Tag Archives: spirit

Curate the ultimate Depeche Mode set list

By their own admission, Depeche Mode have a thorough and reasonably democratic process that they go through to create a tour set list.

And, yet, as the catalogue gets bigger with each new album, this mechanism presumably gets harder every time.

But fear not, gents.

In conjunction with the London Stadium, where the band play on Saturday 3 June, we thought instead it would be fun (and intriguing!) to get the fanbase to help out the boys with their dilemma instead.

Obviously, the Global Spirit Tour is already underway and the set list locked down – but ahead of what will be a landmark gig in the UK for Depeche, let’s find out what the masses would love to hear if the band had a clean slate again… just for the homecoming show.

Here on the HALO website and elsewhere, such as the Almost Predictable. Almost blog, we’ll be collecting the TWENTY songs you want to hear.

The full Depeche Mode catalogue is listed below for reference 🙂

Remember, this isn’t necessarily a list of your own favourite songs (though it may well be), but the TWENTY songs that you think should be on the ultimate Depeche Mode set list – tracks that would help create the best gig ever.

You can leave your list of TWENTY in the comments below, on the HALO Facebook page or via email.

The results will be posted on the London Stadium website and other participating sites in the days before the gig.

With many thanks in advance for your suggestions 🙂

The full discography is listed below.

PIC: Paris promo gig set list via Depeche Mode Live Wiki.

New Life
I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead
Puppets
Boys Say Go!
Nodisco
What’s Your Name?
Photographic
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Big Muff
Any Second Now (Voices)
Just Can’t Get Enough
Dreaming Of Me
Ice Machine
Shout
Any Second Now

Leave In Silence
My Secret Garden
Monument
Nothing To Fear
See You
Satellite
The Meaning Of Love
A Photograph Of You
Shouldn’t Have Done That
The Sun & The Rainfall
Now, This Is Fun
Oberkorn (It’s A Small Town)

Love, In Itself
More Than A Party
Pipeline
Everything Counts
Two Minute Warning
Shame
The Landscape Is Changing
Told You So
And Then…
Get The Balance Right
The Great Outdoors
Work Hard
Fools

Something To Do
Lie To Me
People Are People
It Doesn’t Matter
Stories Of Old
Somebody
Master And Servant
If You Want
Blasphemous Rumours
In Your Memory
(Set Me Free) Remotivate Me

Shake The Disease
It’s Called A Heart
Flexible

Black Celebration
Fly On The Windscreen
A Question Of Lust
Sometimes
It Doesn’t Matter Two
A Question Of Time
Stripped
Here Is The House
World Full Of Nothing
Dressed In Black
New Dress
But Not Tonight
Breathing In Fumes
Black Day
Christmas Island

Never Let Me Down Again
The Things You Said
Strangelove
Sacred
Little 15
Behind The Wheel
I Want You Now
To Have And To Hold
Nothing
Pimpf
Agent Orange
Fpmip
Pleasure, Little Treasure
Route 66
Stjarna
Sonata No. 14 in C#m (Moonlight Sonata)

World In My Eyes
Sweetest Perfection
Personal Jesus
Halo
Waiting For The Night
Enjoy The Silence
Policy Of Truth
Blue Dress
Clean
Dangerous
Memphisto
Sibeling
Kaleid
Happiest Girl
Sea Of Sin

Death’s Door

I Feel You
Walking In My Shoes
Condemnation
Mercy In You
Judas
In Your Room
Get Right With Me
Rush
One Caress
Higher Love
My Joy

Barrel Of A Gun
The Love Thieves
Home
It’s No Good
Uselink
Useless
Sister Of Night
Jazz Thieves
Freestate
The Bottom Line
Insight
Painkiller
Slowblow

Only When I Lose Myself
Surrender
Headstar

Dream On
Shine
The Sweetest Condition
When The Body Speaks
The Dead Of Night
Lovetheme
Freelove
Comatose
I Feel Loved
Breathe
Easy Tiger
I Am You
Goodnight Lovers
Dirt
Zenstation

A Pain That I’m Used To
John The Revelator
Suffer Well
The Sinner In Me
Precious
Macro
I Want It All
Nothing’s Impossible
Introspectre
Damaged People
Lilian
The Darkest Star
Free
Newborn
Better Days

Martyr

In Chains
Hole To Feed
Wrong
Fragile Tension
Little Soul
In Sympathy
Peace
Come Back
Spacewalker
Perfect
Miles Away\The Truth Is
Jezebel
Corrupt
Light
The Sun And The Moon And The Stars
Ghost
Esque
Oh Well

Welcome To My World
Angel
Heaven
Secret To The End
My Little Universe
Slow
Broken
The Child Inside
Soft Touch\Raw Nerve
Should Be Higher
Alone
Soothe My Soul
Goodbye
Long Time Lie
Happens All The Time
Always
All That’s Mine

Going Backwards
Where’s The Revolution
The Worst Crime
Scum
You Move
Cover Me
Eternal
Poison Heart
So Much Love
Poorman
No More (This Is The Last Time)
Fail

Amsterdam gig review – Behold an infectious Spirit in the Depeche Mode camp

The Global Spirit Tour is underway, so a quick flight to the Netherlands from the UK was arranged for the gig in Amsterdam.

