Thoughts: Depeche Mode’s Spirit

Yes, it’s here, it’s finally here. Depeche Mode’s 14th album is now officially out in the wild. My favourite band is back with a new record… I need to talk about it, I have to talk about it, because I’ve listened to it for more than thirty times so far, and with each time I listen to the album, it grows on me even more. A lot of people claim that the last three albums sounded a lot similar to each other, which makes sense because all of them were produced by Ben Hillier. So what did the band do? One thing, THEY MADE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ALBUM! It’s different in its sound, in its production, in its writing, in its atmospherics, and in its approach. This is by far the best Depeche Mode album since 1996’s Ultra. It’s an album that’s so focused thematically, with completely new sounds and subtleties. It’s just mind blowing how they manage to innovate and make such refreshing sounds after 36 years of making music. Both Martin and Dave’s songs sound properly genuine and great, and I can only imagine how amazing they’ll sound when performed live. If you’re a fan of Depeche Mode’s slow songs, fast songs, classic sounds, or even the bluesy stuff, this album will not leave you disappointed, because it has all of those and more!

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Depeche Mode 2017 – Photo by Anton Corbijn

 

 

1 – Going Backwards


There’s no other way to put it, this is one of the best Depeche Mode album openers ever, it easily fumbles “Welcome To My World” “In Chains” and “A Pain That I’m Used To”. It’s on par with “Barrel Of A Gun” and “I Feel You”. This is not a sparse track at all, it’s got a lot going on for it. It’s a heavy one both musically and lyrically, and it manages to sustain its dirty vibes throughout without compromising with forced hooks, and that makes it really steady. “We are not there yet/ We have not evolved/ We have no respect/ We have lost control” Sings Gahan on the beginning of the song, immediately cementing what the vibes and themes of the album are going for, and it doesn’t stop there at all, instead it goes on even further with the band’s most straightforward and literal lyrics ever (And it’s something that’s present throughout all the songs). The chorus is just classic Depeche with so many sounds and a huge kick “We can track in all the satellites/ Seeing all in plain sight/ Watch men die in real time/ Cause we have nothing inside/ We feel nothing inside” Sings Gahan in the chorus with a brooding vocal sound that reverberates your mind, complimented with Martin’s emotional cries that just makes it perfect. James Ford’s amazing production helped the record immensely, giving each song such a strong soundscape that haven’t been heard since “Ultra”. it sounds so crisp and atmospheric! I can already see fans freaking out with the final part of this song playing live. Going Backwards is a stellar song, and a great way to set the tone for the album.

2 – Where’s The Revolution


After listening to the entire album, it made a lot of sense why this was used as the lead single because it’s literally the most obvious choice of the bunch. It’s a politically charged song that is so relevant to what’s been happening with the world lately. “You’ve been Kept down/ You’ve been pushed ’round/ You’ve been lied to/ You’ve been fed truths” Sings Gahan in the beginning of the song with some subtle synths playing in the background, and this brings back again to how literal the lyrics are on this album. It’s still just as doomy as Going Backwards, but this one has got a lot more kick to it. “Where’s the revolution?/ Come on, people you’re letting me down!” Both Martin and Dave sing on the chorus, with an explosion of synths and bass synths. Probably the most interesting thing about this song is how it actually fits really well with all the other tracks on the album, despite it being released first as a single, which kind of draws this image of its own standalone sound and feel, but that’s not the case, and it’s a great track, maybe not as effective as Going Backwards, but still a really great song that has the band showing a side they’ve never explicitly showed before either in musically or thematically.

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Depeche Mode 2017 – Photo by Anton Corbijn

3 – The Worst Crime


Let’s take things slow, waaaaaay slow because this is what The Worst Crime is all about. It’s a song reminiscent of a ballad, with Dave Gahan’s beautiful crooning “There’s lynching in the square/ You will have to Join us” followed by a much more ominous ambience, synths, and plucked guitar string sounds. It oozes with melancholy, and regret, talking about how society sometimes justifies the crimes that they do. “Oh we had so much time/ How could we commit the worst crime.” Sings Gahan on the striking chorus, as there are synth clicks between each line that feels like a proper transitional technique. “So step up to the gallows/ and accept your sentence/ for being so shallow/ you must pay your penance” Sings Gahan on the final verse, leading to the final chorus that has a much more strong drum kicks that feel like a grand build up, and ends the song right there. It’s very clear that the album so far has a very specific and focused mood, and it’s one of darkness and melancholy, which is nothing new for Depeche Mode. It’s a lamenting song for our modern day world and acts as a call out of things that will come. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album, and it’s one of the band’s best slow songs.

