After Nearly 30 Years, The Music Group Depeche Mode Is Still Trendy
By John Kosik ~
NEW YORK – Underneath the gloom and doom, the members of Depeche Mode insist they’re actually lighthearted and funny.
“I’ve never quite understood that description,” frontman Dave Gahan said during a recent interview. “I understand that we’re dark, but there’s always been humor in there. It’s this cynical sarcasm about yourself.”
Gahan and his mates – guitarist Martin Gore and keyboardist Andy Fletcher – have spent close to 30 years mining a subtle black humor from their coupling of submission with dominance, love with hate, hope with regret.
And they do know how to have fun at their own expense: Take a look at the 1997 video for their hit “It’s No Good,” which lampoons them as a has-been lounge act.
“I think people sometimes miss things that are humorous in our music,” said the soft-spoken Gore. “People seem to spend way too much time thinking about what exactly we’re trying to do and what exactly we mean.”
But one can’t deny that Depeche Mode – roughly translated from the French as “fast fashion” – have fashioned their seemingly unstoppable career by trolling the darker waters of human emotion, something that serves as the main draw for legions of black-clad fans worldwide.
“The surface of Depeche Mode is very dark and gloomy, but sometimes that does seem to be pushed so over the top that it edges into a kind of inside joke,” said music journalist Alan Light.
“Though for some of their fans, the gloom and doom is precisely what is so appealing.”
Gahan, Gore and Fletcher are still wildly appealing to those fans. Recently they released their 12th studio album, “Sounds Of The Universe,” their most synth-heavy effort in 20 years.
Utilizing vintage analog keyboards and drum machines, the English trio rekindle their 1980s sound – one which still evokes a futuristic, outer space vibe – while lyrically again giving voice to their longtime obsession: The sadomasochistic elements of relationships and faith.
“Unlike a lot of the electro groups, who were groundbreaking in their use of technology but unable to translate that into sturdy songs, Depeche Mode feel like real writers who happen to use these sounds as their canvas,” Light said.
On the slowed-down ‘In Chains’, Gahan swoons over a woman he knows is bad for him but whom he can’t resist: “I know you knew on the day you were born/I know somehow I should’ve been warned/I know I walk every midnight to dawn in chains.”
Other standouts include ‘Fragile Tension’ and ‘Corrupt’, and the Gahan-penned tracks ‘Hole To Feed’ and ‘Come Back’. But the real gem is the buzzing lead single ‘Wrong’, with an in-your-face refrain that makes for the most eye-opening Mode song since ‘Personal Jesus’.
“(Wrong) wasn’t the obvious choice,” said Gahan. “I don’t think we picked it (as a single) because we felt it was the best song.”
“We picked it because we thought it was the most innovative thing we had done that was challenging the sound of Depeche Mode.”