The Almost Predictable, Almost blog has set itself the ambitious but fun task of trying to capture fan reviews from as many gigs on the tour as possible!

This is my review of the Ziggo Dome show on Sunday 7 May 2017, which first appeared on David McElroy’s terrific site on the following day.

Thanks to David for the opportunity to contribute to his series and for also allowing us to republish it here.

+ + +

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I remember reading an article a while ago that analysed how the opening night of a tour is never the one that causes the most anxiety.

It is always the second show, and perhaps the two or three after that.

Sure, debut nights have very high stress levels – the months of preparation across every area of putting a band in the road need to come together and work seamlessly for two hours.

Staging, AV, merchandising, ticketing, VIPs, press, etc. Not forgetting, of course, the weeks of rehearsing and trying to make the live sound as good as possible.

There must be a huge sense of relief when it does all work – or appear to – on the opening night.

The reaction (on David’s blog and social media) to the Stockholm gig, the first of Depeche Mode’s new Global Spirit Tour, has been extremely good.

Yet it is said that the second night can often show the frailties of taking a massive production on the road – getting the stage, lighting, screens, computers, etc packed away and then back in place in a new venue, in a new city, within a day or so.

The first airing ofa new set can also cause headaches: poor reaction from the crowd (let’s face it, reasonably unlikely in the case of Depeche), realising that some of the arrangements or the video backdrops need to be tweaked, concerns over the running order and countless other creative elements of putting on a two-hour gig.

Still, it appears that – as Depeche Mode roll into Amsterdam, two days after the gig in the Swedish capital, with a 14-hour drive – things are going extremely well so far.

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The Amsterdam Ziggo Dome is a terrific venue – fairly big (17,000), airy, but still manages to be more intimate than some of the often soulless atmospheres within the identikit mega-arenas of Europe, such as the O2 in London.

Danish band The Raveonettes, the latest in a long line of brave souls to support Depeche, are loud, creative with how they use guitars alongside other instruments, and extremely good.

Some Devotees will moan, inevitably, but their grinding rhythms, superb close harmonies, heavy bass and wall-of-sound guitars seem to somehow capture a mood of both edginess and expectation.

They go down pretty well with the Amsterdam crowd (and me). Fair play to them. I’m a new fan.

The lights dim after what feels like an interminable wait to the strains of Revolution by The Beatles – cue the first of many sing-a-longs of the evening.

If the aim is to get the crowd whipped up into a frenzy, it works.

The first strains of Martin Gore’s guitar on Going Backwards ring out and it is soon very obvious that thousands of people already know the words of this and every other song from the new Spirit album, released just seven weeks ago.

It is, as has been noted in numerous forums and blogs, one of the best opening tracks from a Depeche album for a long time and, in this setting, the perfect song to kick off the gig.

This is no low-key Welcome To My World and Angel from the Delta Machine Tour – we are in full-on audience participation (and appreciation) straight away.

They stride through the first half a dozen or so songs like a well-oiled machine (including a wonderful Songs And Faith And Devotion album version of In Your Room) – the tightness of the show and the AV showing no signs of a lack-of-practice as it’s still early days in the tour, or following the 1,400km drive south from Stockholm.

As mentioned in my review of the Barrowlands gig at the end of March, Depeche Mode in 2017 seem very much at ease with themselves.

It’s noticeable in their confidence in the new material and their body language, especially between Martin and Dave.

There are hugs in the semi-darkness between songs (cue a huge roar from the crowd stage-left) and Dave even performs a “we-are-not-worthy” action to his band mate after a song later in the set, again triggering cheers from the Amsterdam masses.

Dave is in his element, as always – spinning, pouting, grimacing and grinning his way through songs.

The extended catwalk stage gets a visit on a few occasions – the soaring brilliance of Cover Me has Dave conducting the crowd participation from its end and Martin encourages the crowd yell-a-long at the end of his perfect rendition of Home.

amsterdam depeche mode 2

So what stands out?

Wrong has a new synth-led intro and generally grinds away merrily in its own repetition. Corrupt has finally won me over – perhaps due to it getting an extremely dirty feel to it for the tour.

Everything Counts creeps up on a few people, as the famous melody is introduced quietly against a low-fi, trip hop-style beat.

