Q: Why Depeche Mode?
A: DM is my all-time favorite band. Electronic pioneers that have influenced bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Killers, Muse, Marilyn Manson and The Deftones among many others. DM defined my youth. In fact they shaped who I was and am more than anything else in high school or college. They were my first concert (Violator tour), the first albums I ever bought, and my first rockstar crushes. I have so many memories attached to their songs. They have kept me driving around late at night when I couldn’t fathom turning off the tape deck – curfew be damned! They still make me late for work when I don’t want to turn off my iPod. They are the band I put on when I need inspiration to write. No matter how creatively drained I am songs like “Alone” and “Memphisto” and “Rush” really get me going. I have named 2 plays and 13 issues of a graphic novel after their songs. Putting on headphones and just melting into the music changes me; alters my moods like no other band does. Their music is gorgeous, and sad, and fun, and angry, and sexy, and progressive. It makes you want to go out and either fuck someone or punch them.
Q: Who are Depeche Mode?
A: Members: Vince Clark (1980-81), Dave Gahan (1980-Present), Martin Gore (1980-Present), Andrew Fletcher (1980-Present), Alan Wilder (1982-1995)
Q: What was my listen and review process?
A: I listened to each album multiple times in a row over the span of a month. Some albums I listened to 10 times but none less than 4 times. I also listened to the next album once before I reviewed the previous. That way I could get an eye toward their evolution. I graded each song on a scale from 1-10 and then took the average grade from the original studio album and made the definitive ranking at the end. For each album I noted where the original album ended and where the bonus tracks start. Some of the bonus tracks are pretty awesome so definitely listen to those if you can.
Q: Did I include every album?
A: Every studio album plus one Live album. I listed the ones I left off (compilations, live tours) at the end.
Q: Did I include every song and every version?
A: No. I only included every song that was on a studio album and/or on a B-Side or bonus track. DM loves to put out multiple remixes of songs (Enjoy the Silence has 15 remixes) and they have over 1100 versions and remixes of songs.
Q: Where can I listen to these?
A: Every album and song rated here is directly from Spotify and available to you today!
Speak & Spell (1981) – The debut album suffers from a little bit of an identity crisis: lots of synths, electronic drums, and bleep-y beats. But this is the album that helped define a genre (New Wave). Gore loved to give double meanings to album names and titled this after a child’s toy after the label said it sounded too amateur. Despite the name they are tackling some adult themes here. The sound is like Kraftwerk through the eyes of myopic adolescents who [think they] are inventing a stylistic future sound. Speak & Spell is as awkward and energetic as the teenagers that created it. DM is finding their way here with dance, angst layered, pop tunes. It’s a tad all over the place and a little repetitive but no one had heard anything like it before. There are some solid standouts on this album as well as some forgettable ones. Clark was a founding member and wrote most of these songs. He then left to form Yazoo (then Erasure). All three bands are better for it. Solid debut. Peak US Billboard position: 192
- New Life – 8 – Classic early DM. This is where it all begins; now you know what you’re in for.
- I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead – 8 – An underrated gem. Bouncy yet dark at the same time.
- Puppets – 5 – Nothing exciting here, move along.
- Boys Say Go! – 8 – 1 of 2 (un)intentional gay anthems on this album. Thanks Vince Clark!
- Nodisco! – 5 – This is too much of a New Life retread for me.
- What’s Your Name? – 9- The second gay anthem. You either love this or hate it. This is the song that made me both a gaybo and a DM fan for life. Gahan and Gore hate this song but for me it falls into that “It’s-so-bad-it’s-good” category. I mean, is this song even for real?!
- Photographic – 6 – By now some of these songs are starting to sound the same. This one is particularly repetitive.
- Tora! Tora! Tora! – 6 – Slightly different as the song above but not by much.
- Big Muff – 5 – DM loves their instrumentals and for the most part I do too but one is a song very much of its time. It sounds like the soundtrack from a bad 70’s disco/Sci-fi movie. Skippable.
- Any Second Now (Voices) – 6 – Precursor of many future Gore ballads.
- Just Can’t Get Enough – 10 – This is the song that put them on the (U.S.) map. It’s now 35 years old and you still hear it in pop culture regularly. It’s a great bouncy anthem for moody teens.
***The original album ended here***
- Dreaming of Me – 8 – DM’s debut single. It’s didn’t really chart and was removed from the US version only to appear as a B-side. This version has the original cold end.
- Ice Machine – 7 – This seems like an early attempt at what Blasphemous Rumors ends up as.
- Shout – 6 – I’d grade this higher if the vocal track wasn’t so muted. A Kraftwerk knock-off.
- Any Second Now – 6 – Instrumental version of the (Voices) song above.
- Just Can’t Get Enough [schizo mix] – 8 – Decent remix.
Singles: Dreaming of Me (#47 U.S. Billboard Dance chart), New Life (#29-Dance), Just Can’t Get Enough (#26-Dance)
The song you know: Just Can’t Get Enough
The song you should know: What’s Your Name?
A Broken Frame (1982) – The first album without Clark. Part of the album has his influence and part shows what DM is going to become with Gore taking song writing control. The individual singles are not as strong as on Speak & Spell even though they are tighter and have more of a point of view. The album as a whole is more cohesive in narrative and more diverse musically. Alan Wilder has joined the band for live performances but after this album was written and recorded. Fun Fact: This was the second DM album that I ever purchased (after Violator) as I was still discovering them. I vividly remember agonizing over which cassette album to buy next; standing along the wall at Camelot Music in Century III Mall asking advice from the salesclerk who was trying to steer me towards Music for the Masses. I settled on this because I thought the cover looked dark and angst-y and mysterious. Bad choice. Peak US Billboard position: 177
- Leave In Silence – 7 – Not much advancement from the previous album. A little starker and sadder maybe?
