Jun 2017 05

Depeche Mode - SpiritDepeche Mode
Category: Synthpop
Album: Spirit
Stars: 2.5
Blurb: A legendary band continues a downward trajectory but with flashes of former brilliance.


 

The good news is that Spirit is a better album than Delta Machine. The bad news is that that’s not saying much as Delta Machine is in this writer’s view an uneven album, an album that came off as an underdeveloped, shaky misfire at recapturing the feel of Songs of Faith and Devotion. This ReView is off to a harsh start and it’s going to get harsher, so readers should know that Depeche Mode is one of my favorite bands and that may be one of the reasons I am so tough on this album. One would like to think that if Depeche Mode reads this that they will think that at least it reflects one of the points of the album: cast aside blind obedience and unquestioning loyalty and try challenging the status quo as well as your own beliefs. Don’t do tomorrow what you did today just because it’s what you did yesterday. Now, let’s get on to the album itself.

The high point of Spirit is the very first song and the album’s saving grace. “Going Backwards” is a magnificent track, ironically titled since it is the first track and a look backwards to an earlier, stronger version of Depeche Mode; it sounds like a lost song from Music for the Masses. On previous albums, Martin Gore’s trilling sometimes borders on excessive, but on “Going Backwards,” his voice perfectly complements and completes the song. Lines such as “We have no respect / we have lost control,” “We can track it all with satellites,” and “Killings we can control” lay out the themes of this socially conscious, pseudo-political – though the band denies it – album. From here, we move to the first single, “Where’s the Revolution,” and in case the listener hasn’t quite picked up on it yet, the song makes it much clearer. Someone, presumably us as citizens/listeners/consumers, are admonished for or at least challenged about our beliefs and actions or lack thereof. We still have a chance to figure things out as we are informed and encouraged in the bridge that “The train is coming / so get on board.” Apparently, that is the only choice. Whereas Snowpiercer suggests that we might be better off getting off the train altogether, if such a thing is possible, “Where’s the Revolution” wants us to leave here but for destination unknown – the album’s preferred politics and social actions are soft and fuzzy, yet it all comes off as heavy-handed. The absence of the question mark suggests that what sounds like a question is really an answer; in short, there is no revolution. It might be fair to ask Depeche Mode to reinvent its own sound for the track, but instead of revolution, we get dilution. The verses are too drawn out, the bridge is not needed, and only the chorus redeems the song. Thus far, we have a good/great opening track and an okay second track (but weak first single).

After this, the unraveling begins. “The Worse Crime” attempts to gain our sympathies over “a lynching in the square,” but it just meanders about vocally and musically as the chorus blends right in with the verse. “Scum” features distorted vocals, the use of which is hard to understand with a singer as good as Dave Gahan, and while things pick up all around with the all-too-brief “Pull the trigger” section, they then settle back into a plod. “You Move” is an average track, but listening to the album in sequence, it seems weighted down the by the two previous fizzles. “Cover Me” feels very Soulsavers, which would be fine if this was a Soulsavers album… but it’s not, so “Cover Me” with it bare instrumentation, stretched out vocals, and slow sliding guitar lines seems out of place, though again, not necessarily bad. When the electronic programming comes in during the final third of the track, it feels too little, too late, and it doesn’t go anywhere. “Poison Heart” gets a bit cabaret for my tastes, though it is not without its redeeming qualities; particularly in the chorus with the vocal interplay between Gahan and Gore. After over three decades, Depeche Mode should have known rhymes like those found in “So Much Love” and “Poorman” are a dime a dump truck load. “Hey, he’s on the road / Pushing along his heavy load / Heading for no fixed abode.” These lines are simply unforgivable, and with flat vocals and uninspired music to boot, “Poorman” is a complete bomb. Closing the album out, “Fail” places Gore at the forefront again, but the song eschews a chorus, making it difficult to disagree with its title.

The deluxe edition includes an extra disc of five remixes that neither enhance nor detract from the overall assessment of Spirit. This is not Depeche Mode’s first exploration of social concerns – you can go back to 1983’s Construction Time Again – but the band may be at its best when they thrust and float through the realms of sex, love, and spirituality. There has always been a repressed lounge singer swinging on a pole somewhere within Dave Gahan, but that persona comes out a bit too much on Spirit. This is the sound of a group losing altitude, and we can only hope for either a return to form – something as good as Playing the Angel or Sounds of the Universe will suffice – or a Gahan solo disc as great as Hourglass.
 
Track list:

  1. Going Backwards
  2. Where’s the Revolution
  3. The Worst Crime
  4. Scum
  5. You Move
  6. Cover Me
  7. Eternal
  8. Poison Hate
  9. So Much Love
  10. Poorman
  11. No More (This is the Last Time)
  12. Fail

 
Depeche Mode
Website, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
Columbia Records
Website, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
Mute Records
Website, Facebook, Twitter (U.S.A.), Twitter (U.K.), YouTube
 
Purchase at:
Amazon CD (Standard Edition)
Amazon CD (Deluxe Edition)
Amazon MP3
Amazon Vinyl
Storming the Base CD (Standard Edition)
Storming the Base CD (Deluxe Edition)
Storming the Base Vinyl
 
2017-03-17
 
William Nesbitt
Professor of English and Chair of Humanities and General Education
Beacon College, http://www.beaconcollege.edu

2 Comments

  1. martin maclean says:

    Rubbish its a great album as more noteworthy publications have stated .Most have given it 90%.Cover me is brilliant and Poorman is pretty good too as is Scum .Delta machine was decent enough but SOTU was pretty lame and probably their worst ever.This is there best stuff since Playing the Angel and SOFAD days without doubt .

    • Ilker Yücel says:

      As the Editor, I defend the writer’s right to his opinion and that he backed it up with a thoughtful analysis.
      That said, I disagree with his opinion and think you’re right that Delta Machine and SotU weren’t strong points in the discography; I’ve not heard Spirit in full, so I can’t say myself, but what I have heard doesn’t sound nearly as weak as the ReView made it out to be.
      Thank you very much for reading and for the comment.

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