Still, when the song gets going, it’s pandemonium in the crowd (the second biggest cheer in the first half of the set after a rapturous World In My Eyes). It’s a wonderful moment, especially with the 101-style participation from the crowd at the end.

So, here’s a minor wrinkle – we’re not in full Devotional-style, split-level with the stage design but Dave Gahan does use a higher platform on a number of occasions, like a preacher’s pulpit (borrowing from the Where’s The Revolution video) that sits about a third of the way up the giant screen behind the main playing area.

Maybe I missed it in Amsterdam, but he’s never lit fully by the spotlights, just a silhouette.

This could well be the point, of course, yet it often took a while for the crowd to notice he was actually up there (“Oh, THERE he is! “Yeaaaaaah, Dave!!!”). I suspect that part of the performance might change as the gigs pile up.

The stage projections by Anton Corbijn (who is seen in the crowd tonight in Amsterdam) will polarise opinion, as always, but they’re bright, creative (especially so for the brilliant So Much Love), often weird or surreal, but do not take anything away from the performance.

They close the main set with Enjoy The Silence and Never Let Me Down Again – such staples of the Depeche live act these days but, let’s face it, it takes a heart of stone to not be moved both by their brilliance as songs and, in a live setting, how uplifting it can be having 15,000 people singing and waving along together.

Martin returns with Peter Gordeno for the encore to sing a pitch-perfect version of Somebody (I hear “I think I’m going to cry” from behind me somewhere). Walking In My Shoes, with its new intro, follows.

It’s easy to forget that not every fan in the Ziggo Dome tonight would have known what the setlist was likely to be, had watched footage from the previous gig or – shock, horror – simply doesn’t use social media to find out every detail about the band and the tour.

This is why, for me, perhaps one of the moments of the night is when it finally dawns on thousands of people, as Dave reaches the first or second line, that Depeche Mode are indeed playing their tribute to David Bowie with a version of Heroes (Peter is also out front again on the bass guitar).

“Oh my god! Is that Heroes? Oh my god!!!” screams a woman behind me.

Somewhat ironically, given that you’re reading this, there’s something to be said for not reading this or any reviews of the Global Spirit Tour!

A powerful Personal Jesus ends the night (I’d love to know where the loudest “Reach out and touch faith!” is on the tour) and then it’s all smiles, bows, hugs between the band (Fletch gets a huge roar when he saunters over stage-left), and they’re gone.

It’s still (very!) early days on the tour, but if they keep up this level of the intensity shown in Amsterdam, then fans are going to be in for a treat over the course of the next 12 months.

Someone asked me after the gig why I thought it was better than my experiences of the last few tours.

It’s two-fold: firstly, the new songs from Spirit that sprinkle the setlist are all extremely good, meaning the overall quality of the songs is arguably higher than in previous tours. A personal view, but I think there’s something to it.

Secondly, there’s what appears to be a very positive and buoyant mood in the camp – the pre-tour interviews have been some of the best the band have done in years, for example – which comes through on-stage.

Depeche Mode appear to be very comfortable in their current skin – the energy both in the performance of the songs and their physical presence (especially Dave) is higher than I can remember for many years.

And, best of all, they know it and they can see what it means to the fans who are clearly lapping up what could eventually be seen as Depeche’s most passionate and celebratory gigs in a very long time.

It’s a good time to be seeing Depeche on the road again.

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Barrowlands gig review – Let’s have a mass celebration

You have to feel for seasoned broadcaster and doyenne of BBC 6Music radio station, Lauren Laverne, as she saunters on to the Barrowlands stage to absolute bedlam in front of her.

The 38-year-old has probably seen some sights over the years as both a singer in the band Kenickie back in the mid-1990s and her subsequent radio and TV career – yet the gig in Glasgow is a unique moment for her, for the masses packed in under the ornate ceiling, and for the band she is about to introduce.

The band, obviously, is Depeche Mode – headlining the Sunday and final night of the station’s annual festival, and clearly the most high-profile and eagerly anticipated of the 70 or so acts that are performing over three days in the city.

Laverne has never introduced Depeche on-stage before (perhaps never even a band of their global scale and popularity), and certainly not one within the confines of a venue that by showtime is boiling (literally) over with excitement.

As she works her way through her notes, finally getting to the section where she hints at what is to come, you can see a combination of excitement, amusement and perhaps surprise at the reaction she is getting.

The baked crowd (no official number has been released, but it is probably in the region of 1,750 people, given the capacity is reduced somewhat to accommodate the film crew and tech area at the rear of the former ballroom) are roaring loudly at the end of every sentence.

“Get my boys on, Lauren!” screams a male fan with a thick Scottish accent near the front.

* * * *

Rewind a few hours and you can feel in the bars around the city that fans are preparing for an extravaganza.

