LIFE SOUNDTRACK: Depeche Mode
When I was thinking about which Depeche Mode album to chose for a life soundtrack post, I realized that some eight albums of theirs played a role in different phases of my life. And since it’s New Year’s Day, this is about all of them.
Construction Time Again was their third album, released in 1983. Back then I didn’t own a turntable yet and hence didn’t buy albums, but my cousin owned it and I taped it for my walkman (not the Sony one, but a rather clunky clone). My favorite song on Construction is Love In Itself: the opening synth line still teleports me to a winter vacation in Switzerland, where I was listening to this record while skiing.
A year later they released Some Great Rewards, which in some ways was their mainstream break-through. People Are People and Master and Servant were played regularly on the radio, but the most impact on me had the third single Blasphemous Rumors. It is a about losing your face over the tragic fate of a girl and was probably the first English song I had memorized all the lyrics for. The chorus invites to sing along, which we did in many occasions.
Many say that DM’s ’86 album Black Celebration was their most influential and it is indeed packed with great songs. One of my favorite tracks is the closer Dressed in Black, which reminded me for some reason on a girl I was in loved with (even though I cannot remember that she had a preference for black clothes).
Next up: Music for the Masses. The lead single Strangelove came out during a trip through France and Italy I did with a friend in ’87. We had an appointment with more guys from our school at the St. Tropez waterfront and indeed met them there (which was a little wonder in pre-cellphone times). Strangelove was played on the car radio when drove back to the camping site and I was thrilled to hear something new from Depeche Mode. All-time favorite is Never Let Me Down though, which is to this day the highlight of every DM show.
Violator came out in 1990. By then I had moved to Munich and as a student living alone had far less money to spend for music, but buying Violator was a no-brainer nonetheless. I had a great, unforgettable moment with this record at my parents house: I was about to go to a club in the hope to meet a specific girl and World in my Eyes on high volume sounded to me like the best music ever made.
In the three years before the release of Depeche Mode’s eighth studio album Songs of Faith and Devotion things had changed a lot for me: I had met Elke, we moved together in ’92 and our musical tastes influenced each other. But we both agreed on DM and Songs was a most anticipated release for us. We also didn’t hesitate to buy tickets for the Devotional show (which back then involved standing in line at some box office). But it was so worth it: it has probably been the best stadium-sized show I’ve ever seen.
Neither Elke nor me were following music closely in the 90s, so we had little knowledge about what happened in the world of DM after Songs of Faith and Devotion. Alan Wilder quit, Dave Gahan nearly died from drug abuse and the band was about to break up. But then they didn’t and came out with Ultra in 97 which I listened to on repeat together with U2’s Pop. Interestingly, in hindsight, I consider those two albums the last exciting releases for two iconic bands that ruled most of the 80s and 90s.
Album number ten, Exciter came out 2001, when Elke and I moved two New York. It could have been the soundtrack for the most exhilarating time in our lives, but by this time Radiohead had already taken over as our favorite band. We still saw Depeche Mode at Madison Square Garden and it was an awesome show, but a new decade had begun and my attention moved to new kinds of music.
Since then, Depeche Mode has released three more albums, Playing The Angel in 2005, Sounds of the Universium in 2009 and Delta Machine in 2013. None of them are bad albums, but in my opinion every band has used up their creative capital at some point. They have adapted their music, but for me they are still just too much attached to memories in the last 31 years, so I simply cannot see them as a contemporary inspiration anymore.
Tomorrow, check out Elke’s angle on Depeche Mode as a three piece band (since 1997).