Formed in 1977 by classmates in an industrial town in south London, Depeche Mode symbolized the dawn of a new musical era, erasing chaotic and destructive punk for melodies that reflected the hope of growth and progress. 1980s, but also (especially?) its dark side. After having sold more than 100 million albums worldwide without ceasing to seek or innovate, these pioneers of synthetic pop have just released a disappointing fifteenth album (apart from perhaps the kitsch "Ghost Again", finally, no, sorry, but frankly we have the impression of listening to Indochine). Memento Mori is a tribute to Andy Fletcher, who died suddenly last year of an aortic dissection at age 60. The quartet that has become a trio will now have to find its rhythm as a duo. While waiting for an enchanting future, all we have to do is immerse ourselves in their abundant discography of well-executed hits. Because there is no shortage of them! Be careful, this classification, totally subjective, may make some teeth cringe.
From its second album A Broken Frame released in 1982, Depeche Mode found its complex tone, a dance rocked by an eerie melancholy. 'Leave in Silence', with its low backing vocals, simple yet haunting piano line, languidly swinging beats, is one of the band's most underrated gems.
More than 30 years after its formation, Depeche Mode proves that it still has something under the hood. "Wrong" is an excellent rock track, with an agonizing rise, Radiohead on steroids, with barely contained violence. Besides, his clip, directed for once by Patrick Daughters (who worked with Snow Patrol or Muse), is extremely brutal. "That was dark humor!" ” will defend Martin Gore, who imagined the album from which it came (Sounds of the Universe, released in 2009), in a creative flight from his home studio in California. He reconnects with the 1980 sounds of his past, as well as his favorite themes (God, the world going into a spin and rotten politicians...). This is not about revolution, but maybe about nostalgia and survival? Besides, unlike all those who have left their mark on the history of rock, the members of the group do not carry on their faces the stigmata of their excesses (drugs, alcohol, parties, women).
It's a UFO in the Depeche Mode discography. This slow could have been composed by Elton John or Queen, with its heavy pianos, mouth-to-mouth vocals and heartbreaking cry: "Accusations / Lies / Hand me my sentence, I'll show no repentance / I'll suffer with pride…" A little breath in the group's eighth album, Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993), that of the grunge turn (the group never ignored trends), a huge success in the charts which leaves us with a little ice cream, this gospel melody sung by Dave Gahan retains all its charm. Above all, a breather, the group really needed it, undermined by excess alcohol, drugs, depression... And soon the departure of Alan Wilder.
From their debut album Speak
Featured on Depeche Mode's fourth album, recorded in 1984 at the legendary Hansa Mischraum studios in Berlin, "People Are People" is a jewel of complex, deep-sounding industrial music, as catchy as its anti-racist, anti-homophobic and pacifist message. . Comprised of loops of various recorded sounds (pots tumbling down stairs, banging on stoves, or guttural "oh ohs"), expertly mixed with the usual drums and synths, it's one of the band's greatest hits, a gay anthem... And yet they hate it! Martin Gore, finding it too commercial, has refused to play it since 1988. Too bad.
In 1997, when the group was at its lowest, physically and mentally, it managed to come out of the bottom of its hole with the aptly named "It's No Good", taken from the album Ultra. The slightly futuristic production with a Matrix aesthetic (which will be released two years later) is fine, nothing protrudes, and the whole seems slowed down, as if vice stuck them to the ground. It's one of Depeche Mode's sexiest tracks. Unable at the time to play it live, "It's No Good" would later become one of the essentials of their setlist.
Is it the influence of Alan Wilder, trained in classical piano and arrived in the group a year earlier (for the record, they recruited him via an anonymous ad posted in the cult Melody Maker magazine)? The crown jewel of Some Great Reward (1984) is a perfect balance of daring vocal games, irresistible drum rolls, sonic inventiveness and sulphurous lyrics about SM relationships, with political overtones. Yes ! You can even hear the cracking of chains and whips... Banned from the BBC and American radio (not surprising), "Master and Servant" is still a hit when it comes out (not surprising either).
It's simply the opening track of one of their greatest albums. After briefly wading through the soup (with Black Celebration), Music for the Masses (1987) is simply a timeless masterpiece. The group, then at the height of its popularity, is preparing to play in front of 60,000 people at the legendary American football meeting: the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Always in search of new technologies, he now perfectly masters the use of samples. "Never Let Me Down Again" is of rare elegance. Its orchestrations and its choirs or masterful synths (the border is erased), its rock side, subtly symbolize the allusions to taking drugs. Crazy modern, we could hear it again recently in the series The Last of Us, HBO's winter blockbuster...
An up-tempo ballad released as a single in 1990, "Enjoy the Silence" bridges the 1980s and 1990s, between waning new wave synth-pop and nascent dance techno. A litany both near and far, hard and tender, intimate and universal, it touches on the despair in which we sometimes like to curl up, that of a love that we hold in our arms for the last time. The clip is signed by their lifelong visual collaborator: Anton Corbijn (he has directed the majority of their clips since 1986), who was inspired by Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. We see the rose, also appearing on the cover of the album, a symbol of sad romanticism that stings, tinting his songs.
Recorded in Milan during the sessions for their sixth album Violator (1990), it is one of their biggest commercial successes to date. Covered brilliantly by Marilyn Manson, Johnny Cash, Nina Hagen... "Personal Jesus" has elevated Depeche Mode to the rank of international superstars, capable of causing riots. It is however a very different title from their repertoire. We find, of course, the dark baritone voice of Dave Gahan, the hypnotic electronic loops which are their trademark, but there is something organic here in this brilliant guitar riff which we will never get tired of, blues and religion, or rather adoration, that of rockstars like Elvis elevated to the rank of gods. In 1989, it was controversial, of course, and the public liked it... inevitably.