This is, as Laverne reminded everyone to more cheers, the first time that Depeche have performed at the famous old venue since 1984 – confining themselves over the last two tours to the SECC and Hydro mega-halls elsewhere in the city, with those being the first Glasgow gigs since the Black Celebration Tour in 1986.

What most fans can sense is that this has all the factors necessary to go down as a landmark event – venue, crowd size, well-rested personnel (none of the late-in-the-tour fatigue having kicked in yet) and their first proper show in three years (the handful of small gigs in the previous week have been shorter and geared solely around to promote the new Spirit album).

Sure, there is a fair amount of anger over the way the tickets for the Barrowlands gig have been sold, with some appearing on re-seller sites before they’ve gone on sale to the devotee-verse.

By Sunday night, however, such irritations have gone and, whilst obviously being on the band’s circuit to push the new long-player, this instead feels like the first night of the forthcoming tour.

There is also no hiding away for a band in a venue such as the Barrowlands – the crowd is barely a few feet away from the performers, rather than the sprawling stages and rigs that will accompany the stadium and arena shows for Depeche in a few months.

Still, very few people in attendance will remember or have seen Depeche in such as setting – thus the raucous noise that erupts as Laverne ends her introduction and the band walk on stage.

I suspect they’ll not forget – or indeed, want to forget – those first few minutes in a hurry.

barrowlands depeche mode 4

If Going Backwards makes it to being the opener on the final setlist for the Spirit Tour, then the trio’s traditional squabbles over track selection and ordering will have paid off – it is a terrific song and has that now-usual Depeche sing-along quality to it and, in this case, sets the scene for what is to follow.

The A Question Of Time-esque So Much Love ignites the first heave of the legendary springy Barrowlands floor, yet perhaps what most people have already noticed and are lapping up is how much fun frontman Dave Gahan is having.

He twirls (nothing unusual there), pirouettes (nor there) and struts (or there), but in between are glimpses of a mischevious, pumped-up and fun singer clearly at ease with the opportunity to do his thing… and more.

He pokes his tongue out at the audience, grins like a giddy love-struck teenager, points at people and laughs his way through the first few tracks as if he’s just been plucked out of the Barras Market next door as a late replacement for the often-brooding, normal Dave Gahan.

Fans talk about the waistcoats and the boots and “guyliner” and (over-)analyse almost every move, yet very few people will disagree that he remains one of music’s best frontmen, having that confident and unique ability to entertain, control and cajole an audience.

barrowlands depeche mode 5

Corrupt comes next, perhaps the only slight low-point of the entire 12-song set, followed by A Pain That I’m Used To, complete with Peter Gordeno on bass guitar.

It’s not a perfect Depeche Mode song, but in this setting, it works, with Gahan prowling around and grinning at his two fellow stage-dwellers.

Arguably the next trio of songs is the first highlight of the set, with huge roars greeting those famous, bass-heavy bars of World In My Eyes (after the reworked, more atmospheric chord opening).

The sound is terrific and the loud synths for the final third of the song reverberate around the venue as Martin Gore, during his only keyboard-bound song, sings the Violator opener out.

The playful Gahan appears to be getting on well with Gore, comforting to those that worry about such things following reports of (but later played down) disagreements during the recording of Spirit.

He waves his towel in front of Gore to cool him down (Gahan himself is sweating profusely within minutes of the gig starting), exchanges a cheeky grin or two, kisses him on the head at the end of a song – antics that fans forget the sometimes serious Depeche Mode are capable of.

Gore himself, whilst appearing nervous at the recent Berlin promo show, looks relaxed as he says a few words or laughs with his guitar tech between songs.

Cover Me is a wonderfully intense song, starting here in a reasonably low-key way before the keyboards hit with a glorious wall of noise as Gore moves the slide up and down the guitar strings.

It is one of the best songs that Depeche have produced in many years. Gahan looks extremely proud of it as he shouts and encourages the crowd to follow his every clap.

After the song’s hypnotic ending, Gahan leaves the stage and the yelling and cheers start again, the crowd knowing it’s Gore’s turn to serenade them.

What comes next is a bit of a surprise, a fully-backed version of Home, sung with a passion and quality that reduces a couple stood nearby  to tears.

Whilst not weep-inducing to the vast majority of fans in attendance in the Barrowlands, it is a very moving moment, triggering the inevitable crowd serenade back to Gore at the end.

Where’s The Revolution and Barrel Of A Gun follow – the former sounding better than it has on the promo shows and Gore’s guitar cranked up a bit higher for the single from Ultra.

The latter will never be a perfect live track, but similar to A Pain That I’m Used To, it works here mainly because of the setting and atmosphere and Gahan’s incessant but appreciated patrolling of the stage.

