Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Post-Violator Depeche Mode Discography Suggestions - Part Two

Where was I...oh yeah. Depeche Mode had released Ultra, a slow, sensual album in the wake of Alan Wilder leaving the band & Dave Gahan almost dying. Or actually dying and being revived. Either way, it's a great album, and one of my favorite DM records, post-Violator or not.

The biggest challenge when writing posts like these, however, is not to frame what the band does *after* a classic album in the same light as the classic album, or "classic period." I will never be caught up in the excitement of discovering Depeche Mode again, I will never have another concert experience like seeing the Black Celebration tour at Red Rocks, I will never be falling in love with my future wife to Violator. As previously mentioned, Songs of Faith and Devotion was the soundtrack to a pretty heavy time in my life. Ultra, well, I just remember half-drunk late nights with the record on and sinking into the corporeal music and lyrics.

With 2001's Exciter, I don't have those types of memories or experiences (except with one song), so I'm left to simply give my take on the songs as I hear them now. 2001-02 were very busy years for me. I wouldn't be surprised if I bought Exciter in 2003 or later.


As far as the music itself goes, "Dream On" is a peppy two-step, definitely quicker than anything on Ultra, and it's an ok single. "I Feel Loved" was the next single, and while it definitely shares that quick two-step DNA with "Dream On," for some reason I like it better. There's a lot of effects and riffs winding around the beats, and it keeps my interest pretty well. There's not much lyrically to the song, though, and that holds for most of Exciter, in my opinion. There's a depth that feel like I'm used to from Martin Gore and I don't feel like I'm getting it here.

"When the Body Speaks" is good, but my favorite song on Exciter is by far "Freelove." Listening to this record, I know the singles ok, but not the album tracks ("The Sweetest Condition," "The Dead Of Night"), although I must have listened to them to have heard "Freelove." I don't really know "Goodnight Lovers" that well, but the melody reminds me of an old tune from the 40's. Listening to it, this is clearly the start of my "Oh, Depeche Mode has a new album?" phase, meaning I wasn't paying attention as closely as I had for the previous decade. Which isn't to say that there aren't great tunes on these recent 3 records, and "Freelove" is a catalog fave.

Continuing with the 4-year release cycle, Playing the Angel was released in 2005. The only single I remember from this albm is "John the Revelator," and I remember that more for the title than the music. I read now that "Precious" was the first single and that's definitely one of the songs I picked off this album on first listen, which was pretty much a couple of months ago.



This process has been interesting for me, listening for songs to recommend when I dont really know them. I've been trying to figure out if I'm listening for songs that remind me of the "old" Depeche Mode or if I'm just listening for good hooks and good lyrics. I have a future post coming about when one of your favorite groups released an album you didn't care for, I suppose I'll explore that feeling more when I write that post.

The songs I really like on this record are the other singles - the aforementioned "Precious" and "Suffer Well," the latter of which is one of Dave Gahan's first lyrical contributions to be featured on a Depeche Mode album (along with "I Want It All" and "Nothing's Impossible"). "Precious" reminds me musically somewhat of one of the slower Nitzer Ebb songs from the As Is EP, "Come Alive"and has a really catchy chorus. "Suffer Well" has a good guitar hook - something that started with Personal Jesus and has become another recent DM signature - not what most people used to think of when they thought of a synth band.

I certainly don't mind "John the Revelator" or "A Pain That I'm Used To," and I guess they're someone's idea of what new Depeche Mode singles should be. "Nothing's Impossible" and "Lilian" are decent tracks as well, and "The Darkest Star" was all right. The rest of PtA I wasn't crazy about.

Sounds of the Universe was released in - you guessed it - 2009 (I think that means we're due for some new Depeche in 2013) and was the first Depeche album I recall paying attention to in a while. Which strikes me as a bit odd now, because I didn't listen to the album until recently, either. Thinking about it now, I think I remember reading that it was a more "Depeche" album than the last couple had been.


The album is pretty strong, as far as I'm concerned. From "In Chains" through the first single "Wrong" to "Fragile Tension" and "In Sympathy," (my two favorite songs on the record), and on through the choirlike sound of the refrain on "Peace" and the most relaxed I've ever heard Martin Gore sing, I think, on "Jezebel", it's just a really good record. If you listen with headphones, there are a lot of nice synth touches - "In Chains" opens with square analog waveforms joining one at a time and then being tuned to a chord that drops out before Dave Gahan's voice appears clear & strong. The rich bass tones & trill treble riff that starts "Fragile Tension" are Devo-esque; there's a bitcrushed 8-bit rhythm tone that runs through "In Sympathy"; "Peace" could musically be set in the middle of Some Great Reward without anyone noticing.

All of this is not to say that it's a retro record - the central musical feature of "In Chains" is a distorted wah-wah guitar riff, and most songs have at least a little guitar in them, usually supporting the chorus. But Sounds of the Universe to me sounds like a Depeche Mode that is comfortable with its past and secure in its future. This may end up being one of my favorite DM records ever. I definitely slept on this album when it was released. Don't count on that happening again.

These albums all have their high points, but my favorite post-Violator single wasn't an album track, it was a single that appeared only on The Best Of - Volume 1 collection. "Martyr" was recorded during the Playing the Angel sessions but could easily be a Violator track. There's something in the strong pulsating backbeat and signature guitar riff that immediately set it off from the other PtA songs and, for me, it would be enough to purchase the whole Volume 1 collection - if there wasn't a "Martyr" single  available.

So, there you go. I didn't go over the Dave Gahan or Martin L. Gore solo records, perhaps that will be an exercise for another time. I'll link to my absolute favorite tracks below, and please feel free to argue or support my choices in the comments!

---------------

Links


Post-Violator Depeche Mode Discography Suggestions - Part One

DepecheMode.com

Affiliate Links (buy here and support Your Older Brother a little):

2 comments:

  1. Hi! ( Sorry for my english, maybe there will be some mistakes :P). Unfortunately my "Depeche Mode experience" is shorter than your,I listen to them only since 2005, when I heard for the first time "Precious" I literally felt in love with the words, the sound,Thanks to this song I started listening to them... Perhaps is for this reason that I really like the album. :) You mentioned Precious, Suffer Well and John the revelator.. I also like The Sinner in me I love the words, the lyrics represent me; Nothing's impossible thrill me everytime I listen to it ( in particular the Demo Version); I really like Macro, I want it all and The darkest star .. :) I agree on what you wrote about Exciter.. but my favourites songs of the album are When the body speaks and in particular I am you, when I listen to it I isolate myself from the world around me :)Finally.. about Sounds of the Universe I agree with you .. at the beginning it didn't convince me so much, but recently I revalued it. In chains, Perfect, Corrupt, Come back and Wrong are my favourites songs of the album :) ... It's all...Maybe I've written to much.. ahahahah ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for writing, Debora! And you definitely didn't write too much. I like hearing what other people's favorites are because I go back and have another listen to hear if I missed something the first time around. Many times I'll hear the song from a different perspective and come to appreciate it more. :)

      Delete