Albums Of The Week

Depeche Mode's 14th album is their most politically charged offering

Depeche Mode’s (from left) Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher take on subjects such as the de-evolution of society, misinformation and misguided leaders in their album Spirit.
Depeche Mode’s (from left) Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher take on subjects such as the de-evolution of society, misinformation and misguided leaders in their album Spirit.PHOTO: SONY MUSIC

British trio Depeche Mode return to make a political stand with their 14th album

Electronic pop godfathers Depeche Mode assert their relevance with their most politically charged body of work yet in their 14th album.

Pre-album single Where's The Revolution - which came with a stark Anton Corbijn-directed music video featuring a dystopian landscape presided by an iron-fisted leader - gave only a hint of what was to come with the full album.

While the British trio of frontman Dave Gahan, 54, multi-instrumentalist and principal songwriter Martin Gore, 55, and keyboard/synth player Andy Fletcher, 55, have never shied away from making a stand in early tunes such as Everything Counts (1983) and People Are People (1984), Spirit is a veracious sign of the times, a batch of songs made in the time of Brexit and United States President Donald Trump's rise to power.

Album opener Going Backwards sets the mood with its foreboding and dark rhythms as the luscious vocals of Gahan and Gore take on the de-evolution of society amid technological breakthrough, lamenting that "we feel nothing, nothing inside".

  • ELECTRONICA/ SYNTHPOP

  • SPIRIT

    Depeche Mode

    Columbia/Mute

On sci-fi lullaby The Worst Crime, they take aim at "misinformation", "misguided leaders" and "apathetic hesitation". Poorman, full of sinister, industrial rock vibes, focuses on the fallacies of trickledown economics ("Tell us just how long it's going to take/For it to trickle down?")

Scum is pure vitriol, with Gahan spewing contempt for the titular character ("Hey scum/What have you ever done for anyone... What are you going to do when karma comes?") amid swelling synths and snazzy beats.

A couple of tracks take a detour and delve into affairs of the heart, but even these are tempered with bitterness. "I like the way you move," Gahan sings on You Move, before turning around and adding "I don't need you, I don't need your ball and chain/There's no water in that well."

With a new producer, Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford, at the helm, Spirit is the sound of a band revitalised, with a fresh, contemporary sound that still retains the distinctive brand of stylish, sensual synthpop that they have been honing since the early 1980s.

As in releases past, the clinical repetitions are embellished with the swagger of rock and resonance of soul music. Poison Heart, the most organic-sounding track on the album, shines with a retro vibe.

Then there is Eternal, sung by Gore, a tender rumination on love in dark times: "And when the black cloud rises and the radiation falls/I will look you in the eye and kiss you/And give you all my love as well as any man can."

Yes, there is still hope.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Stark sign of the times'. Print Edition | Subscribe