4 – Scum


This is the weird one because come on, there just has to be a weird one! It starts with some pretty cryptic synths (One of the snippets showcased in their press conference) and then you just hear an angry Gahan “Hey Scum! Hey Scum! What have you ever done for anyone?” and an even angrier line at the chorus “Pull the trigger!”. It’s as aggressive as a Depeche Mode song could ever get, and it actually reminded me a lot of SOFAD’s “Rush” in the sense that it’s intense vocals feel more processed, and also because of it’s synth fest nature. One might think that it’s lyrical scarcity in the chorus is troubling, but it’s actually one of the parts that the songs shine in musically, and it work well with the vocals, making such a well-structured chorus in a song that already sounds and feels unique and unlike anything else on the album. Scum is one stellar track, and I can already see it becoming a fan favourite.

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Depeche Mode 2017 – Photo by Anton Corbijn

5 – You Move


A song written by both Martin and Dave? That’s a first! It’s got to be perfect, right?! Well, not for me at least, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good song, like I said, this album’s a no skipper, it’s just not on par or as great as the other tracks on the album. It starts with a groovy synth, followed by subtle sexy sounds and Gahan’s dirty vocals singing “I like the way you move/ I like the way you move for me tonight” on the chorus. It’s super sleazy one, filled tinkling synths and with experimental sounds, despite it being one of the few tracks that’s not all doom and gloom. It’s pure pop, but not necessarily a superb one at that. It’s got some really catchy parts like the chorus, and the parts after the choruses sound so damn good! If I had to put it shortly, imagine “It’s No Good” but with a dirtier tone, it’s definitely the nightclub song of the album.

6 – Cover Me


Dave Gahan gets a lot of hate for his written songs, and this song is a statement to all of the haters because Dave Gahan outdid himself with this one! It’s a heartwarming ballad that’s totally different in tone but manages to sustain the same soundscape of the album. The bass plays like a heartbeat, cementing the intimate side of the song. The synths are warm and fuzzy, and Gahan’s vocals are very relaxed and intimate. “We up here with the northern lights/ Beyond these broken bars/ I pictured us in another life/ where we’re all superstars” Sings Gahan on the second chorus, which just showcases how much of a beautiful song this is. It’s a total departure from the gloom filled vibes of the album, which I think is a much-needed one. As you feel like you’ve got a grasp of the song, comes the biggest twist. The song suddenly transforms into this captivating steady sea of synths, engraving themselves in your head! And it builds up and keeps on building up for almost two minutes, and it just explodes of all kinds of sounds near the end, marking the most chilling moment in the album. It was pure love for me, and a huge plus for Dave’s writing. Definitely one of my favourites.

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Depeche Mode 2017 – Photo by Anton Corbijn

7 – Eternal


Here comes the song with Martin singing, and surprisingly it’s the shortest track on the album (02:25) which after listening to it a few times, makes a lot of sense. It’s a love song that feels like it’s written for his children as he starts with “Oh Little One” in this dark twisted world and continues “I will be there for you always/ and when the black cloud rises/ and the radiation pours/ I will look you in the eye and kiss you”. The music feels like it’s a church organ playing, and while lyrically it’s kind of hopeful, musically it’s incredibly dark and gloomy, as the ominous synths would sometimes go way high, and it just has this strong presence. It’s powerful, it’s post-apocalyptic, and it’s sung by very genuine vocals from Martin, marking this song as a unique hidden gem.

8 – Poison Heart


Another Dave written song, and also another song from the press conference snippet. Striking guitar play alongside the drums, both clicking at the same time. It sounds like an anthem, and kind of reminded me of some of the songs from Dave Gahan and The Soul Savers work, but add to it a lot of melancholic synths, and a powerful chorus that’s memorable, and you’ve got yourself Poison Heart. The chorus just shines as it feels like a gang all shouting together “Wooooaaahhhhh!” and it just works all together with the music, and being able to differentiate both Dave and Martin’s vocals in the chorus gave me a sense of satisfaction for some reason, maybe because it just sounds like a gang shouting. Dave also shows some wonderful writing in this one, both lyrically and musically, and I think this is one of the songs that’s going to sound huge live!

