Depeche Mode have released their fourteenth studio album due to be released tomorrow on 17th March, following the recent release of the lead single “Where’s the Revolution?” which seemingly sets the tone for the reputedly political messages contained within the album.
However it’s less about ‘revolution’ and more about ‘statement’, as Gahan explains “Spirit,” is less about insurrection than it is about information”.
The album opens with ‘Going Backwards’ which reintroduces the listener to that classic Depeche Mode sound. However the track isn’t the strong opener which the much anticipated album demands.
‘Where’s the Revolution?’ follows and is again, instantly recognisable as a song from the Basildon crew. Don’t judge it on your first listen though; it’s most definitely a grower, although I still can’t get to grips with that terrible middle eight section!
‘Scum’ is a complete cacophony of layers and layers of sound. Quite frankly, it doesn’t entirely work for me. However in a live stadium situation, it might. Definitely the strongest contender for the worst track on the album.
‘You Move’ has a muddy, heavy synth opener, which I could see as potentially the follow up single. Simple, catchy lyrics if slightly on the icky side. “I like the way you move your body” croons Gahan, “I like the way you move for me tonight”, repeatedly. Again, it’s probably best heard live rather than as an album track. He’ll send the crowd wild as he writhes to this, probably shirtless. However, unlike its bedfellows, ‘Cover Me’ is a track I couldn’t envisage in a live set. It starts off slow and eventually builds and builds. Definitely a classic Depeche Mode album track.
‘Eternal’ is reminiscent of a movie soundtrack. Martin Gore flexes his vocals in this, and one other track on the album. He’s best suited to slower tracks so this one is perfect for him. However as the song develops, too many layers of sound are presented, making it difficult listening towards the end of the track. The execution of several tracks on the album by producer James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco fame, is questionable at best. I’m unsure of the effect he was aiming for but whatever it was, it mostly doesn’t work.
‘Poison Heart’ is a song with lyrics concerning the inevitable break up of a relationship that’s become one-sided. ‘So Much Love’ is one of my initial favourites and has the potential to be a classic Depeche Mode track. The baseline has the same urgency as ‘A Question of Time’ and I could really see this being a single; a successful one, at that!
‘Poorman’ has politically-motivated lyrics, which decry large corporations whilst the poor man suffers, and highlights the mismatch of wealth distribution in the world. It has a plinky plonky synth sound in the background that was also utilised on ‘My Little Universe’ on their previous album. It was irritating then, and it’s irritating now.
‘No More (This Last Time)’ is another break-up song with melodies and lyrics. Nothing new here, but the familiarity of that classic Depeche Mode sound will surely delight many.
Finally the album finishes with another Gore vocal led song called ‘Fail’. It has an easy melody which is like a comfortable pair of Depeche Mode slippers.
All in all it’s a fair album which has been sounding better on each occasion I’ve played it, and it really should be given more credit than some fans are apportioning to it. However for me, it’s more a collection of individual tracks, which is not cohesive as an album offering. However, many of the tracks here are pure Depeche Mode which should delight many.
They have cleverly held a mirror up to current society thinking, and produced an album for our times. The general bleak theme of hopelessness and everything and that indicates “the end” is somewhat inevitable, possibly indicating a certain degree of mortality, or possibly marking the end of an era that is Depeche Mode? Time will tell.
I’ve got to mention the cover artwork on the album which is particularly uninspiring. It’s a stick man drawing of legs and flags, presumably on a protest march. God knows there’s enough to protest about at this point in history, however the music within doesn’t always reflect what I guess they’re trying to convey.
It’s difficult to say which direction Depeche Mode are now moving into. Many of the songs on ‘Spirit’ appear to be harking back to the Depeche Mode of old, which is no bad thing. However this album won’t go down in history as being one of their better ones. Whether it’s actually the end of an era, remains to be seen.
My expectations of this album, posted a week ago can to be read here
Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in paperback and Kindle in 2016. Her third novel will be published in 2017.