I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t get into them. A great singles band… I’ve got a few friends who are die-hards but I can’t understand it. There’s likely a huge crossover of The Cure / Depeche Mode and I absolutely adore the former. Bafflingly (to these ears) gigantic in Europe.
Considered a generous 3, but they broke the streak of “an album every 4 years since 1993” last year.
The early stuff does little for me. Black Celebration and Music for the Masses were good. But Violator and Songs of Faith were really huge for me. Ultra had some great songs too but is a bit of a mixed bag and it was all downhill after that for me (I don’t mind Exciter if I’m in the right mood, but that is an exceedingly misleading title).
It’s not a U2 situation where they have been actively bad for the last 20 years, it’s more that nothing has really grabbed me. Just meh.
Long rambly post I haven’t bothered going back over because I wouldn’t post it if I did. Not going to change anyone’s mind but a few reasons I love them
My mum is a huge Depeche Mode fan, saw a lot of small club shows in the 80s etc. and they’re the first band I ever remember hearing around the house growing up. I probably know the words to Violator and SOFAD (whether or not I understood them) at a very young age.
I totally understand why people don’t get them or like them, because they shouldn’t really work. They’re painfully uncool (Dave Gahan has a very misguided ’cool uncle’ vibe that makes me cringe whenever I read an interview with him and most of his solo work is dull, and in any other universe Fletch would be a middle manager at an auditor’s office somewhere). But that’s kind of what also makes them so great, and I suspect so huge; they’re a few really awkward uncool guys from Basildon making (for the most part of their career) unusual, progressive music that connects with millions on a deep level. On the surface it’s like their whole career is a big accident (not to understate what talented songwriters Martin Gore, Alan Wilder and Vince Clarke are). But I think they embrace that and go all-in with a bit of stadium posturing and theatrics.
Personally they’ve had a big influence on my life; Violator, SOFAD and Ultra clicked with a kid/teen discovering rock and they sent me in all sorts of directions to discover new music; on one hand you’ve got the grungy, gothy rock/industrial sound which influenced people like Deftones and NIN, on the other you’ve got a whole ecosystem of extended 12” mixes for every release by people like LFO, Daniel Miller, DJ Shadow, Goldfrapp…
Since then I’ve gone back and got much more into their older stuff too; Construction Time Again in particular is a banger. And some of their non-album or B-side tracks are right up with some of my synth-era favourites too. I think Playing the Angel is the last of theirs that I’d play all the way through and enjoy.
A big part of their work and almost another band member in my mind is the visual world created for them by Anton Corbijn. Their concert backdrop films, music videos, record sleeves, photoshoots are a huge body of work that made me get into visual art and then design; the Violator Tour in particular is an amazing thing at quite a bleak time for the band, Dave Gahan strung out on Heroin surrounded by giant plague doctor-like marching shadows.
101 is one of the best live recordings and concert films ever, hands down (directed by D A Pennbaker). It really captured the devotion that they seem to stir up in fans. Jeremy Deller made a film more recently about the fanaticism of many fans, particularly in Russia and Eastern Europe and I’d recommend it to anyone, fan or not, because it’s such a heartwarming thing and is free to watch.
Unashamedly love them. For a band that have a cultivated ‘cool’ image they are actually uber uncool, but this only adds to the appeal. Dave Gahan’s rubbish dad dancing and constant ‘Wooh, yeah’ over every song cracks me up. That said, Martin Gore is actually pretty cool when he sings the songs (which he seems to do more of these days).
Caught them live on the Devotional tour way back when (supported by a risible Sisters Of Mercy) and it was an amazing show. It was the tour where they got Anton Corbijn to do a load of the set design and it cost a fortune/lost them money. Worth it though - check out that setlist:
Great day out at ‘The National Sports Arena’ in Crystal Palace…
Coincidentally, the next time I caught them live was at The Olympic Stadium many years later. Something about them and athletics stadiums maybe
Enjoy dipping into their early poppy stuff periodically. Lots of fun. From the later stuff, Playing The Angel is probably their best late career classic. From the sessions for that, Martyr (which didn’t make the album) feels like a nice nod to their 80s synthy roots…
They managed to break massive in the US before the UK (where they were definitely not taken 100% seriously throughout the 80s tbf). Their live album 101 is of them playing to 60,000 people at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in 1988
Amuses me how every single albums of theirs is pretty much nailed on to go to number one in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France et al every single time they release anything