- My Secret Garden – 7 – This song is saved by the vocal turn it takes at 2:30. The rest is very repetitive.
- Monument – 6 – There are parts of this song that I really like and parts that I don’t like at all.
- Nothing To Fear – 7 – Starting to get the instrumentals right.
- See You – 7 – Lyrics and melodies are tighter on this; the first single from the album and the first written by Gore.
- Satellite – 5 – This song really drags for me.
- The Meaning of Love – 7 – A bouncy catchy tune about the purpose of relationships.
- A Photograph of You – 6 – This is too bubblegum 60s Britpop for me.
- Shouldn’t Have Done That – 7 – This is the one song that is very different from everything else up to this point. Even though it hits you over the head with the blowing wind, marching, nursery-carousel etc. it still gets points for at least trying.
- The Sun & The Rainfall – 9 – This is my favorite song on this album. It’s the only track that’s really leaning into the future of DM. You’ll hear that bass-y synth beat repeated in future tracks.
***The original album ended here***
- My Secret Garden (Live) – 8 – DM is such a different experience live than they are in the studio. They love to play with beats and intros and samples on stage that can really make a song more exciting. Case in point here. The ticked-up tempo, the synth-horns, the shorter run-time makes this version far superior to the studio version without losing anything in the process.
- See You (Live) – 8 – The harmonies are great.
- Satellite (Live) – 5 – The live version is no better than the studio. It takes all my will-power not to fast-forward. Dislike.
- Nothing To Fear (Live) – 7
- The Meaning Of Love (Live) –7 – How can I get Dave’s intro “Okay, this is the Meaning of Love” as my ringtone?
- A Photograph of You (Live) – 6
- Now, This is Fun – 7 – A little fractured but interesting.
- Oberkorn (It’s a Small Town) – 6 – slow depressing instrumental.
- Excerpt From: My Secret Garden – 8
Singles: See You (Did not chart in the US), The Meaning of Love (did not chart), Leave in Silence (did not chart)
The song you know: See You (maybe? – No real single standouts here.)
The song you should know: The Sun & the Rainfall
Construction Time Again (1983) – This is a transitional album for sure. DM has taken the bubblegum from the earlier albums and stuck it on their bedpost in case they want to chew it later (they will). CTA has some slick beats and synths and the fact that it’s much less traditional-pop driven than the previous albums shows they’re maturing. However that doesn’t resonate with listeners as much. CTA is heavy on political themes and is known for introducing industrial music to their sound, even the cover evokes a worker with his anvil ready to strike as if DM is saying they are poised to introduce these industrial sounds. This album has one of the most iconic DM songs on it “Everything Counts” but despite that it failed to chart in the U.S.
- Love, in Itself – 6 – Lays the groundwork for future songs especially on Black Celebration.
- More Than a Party – 7 – Listen to this one while on the elliptical machine.
- Pipeline – 4 – Is it a slow song? A fast one? An instrumental. I don’t think it even knows.
- Everything Counts – 9 – A near perfect DM song. A classic.
- Two Minute Warning – 8 – The industrial sounds are prevalent on this track. You’ll hear them again and again over the next few albums which will come to define their sound.
- Shame – 6 – This song features an electronically altered pygmy chant in the background
- The Landscape is Changing – 7 – This reminds me of Gore’s solo work “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” but with more energy.
- Told You So – 6 – This song is a little too all over the place for me
- And Then… – 8 – One of their more beautiful songs. I’d like to listen to an instrumental version of it.
- Everything Counts (reprise) – 9 – a :59 hidden track.
***The original album ended here***
- Get the Balance Right – 7 – Trying for a hook but not fully succeeding .
- The Great Outdoors! – 5 – One of their more annoying instrumentals.
- Work Hard – 5 – Kraftwerk meets The Village People. It’s the chorus that throws me off. We get it! We’ve got to work hard!
- Fools – 6 – Martin Gore is singing on this one, that’s all I care to say about it.
- Get the Balance Right (Combo Mix) – 6 – a herky-jerky remix.
- Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts) – 9 – one of those rare remixes that are even better than the original. Can I give it a 9.5?
- Love, in Itself. 4” – 8 – A stripped down lounge version of this song. Showcases their musical talent for song-writing and playing with genres. I’d be super stoked if I heard this in a cabaret bar.
Singles: Everything Counts (#17 US Dance chart), Get the Balance Right (#31-Dance), Love, in Itself (Did not chart in the US)
The song you know: Everything Counts
The song you should know: Two Minute Warning
Some Great Reward (1984) – Now this is a solid album! Great from start to finish. It’s the album that tapped into a generation of angst-y wannabe goth teens. If DM was standing outside the factory in the last album they are right there on the machine floor in Some Great Reward. The industrial sounds and beats are dialed up exquisitely. From the assembly lines bangs and dance ticks on People Are People to the pulse-pounding thrusts and beats in Master & Servant. They use these sounds to evoke work, sex, love, and despair, often at the same time. This album is all about opposites or dualities. Even the album cover shows a happy bride and groom in front of an oppressive sterile factory. In SGR, DM has finally settled on their signature style (for now.) SGR peaks at #51 on the US Billboard charts. Not too bad after completely failing to chart with the last album.
- Something To Do – 8 – Right out of the gate you get teen angst at its best. They drop a dark beat daring you not to dance alone in your room while juxtaposing it with the lyrics of utter ennui. It’s the musical equivalent of looking into a packed fridge and proclaiming “There’s nothing to eat!”