“He’s absolutely lovin’ it!” laughs a guy to his girlfriend. “Haven’t seen him this animated for years….. COME ON, DAVE!!!!”

barrowlands depeche mode 3

The final three songs (two with a mini-break ahead of the “encore”, Enjoy The Silence) are pure Depeche in crowd-pleasing mode.

The reworked Walking In My Shoes sounds good and fresh, and gone is the almost painfully slow introduction to Personal Jesus from the Delta Machine Tour.

An ear-splitting series of “Reach out and touch faith” that end Personal Jesus are enough to, coining a well-worn cliche, metaphorically take the roof off the venue.

The band look shocked but thrilled at how raucous everything is.

It has turned into a crowd and band-fuelled celebration that many arguably haven’t seen since some of the nights on the Singles Tour in 1998.

Enjoy The Silence concludes the Barrowlands evening, again with a classic fan-led sing-along.

The music ends, the band come forward for their customary bow (Andy Fletcher comes over stage-left to applaud and grin),  and they’re gone.

For a moment there is a glimmer of hope that they will return for another song, perhaps debuting the cover of David Bowie’s Heroes that has been being talked about recently, but the venue music kicks in and the crowd (including Labour Party deputy leader, Tom Watson) are left to look at one another with various interpretations of “Did THAT just happen?”-type expressions.

* * * *

It is easy to get caught up in the hyperbole of such a night – to think it was bigger or better than it really was, just because you were lucky enough be there.

But, equally, Depeche have been around for so long now that many fans will naturally cast their minds back, nostalgically, to what they consider peaks for the band, and refuse to acknowledge that the now-trio (plus Gordeno and Christian Eigner on tours) can still cut it as a live act.

Yet it was, for many there on Sunday night, the pinnacle of their Depeche Mode live experiences.

Bands such as Depeche, with their enormous gigs, entourage and tightly controlled publicity schedule, rarely perform in an environment that feels both “old school” and utterly rapturous.

One fan said to me later that it felt like “his band” had come to perform just for him and his mates (that’s how so-called devotees often verbalise their passion – as if they have some kind of ownership of “my boys”).

The intimacy of the occasion and the passion that flowed between the band (especially Gahan) and the masses was a remarkable one to witness and be a part of.

Sure, there were a few flaws – some off-kilter harmonies during Walking In My Shoes and drummer Eigner continues to irk some fans (head over to the unofficial Eigner Fanclub, Electricity Club, for their valid take on that) – but this gig wasn’t about those individual moments, and certainly did not overshadow in any way the otherwise unique and celebratory night for what it was: an event that many will struggle to forget.

The reaction to the gig, generally, has been extraordinary (even from the sometimes unforgiving British mainstream press) – a prime example being David McElroy’s take on the Almost Predictable… Almost blog.

An “I was there!” moment for so many people.

I saw Depeche Mode on consecutive nights at the Bercy in Paris in 1993, during the Devotional Tour, and was blown away by their sheer power and an overwhelming explosion of colour, noise and swagger from the show.

I was also lucky enough to be at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010 (when Alan Wilder famously returned to play Somebody with Gore) but had consoled myself that I’d probably never experience something like that again (hint-hint, band and manager Jonathan “Baron” Kessler: iconic venues bring out the best in Depeche Mode).

But, 37 years in, they somehow, against all the odds of running a slick, sophisticated, professional and hugely popular Depeche Mode these days (it does almost feel like a “brand” sometimes), managed to inspire what for many will go down as a very special, intimate and one hell of a barnstorming evening at the Barrowlands of Glasgow.

barrowlands depeche mode 7

 

FOOTNOTE:

In the early hours of Monday morning, I found myself – with half a dozen or so friends – dissecting the evening over a few drinks in the bar of a hotel in the north of the city.

We didn’t try to gatecrash but we could see the entire band, entourage and guests at a private party next door. Sometimes it feels better to just let people get on with their lives – in this case, celebrating their evening.

Still, as good fortune has it, I bumped into Fletch outside in the street when I arrived, so we chatted for a while.

I have never sought to contact any band that I have liked (except, in the case of Depeche, when dealing with their management for HALO), so this is a surprise and, after decades of following them, not as intimidating an experience as one might have feared.

Thanks, Fletch.

Later, I also spoke to Eigner outside the hotel as we left at the end of the night. He was on good form and happy to oblige the by-then half a dozen or so people who asked for pictures.

Unusually for me, not wanting to come across as a groupie despite being at the band’s hotel, I thought (presumably by now, simply basking in the adrenalin of the evening) that it was a worth asking.

Oh well 🙂

barrowlands depeche mode christian eigner

Lastly, even the 630am flight that I had to take a few hours later to return to home (and the day job) had its upside.

