This is followed by “Pimpf.” Musically, it’s a “harder” sounding song. While you can hear lyrics, it’s never been figured out what exactly for sure is being said. But there’s something about these “unintelligible lyrics” that adds to the song’s appeal. There’s a hidden instrumental after this song, which is titled, “Interlude #1 – Mission Impossible”; this instrumental lasts for 37 seconds.

When the album was originally released, there were “bonus tracks” on the cassette and CD pressings that were not on the vinyl pressing. The first of these was “Agent Orange,” which is a dark-sounding instrumental track. This is followed by two remixes: “Never Let Me Down Again [Aggro Mix]” and “To Have and to Hold [Spanish Taster].” The album closes with the song, “Pleasure, Little Treasure.” It’s a more upbeat track compared to most of the songs on the album.

Overall, Music for the Masses is a very good album; even when you include the remixes that were added as “bonus tracks,” it’s still an album I can listen to from beginning to end without skipping songs. Music for the Masses has gone on to become one of Depeche Mode’s biggest albums of all-time. It’s easy to hear why after you listen to the album all the way through.


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