- Lie to Me – 8 – You want something to do? How about faking that you love someone just to have sex. What’s more moody teen than that?
- People Are People – 9 – Not only do the lyrics still remain relevant 30+ years later but the beat feels fresh and new. Gore hates this song; he thinks it’s too on the nose but that works for me.
- It Doesn’t Matter – 7 – First they begged for something to do, then for sex, then for harmony, and now for companionship and reconciliation.
- Stories Of Old – 7 – They tease that croaking-machine noise that is better used in M&S below.
- Somebody – 9 – One of the few songs that Gore sings lead vocals on. It starts as a love song but then builds to the revelation that he hates that love stuff but is willing to fake it to get what he wants.
- Master & Servant – 9 – Explicit for 1984 as it’s bringing the kink to the dancefloor. Whip cracks, growls, slaps, chains, it even features gasps of pain and release. Being banned in several countries only caused it to pick up steam in the underground and eventually chart in every country it was released in. This is the song you blast in your bedroom to piss off your parents.
- If You Want – 7 – You want to come with me? Then quit being such a prude. Didn’t you just hear the previous song?
- Blasphemous Rumours – 9 – One of their few story songs, it’s teenage suicide as brought on by an oppressive hive mind. The religious community lost their minds over this song and it wasn’t released in the U.S. as a single. The kids found it anyway and turned it into an anti-religion suicide prevention anthem. The breaths at the end are the reverse of the gasps in M&S.
***The original album ended here***
- If You Want (live) – 7
- People Are People (live) – 9
- Somebody (live) – 9
- Blasphemous Rumours (live) – 9
- Master & Servant (live) – 8 – This gets a slightly lower grade for taking the through-line up an octave and dumbing down the ending
- In Your Memory – 7 – This is a B-side for a reason
- (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me – 6 – Remember that bubblegum on the bedpost? A few chews on it here.
- Somebody Remix – 9 – Less train more heartbeat.
Singles: People Are People (First DM song on the Billboard Hot 100 – peaked at #13, #44 on the dance chart), Master & Servant (#87 – Hot 100, #49- Dance), Blasphemous Rumours (not released in US – thanks to the Religious Right!), Somebody (Not released in the US)
The song you know: People Are People
The song you should know: Lie To Me
Black Celebration (1986) – This has been cited as one the most influential albums of the 1980s, it’s less tinny than SGR as it dives down to bleakness but it’s not my favorite. It really took the dark, brooding, industrial sound to the max which I appreciate but some of the slower songs aren’t as fun. Still there are some really solid songs here. Gahan is more confident and the themes of sex and death as two sides of the same coin spoke to the synth-goth crowd. There are two big (worldwide) hits that don’t appear on the original release because they were recorded too late to be included. Instead they were released as singles and then added to Catching Up with Depeche Mode (US) album and to the re-release of Black Celebration. I’m including them at the end here as bonus tracks*. Peak US Billboard position: 90
- Black Celebration – 8 – Sounds like death and despair but listen to the lyrics.
- Fly on the Windscreen – 8 – We’re all going to die anyway so let’s have sex.
- A Question of Lust – 7 – The second song with Gore on lead vocals.
- Sometimes – 5 – I can take or leave this one. The echo bothers me.
- It Doesn’t Matter Two – 6 – Sounds like a ghost picnic as Martin sings about lost innocence
- A Question of Time – 8 – One of the best DM songs. About a young man who can’t seem to get the girl so he fantasizes about a time when he can. If you like this listen to the slightly faster version on The Singles 86-89 album
- Stripped – 9 – Extremely influential for sampling a motorcycle engine running (the underlying beat throughout the song), a car’s ignition, and fireworks and then distorting them to be melodic. It’s a song about giving up your vices and dependencies.
- Here is the House – 8 – An underappreciated gem. Something about this song makes me think it could have also been on Madonna’s Like A Prayer
- World Full of Nothing – 6 – This song is technically beautiful but there is something about it that I find unsettling.
- Dressed in Black – 5 – A little cliché. This is gets stuck in my head for the wrong reasons.
- New Dress – 9 – I love this song. Fear of an apocalyptic future while society turns a blind eye. It’s as if the People Are People message didn’t get through to us.
***The original album ended here***
- But Not Tonight – 10 – My all-time favorite DM song. They consider it a throw-away pop song, I consider it a hidden gem. Sad and hopeful at the same time.
- *Shake The Disease – 8 – A brooding, twisted love song.
- *It’s Called a Heart – 6 – Wilder and Gore famously detest this single but I don’t mind it. It is really cheesy but it’s also catchy.
Singles: Shake the Disease (#33 – Dance), A Question of Time (#34 – Dance). None of the following singles charted in the US: It’s Called A Heart, Stripped, But Not Tonight, A Question of Lust.
The song you know: I don’t know, Shake the Disease…maybe? And it wasn’t even on this album.
The song you should know: But Not Tonight
Music for the Masses (1987) – The joke here is that the label kept telling DM to make more commercially viable music. So they chose this title, an image of a megaphone, and then proceeded to put together an album that was defiantly NOT for the masses. Ironically, they scored their first #1 hit in the US with Strangelove. This is their darkest album to date in content, mostly about Gahan’s decent into drug use and the fuel for raw sex. This is the album that the high school freaks and geeks would curl up inside in their Walkman after being bullied. Gone is the cheese and bubblegum to be replaced with something alien and cold and kinky. DM were all in their mid-twenties at this point but resonating with the moody prepubescent teens during the Reagan years. Peak US Billboard position: 35
- Never Let Me Down Again – 10 – Homoerotic on its face and yet it’s a sunny dance pop hit about heroin addiction.
- The Things You Said – 9 – A dark dreamy row. Like a high school cafeteria clique in purgatory.
