Depeche Mode are back.
Today (March 25th) brings with it the release of 'Delta Machine', a pulsating, re-invigorated effort which both surprises and re-inforces convictions that Depeche Mode are maybe - just maybe - the most continually creative group of their generation.
After all, who else from that initial wave of British synth pop can claim to be a potent influence on Detroit techno? Who else could shift from hairspray pop to dark, Industrial tones within the space of a decade? Who else could fling something as vile, something as sordid, something as bleak as 'Violator' onto the marketplace and expect to shift countless million units?
And so it goes...
To celebrate their return, a group of ClashMusic writers sat down to work out their favourite Depeche Mode track. The results are as follows.
- - -
Walking In My Shoes (as nominated by Laurence Green)
One of their bleakest, most imposing tracks; boasting scales of production – courtesy of longtime collaborator Flood – so colossal, it feels like it could pretty much envelop the band’s entire fanbase... and leave room to spare. Like all the best Depeche songs, it manages to strike that perfect balance between downright gloominess and empowering, quasi-religious awe.
Master & Servant (as nominated by Chris Todd)
Many people mention Bowie’s Berlin period but Depeche Mode’s is just as important. They went there as mummy’s boys and came back pervs. The beats on ‘Master & Servant’ are BANGING, the lyrics, sweat laden filth and they were so out of it while recording that they forgot to re-apply the kick drum in the outro. I was nine when this came out and loved the furrowed brow of my uncle trying to explain what “With you on top, and me underneath” meant.
Never Let Me Down (as nominated by Thomas Perry)
On the surface, a hymn to being detached from reality by drugs. All that "flying high" and "never want[ing] to come down" aren't the height of lyrical subtlety. The counterpoint to this is the hidden comedown that's already in the song. Long, dark sweeping synths foreshadow impending sobriety in a sinister fashion, as a piano dances over the top, half manic, half imaginary insects crawling over your skin.
Everything Counts (as nominated by Scott Creney)
One of the more irritating myths you hear about the 60’s is how music back then had a social consciousness that future generations lacked. Well 'Everything Counts', in its depiction of scorched earth financial greed, has a hell of a lot more relevance today than say, “Blowin’ in the Wind” (also note that the song isn’t titled 'Everythin’ Counts'). But ultimately I love 'Everything Counts' for the inventiveness of its arrangement—the way the (possibly synthesized) marimba/oboe/melodica lines weave in and out of the main melody. It’s as good as ABBA. Hell, it might even be better. DM’s run of mid/late 80’s singles are stunning examples of perfect pop, as inventive, exciting, and relevant as anything in its history—including the goddamn Beatles.
Stripped (as nominated by John Freeman)
The lead single from 1986's brooding masterpiece 'Black Celebration' managed to both menace and swagger. And when Dave Gahan intoned "you're breathing in fumes / I taste when we kiss" over slithering, shifting metallic beats it was the moment Depeche Mode truly came of age. Bleak yet sexy, 'Stripped' oozed confidence and a desire to experiment on the dark side.
Enjoy The Silence (as nominated by Anne Louise Kershaw)
Four minutes seventeen seconds worth of pure breathy fibre-optic yearning. Classic nightclub beats are counter balanced with drone-esque monastic punches that serve to both sooth and unsettle. "All I ever wanted is here in your arms" stands as one of the most desperately perfect electro lyrics ever, all piqued with the irony of the actual song title. Painful and pure.
The Things You Said (as nominated by Mat Smith)
The year was 1994. It was summer. A girl had just dumped me earlier that day. I listened to this on repeat all afternoon until it got dark. The disappointed, haunted pulse of this track seemed to suit my mood, detailed perfectly a sense of betrayal at learning you'd been led a merry old dance and been made a complete fool of by someone you thought you were in love with. Nearly twenty years on and it's still what I think of whenever I hear this song, though I have naturally stopped caring about that day and that girl.
So what's your favourite Depeche Mode track? Leave suggestions in the comments box.