by Donnytilla & LeMonjello
Get your leather vests, new wave spikes and be ready to feel depressed, but in a good way, cuz today we’re talking Depeche Mode. From the Martin’s cathartic themes of sin and sadness to Dave’s invigorating twirls, Donny and Lem give a few reasons to get into the Mode.
The Martin Songs
Since the early days after Vince Clarke left to form other synth pop giants Yaz & Erasure, Martin Gore has been DM’s primary songwriter. Dave Gahan’s cavernous vocals have taken those songs around the world, but every once in a while Martin writes a song that I have to believe he feels is just too special to give away.
Black Celebrations’s Question of Lust, Music for the Masses’ The Things You Said, Songs of Faith and Devotion’s One Caress* among many others, these are songs that strike close to home for Martin, I’m sure (Home is another great one from Ultra). Take for instance the perpetually lovesick Somebody, from Some Great Reward. That song has made me feel an aching pit in my stomach, a longing for as long as I can remember. This seems to be a common thread of the Martin songs. Intensely personal songs of pain, betrayal, love and lust.
*anecdote here. In high school one afternoon I found myself home alone and was belting this song out with my best Gore impression. My dad a few minutes later came up from the basement and said I sounded really good. I was quite embarrassed, I didn’t know he was home. But you know what? I was totally nailing it, he was right.
The classically trained Alan Wilder was a member of the band up through 93’s Songs of Faith and Devotion. His contributions mark some of my favourite aspects of Depeche Mode’s music, namely those indelible synth riffs.
From Get The Balance Right, Here is the House, But Not Tonight – a simple string of a few well placed notes are enough to give a song its emotional weight. I spent many high school afternoons plucking these out on our living room piano. I crave these.
The Clean-Cut Years
Like most people, my initial assumption of Depeche Mode was that they emerged from the dungeon as a longtime group of S&M synth musicians. Not surprisingly, upon actually engaging with the band’s music, I discovered that the early years of DM were fairly clean cut. Live performances from the Speak and Spell era show the a band ready to set you up with a high interest loan. The contrast with the style of their later years is reminiscent of the Beatles Pierre Cardin suits. It’s all very wholesome:
By 1983, the release of Construction Time Again showed that DM was a band in transition. My first proper introduction to DM was their live performance of “Everything Counts” on German TV, during the band’s attempt to cut the mustard with the sprockets. The song and performance epitomize the band’s ongoing shift toward darker tones in their music and appearance. The song covers themes of greed and corruption over a grinding baseline, while being accentuated by a simultaneously sunny and foreboding xylophone and a melodica (charmingly mimed on stage by Gore). Stylistically, the band had one foot in the past (Dave Gahan’s banker suit and timeless dance, Andy Fletcher’s crew cut Hardy Boys chic) while Gore forges ahead with a FITTED fishnet shirt. Also the band is playing in front of a sandwich truck. It’s a fitting (and weird) moment of band moving closer toward their eventual lane.
This is just a great song. A deep cut from Violator produced by Flood with lyrics about getting randy while directing a woman to put on a blue dress and realizing that this is what “makes the world turn.” (…K.) Writer Marty Gore has referred to the song as “pervy” (source: wikipedia) and he might be right.
A lot of people believe that Gore was predicting the infamous “blue dress” from the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal that occurred 7 to 8 years later. I don’t place much stock in so called conspiracy theories but the burden of proof is on others to prove that Gore wasn’t predicting this. Until then, I think it is certainly true, and a lot of people agree with that sentiment.
He’s been doing the same moves for over 30 years, and they still slay.