- Strangelove – 10 – “Will you take the pain I will give to you again and again and will you return it?” That’s messed up. I actually prefer the rerelease radio version with the deeper bass. It’s a dark dance hit.
- Sacred – 8 – Picks up the minor note where Strangelove left it to create an eerie dance track. Of all the tracks on MftM, this is the one that bridges closest to Violator.
- Little 15 – 8 – Remember that girl Gore couldn’t get in It’s A Question of Time? She’s back and she’s depressed.
- Behind The Wheel – 7 – This was a huge hit but I always forget about it despite having one of the most unique and memorable intros in a DM song. It lulls me into a weird place. Maybe that’s the intent?
- I Want You Now – 7 – Explicit desire begging for…sex? Drugs? Both? The teenaged me loved this song but would turn down the volume so my parents couldn’t hear it. How embarrassing!
- To Have and to Hold – 8 – Starts with Cold War paranoia then moves into Gahan asking for forgiveness and absolution before (his) life ends. It concludes with an ominous air raid tone
- Nothing – 8 – Ennui. If the previous song was a vague allegory to suicide this is expanding on that.
- Pimpf (Interlude #1 hidden)– 8 – The second creepiest instrumental from DM (Mephisto is #1). Perfect outro for this album. They play this in concert often (up until the break. That odd coda, “Interlude #1”, isn’t usually played).
***The original album ended here***
- Agent Orange – 7 – Possibly the darkest song on the album. An instrumental that is cold and foreboding .
- Pleasure, Little Treasure – 7 – B-side single that sounds like a connector between Stripped and Route 66.
- Route 66 – 6 – A fun cover that samples a few of their previous songs.
- Stjara – 8 – This is one of the few instrumentals that seems to tell a story.
- Sonata No.14 in C#m – 9 – I’m giving this a 9 b/c Alan messes up at the end
Singles: Strangelove (#50 Hot 100, #1- Dance), Never Let Me Down Again (#63- Hot 100, #12-Dance), Behind the Wheel (#61-Hot 100, #3-Dance), Little 15 (not released in US), Route 66 (not released in US.)
The song you know: Strangelove
The song you should know: Nothing
101 (1989) – “GOOD EVENING PASADENA!” This live album was recorded at a sold out show at the Rose Bowl on 18 June, 1988 and is one of the best DM albums in their collection. The energy from this performance really comes through to the listener. You get a great sense of how their shows are developed to create a mood and take you on a journey of emotions. I love how they play with some of the songs, adding echoes, new synths beats, and strange samples. The fans cheering and singing along adds to the energy and really proves that DM is a great live band. Since these are live perfomances of previously critiqued songs, I’m just putting my ranking for most of them. Peak US Billboard position: 45
- Pimpf – 8 – Sets the mood for the show. Eerie, dark, and mysterious
- Behind The Wheel – 8 – For me this song is so much better live than the album version
- Strangelove – 10
- Sacred – 8
- Something To Do – 8
- Blasphemous Rumours – 9
- Stripped – 9
- Somebody – 9
- The Things You Said – 8
- Black Celebration – 8
- Shake The Disease – 7
- Nothing – 7
- Pleasure, Little Treasure – 7
- People Are People – 8
- A Question of Time – 8
- Never Let Me Down Again – 10
- A Question of Lust – 7
- Master & Servant – 10
- Just Can’t Get Enough – 10
- Everything Counts – 10
Singles: Everything Count live (#16-dance)
Violator (1990) – This, more than any other album or artist, really defined and shaped my teen years. Therefore my ratings below may be a bit biased when I say it’s a near perfect album. Between Music for the Masses and Violator DM dropped the outright industrial sound and moved into a nearly futuristic progressive technopop style that still sounds fresh 26 years later. No one had made music like this before or since. It’s the soundtrack to driving along isolated streets alone in the dark of night and never wanting to stop. Both creepy and isolating while serving to bring an entire generation together on the dance floor, Violator is the album that made us all feel cooler than we ever were. The title comes from Gore recognizing that the main radio play in the late 80s was heavy (and glam) metal. So he came up with the most “extreme and ridiculously hardcore” title as a fuck-you to the music industry and then created a pop-album. This remains one of the few albums from my youth that I still listen to from beginning to end even to this day*. Peak US Billboard position: 7
- World in My Eyes – 10 – Foretells the journey you’re about to take in the album. A dark, danceable beat that’s angry, sensual, and mysterious. Hedonism at its best.
- Sweetest Perfection – 9 – An inversion of the previous song, this is one of two sung by Gore (Blue Dress is the other.) The way the vocals are violated by the percolating beats and guitar screeches at the end underscores the desperate addiction to drugs and sex in human nature.
- Personal Jesus – 10 – Repeatedly voted one of the greatest songs of all time, this twisted take on false idols features an infectious beat layered with insane synth samples. Gahan is a greasy tent-revival preacher out to con the masses. I could listen to the 20 second instrumental break at 3:22 on repeat for the rest of my life and never get sick of it
- Halo – 9 – The beat is a pounding cold punch in the face and the strings make the whole thing even dirtier.
- Waiting for the Night – 9 – Isolating and depressing in the best way possible
- Enjoy The Silence/Interlude Crucified (hidden) – 10 – Quite possibly the most infectious and musically beautiful DM song. An instrumental version of this would still get a 10. There is a reason this is DM’s biggest hit ever having gone to #1 and then stayed on the charts for a solid 6 months in the U.S. Do yourself a favor and find the Ricki Tik Tik Mix version of this song.
- Policy of Truth – 10 – Psychosexual hang-ups set to a six-note switchblade riff. Genius.
