Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel (4/5)
“I don't wanna sound like a queer or nothin', but I think Depeche Mode is a sweet band!”
I must first confess that I don’t have much of a history with Depeche Mode. Next I have to confess that I actually saw Orgazmo. I know, I know, the movie sucks, but that was a funny running gag. Back to Depeche Mode: sure, I remember getting tired of “Personal Jesus” and thinking that “Enjoy the Silence” was a much better single, but I don’t own any of their CDs and have never seen them in concert. About four years ago I finally heard Violator in its entirety and have been exposed to a good deal of Exciter. Oh, and I have also tried the delicious Jones© drink Depeach Mode. If you never end up listening to this album, you should at least pick up that drink if you can find it.
I was surprised at the opening of the album, which greets you with a wall of white noise. This is one of several moments that recall industrial music from a decade or so back. There are several other times where Depeche Mode employ caustic sounds in the middle of a pop glean. In any event, “A Pain That I’m Used To” is an effective and aggressive opener.
This segues into the dancier John the Revelator. At this point some of you may be having flashbacks to that “Personal Jesus” dance from back and the day, but I promise this is much better. In fact it’s probably my favorite song off the album.
Well, maybe my second favorite, because “Precious” is eightiestastic! This song recalls that famed decade the most – and I mean that in a good way.
Much of the rest of the album falls into more atmospherics. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s one of those albums that ‘reveals itself,’” but that’s a good thing, really it is! Playing the Angel is actually far better than it needs or should be. These guys have been around longer than I’ve been alive (and I’m not that young anymore). Depeche Mode does a fine job of sounding relevant without falling into the trap of trying to “modernize” their sound. It all comes off rather well.
The only problem I really have with the album, is the fact that the lyrics get a little heavy handed at times. This is to be expected, and probably will only bother those completely unfamiliar with the band.
Perhaps one of the things that bodes well for the band are all of those eighties bands that started popping up several years back: The Killers, Hot Hot Heat, Interpol, Stellastarr*, and plenty others. There’s seems to be place for Depeche Mode now. Depeche Mode doesn’t sound like they’re competing with these bands, but rather that they influenced these bands, which is how it should be. After hearing most of Exciter I wouldn’t necessarily say this album is a return to form as I would say the world has shifted so people can see a new angle to Depeche Mode, and appreciate them once again