The fair city of Glasgow certainly knows how to do a sunrise.

barrowlands depeche mode 6

Spirit album review – Depeche Mode find bleak is the new black

It is perhaps an illustration of the passion (devotion) that fans hold for Depeche Mode that everything they create often seems to inspire simple words such as “love” or “hate”.

“I LOVE Ultra…”, “I HATE anything after 2005…”, “I LOVE everything, seriously EVERYTHING, that Depeche Mode do…”, “I HATE live drums…”, etc, etc.

This polarising process of describing their output has intensified as Depeche have got older, perhaps in part because their supposed “glory years” have moved further back in time.

Every single, every album, every video, every tour, every piece of artwork, creates what those in the UK would call the so-called Marmite effect: many fans either love it, or they hate it.

But, still, those that have consistently applied the latter to their beloved band’s output over the years will still buy the records, catch the band on tour and, of course, have an opinion and want to debate it.

It’s how devotees roll.

The well-worn phrase that many fans use to describe their devotion  – “soundtrack to my life” – means they have the right to expect something exciting, perhaps different or something thought-provoking from Depeche Mode, something that will lurk in the background for the next chapter in their lives.

So, therefore, to follow that simplistic narrative to describe Depeche’s 14th studio album: there is helluva lot more to love than hate with Spirit.

spirit 3

Spirit is not an easily accessible album – but one guesses that it is probably not trying to be.

Whereas 1985’s supposed “dark album” Black Celebration retained, in many parts, a pop sensibility to it, Spirit‘s bleakness in terms of songs and atmosphere feels deliberate.

There is a curious contrast between the vast majority of Depeche’s work, where the subject matter was inward-looking and left to the reader’s own interpretation (primary songwriter Martin Gore rarely discusses his lyrics), to Spirit, an album with a sizeable number of tracks where the boys have turned their attention to the world again.

Depeche Mode have talked in interviews about how the album and the world view-type content came about as they saw the “mess” the world was descending into over the last few years – and this was before Donald Trump in the US and issues such as Brexit.

For a band that has spent large swathes of the previous 34 years since their last “political” album, Construction Time Again in 1983, examining life’s extremely personal mysteries such as love, loss, sex and religion, turning to issues that affect everyone else is an interesting move.

Whatever the motives for it, Gore and Gahan ‘s (who pens four of the songs on Spirit, including a co-writing credit with Gore) sudden rise of fury is clearly the most obvious new element to the angry Depeche in 2017.

Interestingly, February’s single Where’s The Revolution is, lyrically, perhaps the weakest of the political tracks on Spirit, almost having a too obvious a flow to the prose.

In fact, Gore’s usual subtlety is missing in a lot of his songs on Spirit – but this is generally not to their detriment, again reflecting the change in emphasis on what is bugging the now-55 year old.

Perhaps finding some personal redemption (the word had to creep in somewhere!), after kicking the booze and having a new, young family again, Gore has now set his sights on other things.

And there is, furthermore, a remarkable intensity to the songs that he sings – remember, this is the same chap who wrote and sang Somebody who is now, in his familiar tone, telling us on Fail:

Our souls are corrupt
Our minds are messed up
Our consciences bankrupt
Oh, we’re fucked

spirit 2

Gahan’s songs, again, continue to show signs of someone who is increasingly comfortable with his new(ish) role of putting pen to paper – a maturity that started with Spirit predecessor Delta Machine, through the bluesy work of mid-Mode project Soulsavers, to now.

Suffer Well (on Playing the Angel) and Should Be Higher (from the aforementioned Delta Machine) had been relative high points – but Gahan has hit a purple patch of sorts on Spirit with Cover Me and Poison Heart.

Whether Gore and Gahan’s ramblings would have worked with Ben Hillier, the studio wonk behind Playing The Angel, Sounds of the Universe and Delta Machine,  is an interesting question around the creation of Spirit.

Hillier’s production (if there’s another Marmite figure in the world of later-year Depeche, Hillier is it) gave Depeche’s songs space, not least because lyrically they needed it, but also possibly due to the collective vibe what they were trying to achieve at the time.

Spirit has a sonic intensity, almost claustrophobic feel to it, even in the musically sparse moments, which clearly comes from the much-anticipated new production team, led by one-half of Simian Mobile Disco, James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Florence & The Machine), with Matrixxman and Kurt Uenala on engineering duties.

Maybe details will emerge as the merry-go-round of promotional interviews take place, but it will be interesting to learn how much direction Ford and co were given, in terms of what atmosphere the band wanted, or whether it was his interpretation of the songs and his own general mood. Or a mixture of both.

Regardless of the motivation, Ford’s involvement has certainly created a very different Depeche, matching the change in lyrical focus.

It’s not an easy album to listen to.