- Blue Dress – 9 – Gore is downright sleazy in this request to have his object of desire don the titular garment.
- Clean – 9 – DM is attempting to wash the previous eight songs off of themselves and you with the redemptive tune. The desire of drugs and sex can’t completely be cleansed but it’s the thought that counts.
***The original album ended here***
- Dangerous – 8 – B-side to Personal Jesus. It fits right in with the rest of the album. The unsettling gasping stutter at the start sounds like someone having virtual reality sex. My only complaint is that the music is stronger than the vocals.
- Memphisto – 10 – My favorite DM instrumental. It’s so creepy and disturbing; like a serial killer skulking around a daycare center.
- Sibeling – 6 – This one is too tragic and sappy. It’s comes off like the soundtrack to a Helena Bonham-Carter home movie.
- Kaleid –7 – Another instrumental that reads like a DM copy-cat cover band.
- Happiest Girl – 8 – Nothing too deep on this B-side but the bridge at 2:16 is pretty sweet.
- Sea of Sin – 8 – Evoking a foreboding sadness that could have been an underground hit.
Singles: Personal Jesus (#3), Enjoy the Silence (#1), Policy of Truth (#1), World in My Eyes (#17)
The song you know: Personal Jesus
The song you should know: Memphisto
*(B-52s Cosmic Thing, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars, and Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair are the others).
Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993) – Coming off the exhausting high of the Violator tour the band felt they needed a break from one another, hence a three year gap between albums. A gap which saw the rise of bands like Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails – who Gore hung out with in L.A. and whose influences can be felt here. Violator relied heavily on synth-beats and sequencing and subsequently DM wanted a less programmed and looser feel. SoFaD featured live recordings of the band on the drums, piano, guitar, and uillean pipes and then distorted and looped. Gahan is deep into his heroin addiction at this point which is causing a riff with the band but adding a real sexual gravitas to his performances. The album title refers to both religion and relationships and this is by far their most sexually charged album. I was initially disappointed when I first heard this album because I wanted Violator 2 but after repeat listens I realized that this is probably DM’s most complex and hauntingly beautiful album. SoFaD is also Wilder’s last album as he quit DM in 1995. Peak US Billboard position: 1
- I Feel You – 9 – The opening 5 seconds irritate me and scare our cats but it sets the tone for the album. This is DM’s first true rock song. A hardcore, punishing orgy of music and lyrics. It’s an aural fuck fest.
- Walking In My Shoes – 9 – Deep and thought-provoking. Is Gahan singing about drugs, religion, or relationships? I think they are all one in the same. The opening piano underscored with the synth-reverb is a nod to Violator and Music for the Masses.
- Condemnation – 8 – Gahan’s vocals are a little weak on this one which is a shame because the lyrics are so raw. This is their answer to a gospel hymn.
- Mercy In You – 8 – The guitar loop is fantastic but sounds a little too hard rock for me. Still, it’s a haunting song
- Judas – 9 – A song that opens with uillean bag pipes and sets ultimatums to the betrayer. The last :90 seconds are some of the darkest instrumentations DM has ever dreamt up.
- In Your Room – 10 – One of their most powerfully beautiful songs. The slow build to an insane amount of lust. One reviewer at the time wrote “The sex appeal of this song might not be measurable on scientific equipment.” Amazing.
- Get Right With Me – 7 – The weakest song on the album. It almost feels unfinished but the outro is a great intro into the next song
- Rush – 10 – This song gets flack for being a NIN rip-off but I think it’s one of their strongest. It comes at you full force after a few slower tracks. Why this wasn’t a single is beyond me. There is a remix called “Rush – Spiritual Guidance Remix” that is absolutely insane! Find it on Spotify and listen to it on headphones on repeat. It would make even the dead come alive.
- One Caress – 9 – Those strings! My god, they are gorgeous. This song features NO synths or keyboards or Gahan. Gore sings about either religion or sex – knowing him probably both.
- Higher Love – 10 – The perfect way to end an album.
***The original album ended here***
- My Joy – 7 – Not one of faves. This B-side to Walking in my Shoes is a little too INXS-y for me.
- Condemnation (Paris Mix) – 8 – Truncated intro and more gospel choir.
- Death’s Door – 7 – Reminds me of Twin Peaks.
- In Your Room (Zephyr Mix) – 9 – A stripped down and darker version.
- I Feel You (Life’s Too Short Mix) – 7 – Gone is the audio screech at the beginning and replaced with an X-Files vibe.
- Walking In My Shoes (Grungy Gonads Mix) – 7 – Mediocre remix.
- My Joy (Slowslide Mix) – 7 – This song again
- In Your Room (Apex Mix) – 6 –Some of these remixes are trying too hard.
Singles: I Feel You (#1), Walking In My Shoes (#1), Condemnation (#23), In Your Room (Not released in US because the video was deemed too sexual. Tame in 2016.)
The song you know: I Feel You
The song you should know: Rush
Ultra (1997) – Gahan overdosed on drugs, attempted suicide, divorced his second wife, and a court ordered stint in rehab between the last album and this one. Wilder is gone (see aforementioned list of Gahan nonsense as reasons why) and his absence is felt. A number of guest instrumentalists try to fill in but contribute to a slightly disjointed feel. DM has completely stripped out most of the electronic effects from their previous albums and with it went the all the joy. SoFaD was dark and sultry; Ultra is somber and subdued. It’s almost as if they acknowledge that their glory years are behind them and don’t try as hard. Aside from a few bouncy tunes Ultra is muddled and fractured. The inclusion of multiple half-assed instrumentals (absent since Music for the Masses) feels like filler. Peak US Billboard position: 5
- Barrel of a Gun – 7 – I really like the music in this song but the talk-singing in the verses really irritates me. However, a lot of people say this is one of their best songs ever.
