Sunday, March 26, 2006

". . . and I haven't felt so alive in years."

Depeche Mode

Summary: For the perfect mix of Euro synth-pop fun and pre-goth darkness and sensuality, you can't go wrong with Depeche Mode.

A Brief History of the Band (from Yahoo! Music): Originally a product of Britain's new romantic movement, Depeche Mode went on to become the quintessential electro-pop band of the 1980s; one of the first acts to establish a musical identity based completely around the use of synthesizers, the group began their existence as a bouncy dance-pop outfit but gradually developed a darker, more dramatic sound which ultimately positioned them as one of the most successful alternative bands of their era. (Read more here.)

My History with the Band: My transition from Top 40 to alternative has been well-documented in past posts. Another essential element of that transition was Depeche Mode. And as was the case with other "new wave" bands, I arrived late to the Depeche Mode scene, but quickly caught up. When I was a freshman in high school and deep in the throes of my "Beatles year," I started watching a lot of alternative videos on MTV. One such video was a song called "Never Let Me Down Again," which I thought had a very good beat and bass line, plus I loved the singer's voice. I had heard of Depeche Mode -- they had a minor Top 40 hit a few years prior with their classic "People are People" -- but I had never really given them much thought. That is, until I saw this video for "Never Let Me Down Again." So of course I rushed out to Musicland and bought their album, Music For the Masses. During my freshman year, my best friend Jennifer and I listened to this album over and over (when we weren't listening to the Beatles, that is). My new love of Depeche Mode also helped create a new friendship with Mark, my first friend in high school who was from one of the other middle schools in town. Jennifer, Mark, and I would be inseparable for the next couple of years.
The album also marked the first time that I recognized that music can be inherently sexual. The album features a brilliant electro song called "Strangelove," in which the lines "Will you take the pain / I will give to you again and again, / and will you return it?" feature prominently. But it was supersex of the the song "I Want You Now," that really spoke to our adolescent selves. The song's music is basically chanting, breathing, and grunting, all done very beautifully. And the vocal features Dave Gahan singing, "And I don't mean to sound like 'one of the boys.' / That's not what I'm trying to do. / I don't want to be like 'one of the boys.' / I just want you . . . now." Stunning. A must-hear.
Anyway, of course I had to buy Depeche Mode's previous albums as well. They had already released a "best of" from their early days called "Catching Up with Depeche Mode" which I felt was very appropriately titled. And what an eclectic gem this album is. From the silly upbeat dance classic "Just Can't Get Enough" to the morose and fatalistic "Fly on the Windscreen," Depeche Mode provides something for every mood that a pseudoangst-filled teen needs. They explore more kinky sex ("Master and Servant") and then delve into religious speculation with "Blasphemous Rumours":
I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors,
but I think that God's got a sick sense of humor
and when I die
I expect to find him laughing
But I was also a hopeless romantic in high school, and Depeche Mode offered up one of the most beautiful love songs ever with "Somebody." Many, many people who are my age and a bit older will point to "Somebody" as their favorite slow song from the 80s. When I hear the opening heartbeat, I can transport back immediately. And Depeche Mode also provided me with a song ("Shake the Disease") which I used to apologize when I got in a fight with my girlfriend Dawn. Ahh, the teen years.
I bought all of their previous albums, of course -- Some Great Reward, Speak and Spell, Contruction Time Again, A Broken Frame -- which provided hours of entertainment.

My best friends in high school -- Jennifer, Kelley, Stacey, Ezra, Lisa, Dawn, Mark, Ruth -- all loved Depeche Mode. We would often go driving in the country, just blaring DM. The best album for this activity was Black Celebration, which had a song custom made for the alterna-teens from Marion, Indiana -- "But Not Tonight." I have such found memories of playing this song and just smiling.
During our junior year, Jennifer told me she had heard the new Depeche Mode song, and she declared it was one of the coolest songs she had ever heard and that it was way different than their previous songs. The song? "Personal Jesus." If you have not heard it (the original, not the shitty Marilyn Manson remake) it is something to behold. It is a pounding, stomping pleasuredome of a song. Their new album Violator then deepened our love for them, and also provided DM with their biggest hit, "Enjoy the Silence," which is still one of my favorites. I was also extremely jealous when Jennifer got to see DM live and I didn't.
Depeche Mode's later albums got darker and darker, and while still good, never met the glory of the early days. The group is, in fact, still around, and their newest album is actually their best in years.

But one of my greatest memories from high school involves a party at Jennifer's house. She lived on the corner of a very busy street in Marion, and her yard had these great cement walls which were at ground-level of her yard, but about 5 feet above the street and sidewalk below. So we danced out on these walls -- my favorite dance song being Depeche Mode's "Behind the Wheel/Route 66 Mix" -- with full abandon and without a care in the world. People honked as they drove by. Some dumb hicks yelled at us, us with our thrift store clothes, bizarre hairstyles, and crazy music. What a small town we lived in, but what a great circle of friends we had.

Favorite Depeche Mode Album: Black Celebration

Favorite Depeche Mode Song: "But Not Tonight" and "Enjoy the Silence"

Other Seminal Depeche Mode Songs: "Just Can't Get Enough"; "Dreaming of Me"; "Love In Itself" "Everything Counts"; "Master and Servant"; "Blaspehmous Rumours"; "Somebody"; "Shake the Disease"; "Flexible"; "It's Called a Heart"; "Fly on the Windscreen"; "It Doesn't Matter"; "Stripped"; "Here is the House"; "World Full of Nothing"; "Never Let Me Down Again"; "Strangelove"; "I Want You Now"; "Behind the Wheel"; "World in My Eyes"; "Personal Jesus"; "Policy of Truth"; "Condemnation"; "Judas"; "A Pain that I'm Used To"; "Precious"

Past Band Posts: New Order / The Smiths / Belle and Sebastian / Underworld / R.E.M. / The Beatles / The Boo Radleys / Saint Etienne


At 7:30 PM, Blogger Serenity Now! posited...

Okay, you are killing me with the walk down memory lane. I can hardly listen to DM anymore because of the overwhelming feelings and memories that come over me. Still, I love to hear how you remember it. Hey, by the way, I didn't know you were jealous of my seeing DM! It's only fair, I've been jealous of you my whole life:-). Love ya, babe.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger chris posited...

Yeah DM are basically the shit. What is it about bands like orgy or manson that feel the best way to cover a song is to doosh it up???

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Kaila posited...

OMG I love this band! I didn't start listening to them until I came to Spain. I really like "A pain that i'm used to." Nice post.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Kid C posited...

Chris, it's douche, not doosh.

DM is solid stuff.

At 7:34 PM, Blogger constant_k posited...

Adding even more volume to the mounting pile of evidence of my lameness, I've never heard of this band. How does one pronounce their name?

At 9:22 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

Deh-PESH (accent on second syllable)

It's from the French verb "depecher" (to hurry) and "mode" (fashion), and translates as "fast fashion" but is a slang term meaning "in fashion" or "high fashion"
In case you wanted more than a pronunciation.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger sarahnoel posited...

When I read your post, I was listening to Depeche Mode! I've got tickets to their Chicago concert in May, you should go, too!

At 6:35 AM, Blogger Unknown posited...

For the record, Martin sings 'I want you now' and not Dave.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Stormy Clouds posited...

Yes, just wanted to add that Martin Gore definitely sings "I Want You Now". Not only does Martin write all DM music, he also has a beautiful voice! Thanks for your post, it was fantastic. We must be around the same age. Cheers!


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