Hated with passion by any metalhead during the '80s, over the years electro-pop masters DEPECHE MODE have become some kind of cult band for all Rock fans not matter the genre, with their classic songs covered by countless metal-related bands. After 4 years since their last record Depeche Mode make a politicised return with "Spirit", the band's new album to be released next week, where they're unafraid to look afresh at the band's sound and approach.
A 'thinking' electronic/pop group, Depeche Mode have created some true masterpieces in the past with albums such as Violator or Ultra, always morphing their sound and musical style.
"Spirit" is a new challenge for the band, noy only lyrically but also in sonic terms.
“We’re fucked,” sings Martin Gore on ‘Fail’, the final track on the CD. It’s not exactly the uplifting, elegiac ending to an album that one is badly in need of by the end of "Spirit", but as a summary of the prevailing mood, that lyric sums it up perfectly.
Advanced single ‘Where's The Revolution?’ signalled this, but it didn't quite prepare you for just how bleak a picture Depeche Mode were planning to paint.
From the off, with the edgy, slow-building opener ‘Backwards’ – with its trademark bass-heavy rhythms and edgy, nagging melody befitting of a classic Depeche Mode set piece – it's clear that "Spirit" is going to be a challenging listen.
The take a swipe at politicians and public figures with ‘Scum’ and bemoans the devious tactics of major corporations. It's bold, direct and in most cases perfectly reflective of public opinion, even if call-to-arms lyrics like “it’s time to pull the trigger” seems too much.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. Some of "Spirit" manages to avoid politics or societal damage completely. ‘Move’ nods back to the sleek, sexy grooves of ‘It’s No Good’ (used as the unlikely music to an unlikely pole-dancing scene in Friends, fact fans) with a slightly off-kilter rhythm.
One of the most interesting songs here, ‘No More’, sounds like a late '80s pop song filtered through a distinctly Depeche lens, while ‘Poison Heart’ sounds like a Motown anthem pushed through cavernous distortion. These are tender, if bittersweet moments that offset the negativity elsewhere.
‘Cover Me’ is one of those redemptive songs that Depeche Mode are so good at, with that slow climb out of misery toward some sort of anguished optimism. The track includes an extended analogue middle section that feels like the coda from ‘Violator’s ‘Clean’ expanded into a full song. It's reverential, but fresh at the same time.
Some of this 'fresh sound approach' can be attributed to producer James Ford from Simian Mobile Disco, who manages to encourage a certain wonkiness and roughness to the modular synth sections where these have felt a little too formulaic on recent Depeche Mode albums.
What Depeche Mode have done with "Spirit" is continue to push themselves, refuse to rest on their laurels and produce an album that is relevant both sonically & lyrically and that is perhaps more than most people expected.
A revolution? No, but it’s an evolution, and I’m on board.
01 - Going Backwards
02 - Where's The Revolution
03 - The Worst Crime
04 - Scum
05 - You Move
06 - Cover Me
07 - Eternal
08 - Poison Heart
09 - So Much Love
10 - Poorman
11 - No More (This Is The Last Time)
12 - Fail
Dave Gahan – vocals
Martin Gore – vocals, guitars, keyboards, synthesizers
Andy Fletcher – keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals
James Ford – producer, drums, pedal steel guitar on 6
Matrixxman, Kurt Uenala – programming