Much has already been made of the album’s first track, Going Backwards, arguably the best opening song to a Depeche long-player since Barrel Of A Gun on Ultra, and certainly a highlight generally of the intervening 20 years.

In a way, Going Backwards is the blueprint for how many of the songs on Spirit work – brooding, initially, with subtle melodies then giving way to a big sound in the final third.

Ford, perhaps with a nod to his dance music routes, understands the need for a slow build, a hesitation, before a final burst of intensity.

On some tracks it is more obvious, such as Going Backwards, Where’s The Revolution and You Move.

There is probably a case to be made for the Gore-Gahan co-penned You Move being one the dirtiest sounding and lyrically suggestive Depeche tracks since World In My Eyes on Violator – a sign that, despite their well-documented differences, there’s potentially more to explore with a direct collaboration.

How much of the final output is down to the production’s team musical ideas or work on atmospheres is, again, rather intriguing.

On some tracks, Ford’s previously mentioned technique saves what could have been fairly straightforward songs musically, such as Poison Heart and the most “synthy” song on the album, No More (This Is The Last Time).

The three tracks that perhaps neither songwriting intensity or studio kung fu come to the fore are The Worst CrimeEternal and Poorman. They are, unfortunately, the Get Right With Me of the Spirit album, in that they stand out for being average, modern Depeche songs.

Still, alongside Going Backwards, two other tracks stand out: So Much Love and Cover Me.

The former is an up-to-date Depeche barnstormer (hey, over 100 bps!) with an obvious raising of the glass to the back catalogue, especially A Question Of Time.

It will no doubt be an even bigger (in all sense of the word) song when the band hit the road in a few months.

Cover Me, written by Gahan and touring musos Peter Gordeno and Christian Eigner, is a standout track on Spirit.

Whoever suggested Ford have a play with a slide guitar and, apparently, teach himself overnight how to master it deserves a pat on the back.

A second pat should also go to the person who came up the chord change on the guitar and the inclusion of strings that gives the song a series of sonically satisfying yet breath-taking moments.

The still much-missed former-bandmate Alan Wilder (the Depeche forums will debate this forever) would surely appreciate the atmosphere that band and Ford have created with this song. It is one of the best in the Depeche arsenal of slow tracks since Home on Ultra.

spirit 4

The new studio squad deserves a lot of credit for what they have managed to create with Spirit.

And so do Gore and Gahan for spreading their wings lyrically.

The album, in some respects, will (inevitably) disappoint some fans because it doesn’t have an inkling of the pop genius of old (Construction Time AgainSome Great Reward, Violator), nor does it have the obvious flow or accessibility of an Ultra or Playing The Angel.

Spirit has a depth and overall moodiness to it that Depeche have not achieved since Songs Of Faith And Devotion.

This is not to say that, as a body of work, Spirit comes close to that 1993 bucketload of dark intensity. It doesn’t.

It is a very grown-up album, both in its outlook and production.

The minimalist nature of many of the songs will put some fans off, yet Ford and his team’s creativity and expertise in gradually layering a song to create something that perhaps would not have been obvious in the first few minutes is clever.

It also means that many people might not “get” Spirit on the first few listens, nor will they truly appreciate the textures (subtle or otherwise) in many of the songs until they play it very loud, alone (in the tub with a glass of wine seems like a perfect spot!).

In places, Spirit literally booms with a force and potency of noise around a room. This is perhaps where Spirit will eventually be appreciated.

Sure, Depeche could always do with writing a few more upbeat, dynamic tunes – something new apart from So Much Love for the tens of thousands of fans to shake their devoted backsides to when they see the band on tour this year.

But this is a different era. This is a more thoughtful and angry and reflective Depeche Mode.

The Exciter album in 2001 was an appreciation of love and a request for longing.

Spirit is the complete opposite, and it is yet probably the best Depeche Mode album since then.

It seems, as the 21st century has developed, Depeche have managed to book-end their role in it perfectly.

Many fans will say Spirit makes them angry for lots of reasons, of course (back to the passion discussion), but the anger that Depeche are trying to create is about their view of the world.

Though far from being a perfect record, Depeche have certainly managed to shift our impressions of them and should be applauded for sharpening our minds a little.

Forget love and lust for a little while – we’ve all got bigger fish to fry, including our perceptions of what Depeche Mode should and can be.

7/10.

Footnote:

Depeche Mode held a launch party in Berlin on 17 March, where they played Going Backwards, So Much Love, Cover Me and Where’s The Revolution from Spirit.

Watch out a slightly reworked and terrific performance of World In My Eyes:

Depeche Mode new single – Where’s The Revolution

After a few days of near-hysteria on social media and the Depeche Mode forums, Where’s The Revolution has finally “dropped”.

