Our 10 favorite Depeche Mode songs -- and yours?
Just in time for the release of ''Playing the Angel,'' a Depeche Mode devotee looks back at the synth masters' best
Our 10 favorite Depeche Mode songs — and yours?
The masterminds behind the doom-and-gloom synth sound that defined the ’80s for many youths return Oct. 18 with their 11th full-length album, Playing the Angel. After two guitar-heavy albums, Ultra and Exciter, the trio — lead vocalist Dave Gahan, guitarist/keyboardist Martin Gore, and keyboardist Andy Fletcher — go back to their electronic roots. In celebration of their new release, here are 10 favorite Depeche Mode songs. (We left off megahits like ”People Are People” and ”Master and Servant” in order to make room for lesser-known gems — but make sure to tell us below what underrated DM songs we forgot to include.)
”New Life” (Speak & Spell, 1981)
The uncharacteristically happy-go-lucky synths on Depeche Mode’s debut album can be attributed to Vince Clarke, a founding member who soon left to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet and is now half of Erasure. Though the buoyancy and optimism found on Speak & Spell (remember ”Just Can’t Get Enough”?) isn’t apparent on later albums, ”New Life” can make you want to frizz your hair and hang out with Devo.
”Leave in Silence” (A Broken Frame, 1982)
With Clarke gone, melancholia took over the songwriting process, for the better. Martin Gore’s talent for creating dark, pulsing synth lines and writing biting lyrics (”I can’t stand this emotional violence”) gave us a peek into the band’s future.
”Everything Counts” (Construction Time Again, 1983)
If ever there were a song made for a huge stadium sing-along, this is it. ”Everything” has a chest-thumping beat, industrial-sounding keys, and a refrain — ”It’s a competitive world, everything counts in large amounts” — that just screams to be, well, screamed. Plus, its message of the corporate music world taking advantage of its artists still resonates.
”Somebody” (Some Great Reward, 1984)
This ode to searching for the perfect partner finds Gore on piano, with the voices of children playing, the patter of rain, and a heartbeat in the background, cementing the image of a lonely man watching the city pass him by.
”It Doesn’t Matter”/”It Doesn’t Matter Two” (Some Great Reward/Black Celebration 1984, 1986)
Here’s a bleak commentary on long-distance relationships: ”It Doesn’t Matter” is so full of yearning, you want the singer, who’s longing for a reunion with a far-away love, to get what he wants… But in part 2, he’s crushed with disappointment when the relationship is finally consummated: ”The feeling is intense/You grip me with your eyes/Then I realize/It doesn’t matter.” Let the tears roll.
”The Things You Said” (Music for the Masses, 1987)
Synthetic, angelic voices provide the backdrop to Gore singing of a redeption that can no longer be had. The lyrics (”I heard it from my friends/About the things you said/I’ve never felt so disappointed”) convey an important lesson: When you talk behind someone’s back, they’ll eventually find out.
”Waiting for the Night” (Violator, 1990)
Gahan’s raspy voice leads us on a journey with a person who doesn’t want to deal with the harsh reality of the world, and waits for the dark night to descend and bring ”tranquility.” Though lyrically it is Violator‘s most depressing song, with haunting synths adding to the sense of loneliness, a perfectly placed, celesta-like melody offers a break in the clouds.
”In Your Room” (Songs of Faith and Devotion), 1993
Gahan finally became a rock star on Songs of Faith and Devotion, complete with leather pants. ”In Your Room,” featuring Gore’s passionate lyrics (”Your burning eyes/Cause flames to arise”), brilliantly meshed together the group’s signature style and a new guitar-focused, drum-kit-heavy sound.
”It’s No Good,” (Ultra, 1997)
”Don’t say you’re happy/Out there without me/I know you can’t be/’Cause it’s understood”: Sounds like a sad lie you’d tell yourself to get over an old love. Still, DM made this song feel optimistic with a dance-inducing beat, a tiny hint of the James Bond theme that’ll make you feel invincible.
”A Pain That I’m Used To” (Playing the Angel, 2005)
Finally! After two guitar-filled albums, Depeche Mode return to their synth roots while still incorporating standard rock instruments, like on Songs of Faith and Devotion. The beginning guitar screech demands notice, and it’s followed by DM’s trademark beats, Gahan’s scratchy vocals, and lyrics like ”There’s a hole in your soul like an animal.”