- The Love Thieves – 7 – Sad and jazzy.
- Home – 9 – This song is beautiful and Gore’s vocals really do it justice.
- It’s No Good – 10 – This song is in my top ten of all-time favorite DM songs. I can’t help but dance to it every time I hear it.
- Uselink – 5 – Boring space instrumentation.
- Useless – 7 – A pop-rock anthem in the style of Barrel of a Gun. They remixed it as a single for the Singles 86-98 album with an updated beat. Both are decent.
- Sister of Night – 9 – Gahan’s voice is smooth and glossy on this track, the last he recorded before getting clean.
- Jazz Thieves – 5 – Another boring instrumental that sounds like bad stock music trying to be in the style of Angelo Badalamenti.
- Freestate – 7 – A fairly underrated song. The bluegrass twang and acoustic slide accompanied by the industrial drums is pretty cool.
- The Bottom Line –7 – The closest DM has gotten to a country song. Gore’s vocals are like a slow moving river at dusk. The humming background vocals in the middle are pretty nice.
- Insight – 7 – This song is back to the gospel sound of the last album. It’s a nice closer to the album. Gahan sings of lessons learned and a view to the future.
***The original album ended here***
- Junior Painkiller – 5 – A harem of cats in Aladdin’s cave want to be fed.
- Barrel of a Gun (live) – 6
- It’s No Good (live) – 8
- Useless (live) – 6
- Painkiller – 6 – The cats were fed and then they walked across the keyboard plugged into the Muse Receptor.
- Slowblow – 6 – Instrumental zzzzzz
- Only When I Lose Myself – 6 – This is tacked onto Ultra in the rerelease because it was actually a new single on the Singles 86-98 Enough with the depressing ballads!
- Surrender – 7 – This song isn’t too bad for being a B-side even if it is a little all over the place.
- Headstar– 7 – This instrumental has more personality than the others on the album but it hasn’t aged well.
Singles: Barrel of a Gun (#11), It’s No Good (#4), Home (#88), Useless (Not release in the US), Only When I Lose Myself (#36)
Song you know: It’s No Good
Song you should know: Sister of Night
Exciter (2001) – This is the album I am least familiar with. I rarely listen to it mostly because it’s overall subpar, even compared to Ultra. A new producer (Mark Bell fresh off Bjork’s Vespertine) wanted to go for a minimalist, digital sound which makes the album seem unfinished. Despite some throwbacks to their earlier works this album is my least favorite. I would skip around and listen to the few good songs before putting this album on start to finish. Gahan’s voice is the richest it has ever sounded but that doesn’t make up for the lackluster songs. There is barely a catchy hook that you want to sing along to. Perhaps it was Gore didn’t have his heart in it this time. Peak US Billboard position: 8
- Dream On – 7 – This is the closest song to their Violator days. The guitar riff throughout is a direct nod to the acoustic version of Personal Jesus. A solid start to an otherwise bland album.
- Shine – 6 – Repeat listens of this song elevate it a little for me. A soft romantic love song that doesn’t entirely evoke emotion.
- The Sweetest Condition – 5 – Something about Dave and Martin singing in almost a delayed counterpoint irritates me.
- When The Body Speaks – 9 – A truly beautiful song in a 50’s jazz style. An underrated gem.
- The Dead of Night – 5 – It’s like a Marilyn Manson B-side to Barrel of a Gun.
- Lovetheme – 5 – Standard instrumental with nothing exciting to offer.
- Freelove – 8– This is Dave’s favorite song to sing and it’s no wonder why. A complex ballad.
- Comatose – 6 – This has grown on me a bit but something about the melody doesn’t work.
- I Feel Loved – 9 – Finally a great, up-tempo song on this otherwise downer of an album. A bright light in a cloud of muck. Nominated for two Grammys.
- Breathe – 4 – I hate this song so fucking much.
- Easy Tiger – 6 – Fine as far as instrumentals go.
- I Am You – 7 – Traditional pop lyrics set to a downbeat.
- Goodnight Lovers – 7 – One of the few DM songs set in a major key (most are in a minor key) and that makes this unique ballad beautiful but bordering on easy listening.
*** Original Album Ends Here ***
- The Dead of Night (live) – 4 – Hate.
- The Sweetest Condition (live) – 5
- Dream On (live) – 6
- When The Body Speaks (live) – 8
- Breathe (live) – 3 – It’s worse live.
- Freelove (live) – 7
- Easy Tiger – 6 – Slightly different version than above.
- Dirt – 5 – Not a fan. This is a cover of The Stooges song.
- Freelove (Flood Mix) – 7 – This is the version that went to #1 on the dance charts*.
- Zenstation – 6 – Instrumental relaxation.
- When the Body Speaks – 7 – this version sounds like it could be from a musical. I almost like it better than the original.
Singles: Dream On (#85), I Feel Loved (Did not chart), Freelove (Did not chart on Hot 100, but #1 on Dance*), Goodbye Lovers (Not released in US)
The song you know: I Feel Loved
The song you should know: When the Body Speaks
Playing the Angel (2005) – Depeche Mode is back! After another much needed break, solo side-projects by both Gahan and Gore, and a new record label startup by Fletcher, the boys come back energized. Subsequently, Playing the Angel comes on strong and doesn’t stop. It’s a worthy successor to Songs of Faith and Devotion, especially since the previous two albums were morose and soul-crushing at times; even though both Ultra and Exciter each received their best reviews of the band’s career. This is first album where Gahan co-wrote with Gore as their creativity was at a high and all three members were gelling again. This album replaces the digital synths with analog ones to produce a harsher sound than before (that’s the scratch-sounds you hear as opposed to the usual ‘bleeps’). The opening melodic siren is an announcement that DM is going to kick some ass. Trivia: The cover art is a nod to the famous image of Robert Smith on the UK Boys Don’t Cry cover. Peak US Billboard position: 7
- A Pain That I’m Used To – 8 – After the analog siren the electronic beats deep dive into the dark. This hard-edge sex-fueled industrial grind is a top-notch album opener.