The single is the first track to be released from the band’s forthcoming album, Spirit – their 14th studio long-player and the first new material in almost four years.

Official news of Where’s The Revolution‘s impending release hit the web earlier this week, including an image of its front cover (and also that of the album, due for release on March 17), inevitably igniting large swathes of, err, feedback about its design.

Long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn is (thankfully, I believe) still steering Depeche’s artistic direction. Whether his designs please or anger fans, Corbijn always gives the band a theme and a visual narrative to follow through the life-cycle of a project (these days, the singles + album + merchandise + tour are considered “a project”).

Corbijn has also directed the as-yet unreleased video for Where’s The Revolution.

Back to the single…

Where’s The Revolution (and the album) is produced by James Ford, of Simian Mobile Disco fame – the first time in 12 years that the band have had a new producer and studio team (DJ/producer Matrixxman is on engineering duties).

Many fans have argued that Ben Hillier’s time was up, following his trilogy of albums, Playing The Angel (2005), Sounds Of The Universe (2009) and Delta Machine (2013).

Correct or not, rumours that a new studio guru/peacemaker/ideas man was on the way inevitably led to the usual dizzying array of possibilities being suggested (Brian Eno, Flood and Trent Rezor, to name a few – with the usual pleas for Alan Wilder thrown in for good measure).

How much of Ford’s dirty electronic sensibilities from SMD will feed into the rest of Spirit remains to be seen, although the partnership with Depeche is already being touted as one of where his musicianship, as well as production skills, was an important factor in the decision to hire him.

Depeche Mode have had a habit since Violator of hitting the airwaves with a big statement for the first single, often unlike anything else that is on the rest of the subsequent album,  (Personal Jesus, I Feel You, Dream On and Wrong, in particular).

Here we are, back again, ladies and gents.

WTR (as it will eventually be called by fans) is certainly continuing that trend.

The band will probably explain more about the track’s rabble-rousing lyrics during interviews in the coming weeks, but there is little doubt that the timing of its release is impeccable given political and social upheaval in the band’s birthplace (Brexit-bound UK) and where Dave Gahan and Martin Gore now reside (Trump’s USA).

Gore has spent decades as a lyricist agonising over deeply personal issues such as love, loss, religion and sex that a return to the stories of old (sorry!) in the political sphere circa Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward could be seen as a surprise.

Most 55-year-old songwriters have often confined the firebrand days to their youth, so this new, outward-looking perspective is an interesting and perhaps surprising one to experience again.

Gahan, during the Spirit press conference in Milan in October last year, commented on how Ford had taught himself to play Gore’s pedal steel guitar during a studio session, and that it appears on a number of tracks, WTR included, where it signals the end of each segment of the song.

The track is not uptempo by any means but has a pounding groove in parts to match the march-type vibe (a call to arms, even) that Gore is trying to achieve with the lyrics.

One suspects a lot of attention from both hardcore devotees and critics will focus on the “get on board” middle-8, both lyrically and sonically.

Middle-8s are designed as juxtapositions between the flow of verses and chorus, yet WTR‘s effort hangs awkwardly in the air.

It’s not Depeche’s finest hour.

Thankfully the chorus returns for a final outing, with some soaring soundscapes and a full ensemble of voices almost crying out for Gore’s revolution (Andy Fletcher is credited with backing vocals).

It’s worth pointing out that Gahan’s vocal appears to be getting stronger with each “project” (Halo on the last Depeche tour and his work with Soulsavers in 2015, especially live, illustrated what he can really do with his voice).

There are always nods to the past – it’s inevitable with such a vast catalogue of work to refer back to – so early contenders musically are The Sweetest Condition (as Almost Predictable, Almost… points out), Corrupt from Sounds Of The Universe and almost a hint of Violator‘s Sweetest Perfection in parts.

wheres the revolution

Make no mistake, Gahan will be polishing his boots, ready to rouse the masses when Spirit goes on the road from May, with WTR a likely contender for one of his audience singalongs.

As new Depeche era-intros go, WTR will instantly divide opinion amongst stalwarts (first singles always do) but it’s a bold opener from what feels like a band trying to be bolder (and, indeed, older).

Where’s The Revolution will no doubt come in a cascade of different formats, as is Depeche’s way. Details on those shortly.

Words (M L Gore):

You’ve been kept down
You’ve been pushed ’round
You’ve been lied to
You’ve been fed truths
Who’s making your decisions
You or your religion
Your government, your countries
You patriotic junkies

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

You’ve been pissed on
For too long
Your rights abused
Your views refused
They manipulate and threaten
With terror as a weapon
Scare you till you’re stupefied
Wear you down until you’re on their side

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
So get on board
Get on board
Get on board
Get on board
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
So get on board
Get on board
Get on board
Get on board

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down