Depeche Mode Get Into The Spirit of The Times
Depeche Mode Get Into The Spirit of The Times
“He’s a cunt…” exclaimed Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan in response to Richard Spencer’s declaration of Depeche Mode’s music being essentially the soundtrack of the alt-right. The band’s official statement, while no less insistent on rejecting Spencer and all that his political movement stands for, were slightly more decorous. Nevertheless, it’s been made abundantly clear that Depeche Mode are not supportive of anything that the alt-right professes to hold dear. With their new album Spirit, their best in decades, Gahan, Martin Gore, and Andy Fletcher put to rest any questions surrounding their political and social orientations before Spencer and his deplorable ilk could even stake a claim to Depeche Mode’s music.
Spirit is a discernibly political album, and it’s quite a statement to the band’s relevance that in the face of the type of proto-fascism that seems to be all the rage in American politics these days, Depeche Mode are the ones making new music to fight the fascists with while the usual left leaning political musician leaders like U2 (who share a genesis in the post punk 80s anti-Reganism movement) are rehashing their 30 year-old-album as opposition to Trump and his cronies instead of delivering new anthems to progressivism.
Spirit, like U2’s most mature and masterful work, Achtung Baby, isn’t a through-and-through political diatribe, though. Gahan addresses the politics of love, lust, addiction, as well as societal concerns with his lyrics here. Never quite the poet that Bono was, and arguably still is, Gahan is more interested in asking the pointed questions directly to his audience instead of waxing poetic about them existentially. “Where’s The Revolution?” he declaratively asks of his listeners on the aptly titled lead single “Where’s The Revolution.” The album’s standout track, which also happens to be its first, “Going Backwards,” warns of the the dangers of the regressive politics and societal digressions that are threatening the most enlightened Western nations currently. “We are not there yet/Where we need to be/We are still in debt to our insanities/We’re going backwards/Turning back our history/Piling on the misery/We feel nothing inside/Going backwards/Armed with new technologies/To a caveman mentality” bewails Gahan more in a sense of disgust rather than hopelessness. It’s the type of disgust that suggests bold action rather than passive annihilation. At other moments on the album though, Gahan addresses love lost and idealized on tracks like “Cover Me.” “Poison Heart,” with its loping beat and surprisingly striking surf inspired guitar lines takes on toxic relationships as only Gahan and the electronic maelstrom that Depeche Mode can create in its best moments, can.
It’s not only Gahan’s strong, if rather simply direct, lyrics that elevate Spirit to the lofty level of “best Depeche Mode album in decades” though. It’s the songs’ compositions themselves. The most striking aspect of Depeche Mode’s sound here is the surprising use and abundance of guitars in the mixes, a development alluded to above. Guitars are the “machines that kills fascists” though so their inclusion here shouldn’t be such a surprise concerning the songs’ topics. The first sounds heard on the album are electric guitars and piano, very traditional instruments for a very non-traditional sounding band. This announces right from the start that we are in a very specific thematic and musical territory here. This is not to say that there isn’t a healthy helping of Depeche Mode’s signature beats and electronic bleeps throughout the album, but instead a masterful melding of the modern (some would say futuristic) electronic sound and traditional (drum, guitar, and bass) rock sound reigns supreme here. The product is just as striking as anything on Violator or Ultra, both of which utilized guitar rock, but sounds even better, and more at home, next to each other here on Spirit than on both of those previous albums.
For a band that’s three decades plus into their musical careers, and still pushing the boundaries of their chosen genre, Depeche Mode is nothing short of purely innovative, as well as traditionally progressive, masters of their craft. While other bands born out of the same post-punk movement are striving to remain relevant, Depeche Mode continues to show them how to do just that with Spirit.
Disc 1 – Spirit (Standard & Deluxe):
01. Going Backwards
02. Where’s The Revolution
03. The Worst Crime
05. You Move
06. Cover Me
08. Poison Heart
09. So Much Love
11. No More (This Is The Last Time)
Disc 2 – Jungle Spirit Mixes (Deluxe only)
13. Cover Me (Alt Out)
14. Scum (Frenetic Mix)
15. Poison Heart (Tripped Mix)
16. Fail (Cinematic Cut)
17. So Much Love (Machine Mix)
Tour going on now until March 2018. Get your tickets here.