- John The Revelator – 8 – Inspired by an old gospel call-and-response song by the same name. The electro beat and gospel choir elevate it to something near sublime.
- Suffer Well – 10 – One of the greatest DM songs. Sounds like the love-child of Violator and Faith and Devotion.
- The Sinner In Me – 8 – Dark and moody with a great synth line. Just when you think it is going to end it kicks it up with a pulse-pounding industrial twinge breakdown.
- Precious – 10 – Another home run. This gem landed on nearly every Billboard chart (Hot 100, Pop, Dance, Alt., Modern, Singles etc.) One of their best.
- Macro – 7 – After five straight dance tunes, Gore takes it down a notch with a ballad. I like the chorus better than the verses. It’s grown on me.
- I Want It All – 7 – This song sounds like Bjork’s All Is Full Of Love reworked into a Japanese Geisha porno film. That’s a compliment.
- Nothing’s Impossible – 6 – This feels like it fell off of Ultra and Gahan mainlined it right into his bicep. He sings it in almost a monotone which adds to the creep factor.
- Introspectre – 6 – Creepy and minimal musical interlude that feels like it could have come off of Radiohead’s OK Computer.
- Damaged People – 5 – Gahan sings back up to Gore on the weakest track on this album. They should have left it off. Poop on this song.
- Lilian – 9 – Okay, after the previous bathroom break of a song they hit back with one of my favorites. This retro-inspired ode to a black widow kicks it back into high gear.
- The Darkest Star – 8 – An underrated dark tune. At nearly seven minutes it washes over you like a wave. An interesting closing track.
***The original album ended here***
- Martyr – 9 – Technically released as a single on The Best Of, Vol. 1 album this was a cut song from this album.
- Clean (Bare) – 7 – A stripped down version of the Violator gem. Bonus track.
- Free –7 – Hey, is your Atari 2600 on the fritz? Mine too.
Singles: Precious (#71), the rest of these did not chart on the Hot 100 but did on various other charts: A Pain That I’m Used To, Suffer Well, John the Revelator, Lilian
The song you know: Precious
The song you should know: Suffer Well
Sounds of the Universe (2009) – DM is sounding particularly inspired on this album. For me there are a few minor misses on here, most notably the opening 60 seconds which sounds like jr. high orchestra warming up at the dentists office, but it also has one of my favorite bonus dance tracks on it. The overall sound is a little more laid back and less harsh or dark than the previous three albums. Sort of a mix of Exciter and Playing the Angel but with an 80s throwback feel. Partly because Gore bought a lot of older analog equipment to try and capture a retro vibe. This album delves into complicated relationships: lovers, friends, business, family. They originally wrote 22 songs for SotU and then cut it down to 13. This album definitely gets better the more you listen to it. In fact, if you hate it at first try listening to it 4 or 5 times over a week and I guarantee you will love it. Side note: this is my least favorite album cover. It looks like pickup sticks for a lazy gay toddler. Peak US Billboard position: 3
- In Chains – 6 – After you get past the Cloverfield attack intro the song really picks up. This is one song that gets better the more I listen to it.
- Hole to Feed – 7 – I love that opening drum beat paired with the space laser sounds. It’s very corrupt. Gahan wrote this track.
- Wrong – 7 – This song is bleak but hopeful. Annoying but catchy. They sing “wrong” 72 times in case you were wondering.
- Fragile Tension – 7 – Good tempo with a dirty beat. That whatever-it-is scratchy video game noise for the last :20 seconds is pretty awesome.
- Little Soul – 7 – A pretty soulful down tempo duet that sounds innocent but is definitely not. That odd :20 coda from Fragile Tension is expanded on here.
- In Sympathy – 9 – I love that opener, I wish it was longer as I could listen to it forever. It’s so layered and smart. At first you think it’s one or two sounds but there are like 6 things happening in the first :05 seconds alone. The swirling sound throughout is a callback to People Are People. Dave’s vocals have rarely sounded stronger. Great track to really melt into! Those last few seconds sound like QBert fucking the shit out of Frogger. How can you not love that?
- Peace – 8– Gore’s favorite song that he has ever written. The instrumentals feel as if they fell off of Black Celebration. The arrangement is a little off for me but this is an analog orgy writhing under a gospel hymn.
- Come Back – 8 – Gahan, being the hopeless romantic is pleading for forgiveness from someone and waiting in vain for a response. The angry guitar will keep him company.
- Spacewalker – 5 – This two minute instrumental interlude was literally Gore playing around with old instruments he bought on ebay – for real. And it sounds like it.
- Perfect – 8 – Gahan is channeling Simon LeBon a little bit on this, the most commercial song off the album.
- Miles Away/The Truth Is – 8 – This bluesy rock stomp was partially renamed because Madonna told Gore she had recorded a song called Miles Away for Hard Candy and they didn’t want a song by the same name, hence The Truth Is.
- Jezebel – 6 – A dark calypso beat is the only Gore sung song on the album. It’s one of his weaker ones. This kids of just plods along and then sits there.
- Corrupt – 8 – A dark and seductive song about a sadomasochistic power struggle. Hard guitar coupled with electro beats. A nice closeout to the album. After a break there is a hidden track: a quick instrumental version of “Wrong”.
