Volume 8, Issue 1 University of Houston
Depeche Mode seems to be playing the fool
Band's latest release proves it may be time to hang up the synthesizer
By Enrique Dominguez
Breaking News Staff
Depeche Mode has gotten “the comeback” down to a science, releasing an album every four or five years in hopes that fans who have already forgotten about the band will feel nostalgic again.
In the wake of a 1980s synth-pop revival with acts like The Faint and The Bravery, Depeche Mode felt it was the perfect time to release its first new material since 2001's Exciter.
Playing the Angel was expected to be the band's return to dark, soulful, industrial-tinged pop that was evident in classic albums like Music for the Masses and Violator, but instead continues the 26-year-old trio's path into retirement.
The album starts off with a bang with songs like “A Pain That I'm Used To” and “John the Revelator” where lead singer Dave Gahan pounds out aggressive vocals backed by haunting synthesizer beats and the simple guitar plucks of principal songwriter Martin L. Gore.
The highlight of the album is “Suffer Well,” which sounds comparable to the Depeche Mode classic “Behind the Wheel” off of Music for the Masses. With lyrics like, “From the blackest room I was torn / He called my name, a love was born,” 40-something former goths will want to dawn the white makeup and black lipstick one more time and hit the dance floor.
The remainder of the album, however, drags on. The synth rhythms become stale, and Gore's guitar playing becomes annoying. Even his attempt to mimic the vocal stylings on the carnival-style “Damaged People” comes off weak.
The album also lacks that catchy pop tune that is the cornerstone of many of Depeche Mode's earlier albums. Obviously the band will never make another bubblegum new wave song like “Just Can't Get Enough”, but it is in dire need of capturing the same magic it had earlier in its career.
“Precious,” the album's first single, is not a bad song, but it lacks the pop genius that makes up a quintessential Depeche Mode song. It is not the type of song that will have a sea of fans chanting, “The grabbing hands / grab all we can,” like on Construction Time Again's “Everything Counts”.
Now in their 40s, Depeche Mode members should pass on the torch to their contemporaries or create an album that is consistent.
Playing the Angel
Verdict: Playing the Angel proves to be more difficult than it sounds.