9 – So Much Love


This is the one, yep, trust me this is one. It’s my favourite track on the album without a doubt because it just screams “DEPECHE MODE!” in every single aspect. It’s the song that will get you moving, it’s the one that you’ll sing along with, and it’s the one that will get stuck in your mind forever! The explicit drum sounds with the repetitive main synth at the beginning very clearly set the tone for a pure pop song, but one that’s superb, and has a huge nostalgic feeling to it as it sounds very 80’s like. “I can’t lie/ I can’t fake/ I can’t act my handshake/ This disclosure I must obey/ There’s so much loooooove in me!” Sings Gahan with Martin on the “So much loooooove in me” part, bringing that amazing dynamic between the two that we know and love, and after it immediately, you get hit by some of the most beautiful guitar sounds that feel very reminiscent of the one in “Enjoy The Silence” and oh my goodness it’s just so satisfying to hear! It’s also one of the songs that depart from the gloomy vibes and aims for more fun vibes. Its expression of love instead of anger and hate is also a very lovable aspect of the song, it’s as if it’s a break from all the darkness but also delivering something that’s completely unique about it. It’s persistent, it’s energetic, it’s intense, it’s exciting, and it’s filled with so much looooove! This is a track that everyone’s gonna be playing at night drives, and it’s going to be great. Seeing this being played live is going to be an exceptional experience. So Much Love is hands down my favourite track on the album.

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Depeche Mode 2017 – Photo by Anton Corbijn

10 – Poorman


After all the excitement of So Much Love, Poorman takes all down for a bit. It’s probably the lowest moment in the album. It felt like it’s the unnecessary song in the album, as it feels bluesy. “Hey, there’s no news/ Poorman’s still got the blues/ He’s walking around in worn out shoes/ With nothing to lose/” Gahan sings as the song definitely indicates a return to the dark and bleak vibes that’s present throughout the entire album. Though it’s got some really nice parts, and the chorus is one of them. I feel like this could’ve been a much better track, but it is what it is.

11 – No More (This Is The Last Time)


Dark electronics and a strong bass synth, this is what this song is filled with, and I don’t say this in a bad way, not at all, it actually makes it one of the album’s best songs. It reminded me a lot of Alan’s cinematic approach and feels a lot like a song from the SOFAD era, mixed with very striking 80’s synths (The part after the second chorus). Now in terms of message and theme, this one tends to lean more on the personal side as Dave sings “This is the last time I say goodbye/ The last time, then we won’t have to lie/ The last time, call it what you want/ You don’t mean a thing to me no more” with Martin singing the backing vocals, bringing back the same amazing dynamic in So Much Love. This all builds up to a wonderful crescendo that makes this song worthwhile!

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Depeche Mode 2017 – Photo by Anton Corbijn

12 – Fail


A final track in a Depeche Mode album sung by Martin instead of Dave? That’s definitely a first, but that’s not the only first this song has for the band. It’s the first Depeche Mode song that is so bluntly depressing and totally hopeless, and it’s also the first Depeche Mode song that has profanity as Martin sings “People, do we call this trying?/ We’re hopeless, forget the denying/ Our souls are corrupt/ Our minds are messed up/ Our consciences bankrupt/ Oh, we’re fucked”. All of this darkness is cemented by an even darker and slow synth in the beginning and a very stale bass that just screams “Depression”. Even though it’s one of the best Martin tracks, it’s a difficult one to listen to, as it has no hope whatsoever. Please don’t listen to this track if you suffer from depression or mental problems, it’s a hard song. After the first part of the song, glittering synths kick in and they feel like the sound of stars or something (Or at least that’s how it felt to me) and it keeps on going until it leaves you all alone with “Oh, we failed” and ends with that as a reminder of what’s happening around us as a society. With this dark ending, we reach the final moments of Spirit. A brilliant yet very dark song.

“Eternal Love”

Spirit is a superb album, one of the best the band ever had in years. It starts strong, and it also ends strong (and very dark) with only two missteps in the middle that still make for very enjoyable listens. Being an album that is so relevant to what’s happening around us as a society also makes it even stronger, because it’s a message that people need to hear and be aware of. It also has one of the band’s best lyrics in years, despite them being blunt and straightforward, which I think is necessary for an album tackling such heavy subjects and themes. When I first listened to the album, I never felt once like I wanted to skip a song (And trust me, I did that before with their previous 4 albums) which felt like a statement for me, that no matter what generation it is, and no matter how old the band are, they still have got the ability to innovate and bring something that is both relevant and strong. Also, it showed me how working together with different producers can yield fruitful results, and just as they always do that, they teamed up with James Ford, who gave the album a spectacular production quality that the previous 3 albums lacked because of their minimal nature. If you’re new to the band, or if you’re an old fan, or if you’re just someone who enjoys music, listen to Spirit, because it’s an experience you don’t want to miss.

Now we just gotta wait for the upcoming tour!

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Global Spirit Tour – Photo by Anton Corbijn

Till next time…

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