***The original album ended here***
- Oh Well (Black Light Odyssey Dub) – 10 – This song is effing fantastic. It makes me feel like I am barely surviving a Scream movie at full throttle. I love it.
Singles: Wrong (Didn’t land on the Hot 100 but on other charts: Dance, Triple A, Rock, Alt. it peaked between #1 and #12), The next three weren’t released as singles in the U.S.: Peace , Fragile , A Hole to Feed
The song you know: Wrong
The song you should know: In Sympathy
Delta Machine (2013) – Here we are folks. Delta Machine is the 13th and most recent studio album from the boys. This is a rough one for me. I still cling to that hope that every next album will be as great as Violator from beginning to end and so with each evolution it takes more and more listens for me to get into them. Delta Machine really starts to gel for me around the 7th or 8th time through. DM considers this the 3rd in a trilogy with SotU and PtA as far as their dark, bluesy, gloomy, analog sound progresses. Part of the problem for me is that they are repeating themes (“Angel”, “Heaven” not to be confused with previous efforts of “Judas”, “Sacred”, “Halo”, “Jezebel” – you get the picture) and a few songs come off like Dave is singing one thing and Martin is composing something else while poor Fletch is left to mix the two together. Still there are a few pretty good standouts on here. It just takes a while to find and appreciate them. Peak US Billboard position: 6
- Welcome to My World – 7 – When Dave first starts to sing it sounds like it’s from a different song altogether. It takes until 1:28 for it to solidify but when it does it works. The song itself evolves much like the album does. The live version on Live In Berlin is 100x better.
- Angel – 7 – This is another where it feels disjointed between the vocals and the music until about 1/3 of the way in.
- Heaven – 6 – I like a ballad as much as the next broody DM fan but this is sooooo slow and laborious. It makes me feel like I am stuck behind someone on a moving sidewalk at the airport. There is a far superior dance remix on the bonus album.
- Secret to the End – 7 – A violent song that hammers away at your psyche until it finishes with you. The last 85 seconds are as good as any of their best instrumental tracks.
- My Little Universe – 7 – A bit of a dubstep pallet cleanser. It’s a truly odd and unique song. The final minute would make Bedtime Stories-era Madonna proud.
- Slow – 7 – Sleazy and bluesy. Like fucking a priest behind the pulpit during a thunderstorm.
- Broken – 9 – Classic late-80s DM. “When you’re falling/I will catch you/You don’t have to fall that far.” I love the chorus in this one.
- The Child Inside – 5 – No, Martin. Just no.
- Soft Touch/Raw Nerve – 8 – The closest to a pop-song DM has had in ages.
- Should Be Higher – 9 – Fantastic. Dave’s voice sounds great and the beat is dark and sexy.
- Alone – 10 – This song owns my soul. It’s like living in Dark Willow Rosenberg’s brain.
- Soothe My Soul – 9 – Sexy, upbeat and delicious. This is their 50th single!
- Goodbye – 7 – Even electronic cowboys sample the Blues. I swear I’ve heard that guitar riff before…Oh right, on Dream On and Personal Jesus.
***The original album ended here***
- Long Time Lie – 6 – It’s not bad but it’s a B-side bonus for a reason (not a good reason).
- Happens All the Time – 7 – Some pretty cool instrumentations in there.
- Always – 8 – This song is weird. It has that thing where Dave sounds like he is angrily signing a different song at first then it melts into an orchestral sweep followed by a drug induced trance-pop blast. WTF? I love it.
- All That’s Mine – 9– This song is amazing why it is stuck as a forgotten bonus?!
- Heaven (Owlle Remix) – 9 – This version went to #1 on the U.S. Dance chart and #2 on Singles chart. Ditch the album version and ascend to this Heaven.
Singles: Heaven (#33), Soothe My Soul (#7), Should Be Higher (not released in U.S.)
The song you know: Heaven (album version)
The song you should know: Alone
My definitive album ranking:
|2. Faith & Devotion|
|4. Music for the Masses|
|5. Some Great Reward|
|6. Playing the Angel|
|7. Delta Machine|
|8. Sounds of the Universe|
|10. Black Celebration|
|11. Construction Time Again|
|12. Speak & Spell|
|13. A Broken Frame|
Albums I did not include here:
- Songs of Faith and Devotion Live
- Recording the Angel
- Touring the Angel: Live In Milan
- Recording the Universe
- Tour of the Universe: Barcelona 20/21.11.09
- Depeche Mode Live in Berlin
- People Are People (compilation)
- The Singles 81>85
- Catching Up With Depeche Mode
- Depeche Mode Greatest Hits
- The Singles 86>89
- The Singles 81>85
- Remixes 81-04
- The Best of Depeche Mode vol.1
- The Complete Depeche Mode
- Remixes 2: 81-11
All of the songs I rated 10/10:
|Just Can’t Get Enough||Speak & Spell|
|But Not Tonight||Black Celebration (b-side)|
|Never Let Me Down Again||Music for the Masses|
|Strangelove||Music for the Masses|
|Never Let Me Down Again (live)||101|
|Master & Servant (live)||101|
|Just Can’t Get Enough (live)||101|
|Everything Counts (live)||101|
|World In My Eyes||Violator|
|Enjoy The Silence||Violator|
|Policy of Truth||Violator|
|In Your Room||Songs of Faith and Devotion|
|Rush||Songs of Faith and Devotion|
|Higher Love||Songs of Faith and Devotion|
|It’s No Good||Ultra|
|Suffer Well||Playing The Angel|
|Precious||Playing The Angel|
|Oh Well||Sounds of the Universe (b-side)|