Depeche Mode: Spirit

- For most of their career, the electronic pop institution Depeche Mode have been a fairly brooding bunch. Whether singing about love, sex or religion, their music has always been dabbed with darkness, characterised by stadium-sized synths and weighty lyrics intoned by the distinctive baritone of frontman David Gahan.

However, even by their standards new album Spirit is a downbeat, scowling affair, full of lyrics reflecting the division and uncertainty of a post-Trump world. Just how disillusioned are they?

The first lines are “We are not there yet, we have not evolved, we have no respect, we have lost control”, introducing the record’s downbeat opening track Going Backwards. The tune doesn’t find light at the end of the tunnel, concluding “We feel nothing inside”. But being Depeche Mode, even desolation sounds good, world weariness bent and shaped into a beautifully forlorn electro-blues pop song.

First single Where’s The Revolution continues the “state of the world” address. “Where’s the revolution? Come on people you’re letting me down”, they wail. Almost like musical narration, this chorus is set against a slow march that never quite gets into rhythm, a rallying of the troops falling on deaf ears.

This album is Depeche Mode at their least light-hearted – there are no satirical boogies a-la Personal Jesus to be found here. Musically, though, there is much of interest. As with all of their records, the production and arrangements are top-notch, as synths glisten like stars in a clear night sky and the songwriting (mostly from the pen of band visionary Martin Gore, but with a handful of strong Gahan entries as well) finds darkly delicious hooks in even the most brow-furrowed environment. Even at their gloomiest, there’s fun to be had on a Depeche Mode record.

You Move is one of their classic “prowling sexuality” tunes set against squelching beats and a Kraftwerk-esque synth refrain. The album’s one genuine up-tempo tune So Much Love is reminiscent of the Mode’s ‘80s classic A Question Of Time, but for the most part, it’s a deliberately paced but frequently rewarding collection of songs.

Is it an album I’ll be putting on as often as past Mode classics like Black Celebration or Violator? No, it’s not up to that level, but then not many synth-pop records are. However, fans of their widescreen angst will find much to love here. Even the casual observer will notice a bunch of guys who’ve been at this for over 35 years with passion and fire still in their bellies.

- Matt Thrower.


Album Details

Album Title: Spirit
Artist: Depeche Mode
Record Label: (Sony)