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Track-By-Track

Depeche Mode's Spirit: A Track-By-Track Review By Julian Marszalek
Julian Marszalek , February 28th, 2017 10:43

Julian Marszalek went to the Spiritland bar in Kings Cross to listen to Depeche Mode's 14th album. Here he gives us his first listen, track by track run down of what we have in store

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Spirit is the 14th album by Depeche Mode; their second released by the label Columbia and their first produced by SMD's James Ford. It was recorded at Sound Design (Santa Barbara, Ca) and Jungle City Studios (NYC) and will be released on March 17

‘Going Backwards’

A mid-tempo, two-chord opener, the track’s ominous overtones and sense of dread are given weight, as Dave Gahan intones, “We have no respect/ We have lost control.” As an opening gambit, it certainly sets the tone for what’s to come from Spirit’s remaining eleven tracks.

As the song slowly begins to unfurl, the bass drum kicks in followed by the snare as a skittering riff zig-zags its way over the top. “We’re going backwards,” sings Gahan, his voice portentous and devoid of mirth or joy, “to a caveman mentality” before uttering the coda over and over again, “We feel nothing inside.”

’Where’s The Revolution’

Cementing the theme of Spirit and where Depeche Mode are taking us comes ‘Where’s The Revolution’. As with ‘Going Backwards’, this is a mid-tempo number that revels in techno squelches before giving way to slide guitar, big beats and a thick bass. Lyrically, the song sees Depeche Mode occupying the political terrain that characterised so much of their earlier work such ‘Everything Counts’ or “Master And Servant’ to name but two. “You’ve been lied to/ You’ve been fed truths,” sings Gahan and it’s a song that captures the mood of the times.

’The Worst Crime’

Clearly, the mood of Spirit isn’t going to lift anytime soon. Here we move into the territory of balladry... of a type; for this is no love song but another state-of-the-world lament. A plucked and processed guitar intro is backed by sweeping and sustained synth chords that feel like some hideous omen and a warning of terrible things to come. Images of death permeate the song and Dave Gahan is in sombre mood when he sings, “We had so much time/ How did we commit the worst crime?”

’Scum’

Could it be that Martin Gore’s collaboration with former colleague Vince Clarke under the banner of the criminally under-rated VCMG has some bearing on the Depeche Mode of 2017? The evidence contained here would suggest that it does but those expecting an out-and-out banger are going to be disappointed. The BPMs are still well within the mid-tempo range but this does sound like house music on steroids. The percussion is driven by the kind of handclaps and claves that’ll have you pining for the Roland TR-808 while vintage synths swoop in and out of the track like scavenging birds.

’You Move’

Funnily enough, this wouldn’t sound too out of place on Grace Jones’ deliciously decadent Nightclubbing album. Tinkling synths comes tumbling down to land on a throbbing low end and are punctuated by squelches here and there. This is obviously the sex track but it’s difficult to shake the image of a gyrating Alan Partridge threatening to burst out of his leather posing pouch.

’Cover Me’

Another twisted ballad that’s ushered in by sweeping and sustained chords. The bass pulses like a heartbeat and the beats increase incrementally yet the pace remains measured and steady. But just as you think you’ve got a handle on things, everything gets bigger – more beats, more glacial sweeps and rhythms that suggest a re-acquaintance with Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ - except the tempo.

’Eternal’

The shortest track on the album, it feels as if it disappears almost as soon as it arrives. Huge, polyphonic chords give the sense of being in church though thankfully things grind to a halt before the collection plate arrives.

’Poison Heart’

Though the sound and power quotient increases thanks to a clanging guitar and drum combo redolent of a Detroit automobile production line, the BPMs are remaining very much in the mid tempo range. This is obviously Serious Stuff, an idea that’s given additional weight by a vocal arrangement that’s designed to recall the chanting of a chain gang. The huge string chords that are added to all of this make you realise that yes, this album really is hard work.

’So Much Love’

This is it! This is the one you’ve really been waiting for! The pace finally shifts out of second gear, thrusts the pedal to the metal and zooms off for some serious dancefloor fun. The pulsing metronomic throbs kick in right away and the vintage sounding drums are a glorious throwback to the 80s. ‘So Much Love’ stands in such stark contrast to what’s gone before it that it’s impossible to sit still through it. A dab-worthy track and no mistake!

’Poorman’

And then we slow back down again to the mid-paced tempo that dominates so much of this album. The intro of ‘Poorman’ – much like the aforementioned ‘Cover Me’ – doffs its peaked leather cap in the direction of Kraftwerk’s The Man Machine. Driven by a menacing bass-line, the handclaps and snare drum that that drive the beat once again look back to the early 80s and it’s difficult not to recall ‘Everything Counts’ thanks to the couplet, “Corporations get the breaks/ And keep everything they make.”

’No More (This Is The Last Time)’

A big thick bass-line introduces us to – yes – another mid-paced number which here is decorated by arpeggios and twinkling, blinking synths scatters that gradually build up to a crescendo before pulling back again. “This is the last time we have to ride,” we are warned.

’Fail’

And just in case you’ve been left in any doubt as to the gravity of Depeche Mode’s 14th studio album, the deep, two-note throb of this lachrymose sounding ballad gives way to steadily paced and vintage sounding drums. It’s almost as if Depeche Mode are trying to connect to a more innocent time but realise that what’s left in the past, stays in the past. You’re not going to be bouncing around to this one any time soon – or, for that matter, ever - but one suspects that that was never the intention. As a wise man once sang, “This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around.” Those days are over.

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Steve Bannon
Feb 28, 2017 3:47pm

I quite like DM especially those breezy numbers "Personal Jesus" and "Everything Changes" but really they are no more than a bloated heritage act like their New Order cousins.

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Paul Sharman
Feb 28, 2017 4:16pm

It looks like the album is quite moody and serious. I'm ok with that and really looking forward to hearing it. I like moody Depeche Mode.

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Feb 28, 2017 4:53pm

Really looking forward to this.

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anthony m
Feb 28, 2017 5:26pm

Anything after Songs of Faith is not worth listening too

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Feb 28, 2017 7:00pm

In reply to anthony m:

Sadly it's quite true, there's no depth after Alan's departure

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1984
Feb 28, 2017 8:36pm

Nonsense, plenty of good songs, I'm just not so warm for Delta although it has a couple of things which highly interests me.

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Feb 28, 2017 8:47pm

In reply to Steve Bannon :

What?...youve not really been with dm or new order have you over the last 20-30 years have you?...heritage act? .. get back to 1d please....

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Feb 28, 2017 8:53pm

In reply to Steve Bannon :

What?...youve not really been with dm or new order have you over the last 20-30 years have you?...heritage act? .. get back to 1d please....

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Mark Taylor
Feb 28, 2017 9:52pm

In reply to anthony m:

This

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Mark Taylor
Feb 28, 2017 10:01pm

In reply to anthony m:

Apart from where's the revolution , its the first time ive went wow since i feel you.
im going to athens to see them can't wait

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Rob W
Mar 1, 2017 8:40am

Since 2001 they've been treading water imp, there's some obvious exceptions on each album but overall I haven't connected with the albums like I did with Violator and "Song's of Faith". Maybe my tastes have changed or I've got older. Either way this album is on pre order and I'm interested to see what it sounds like.

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Rob W
Mar 1, 2017 8:41am

Since 2001 they've been treading water imp, there's some obvious exceptions on each album but overall I haven't connected with the albums like I did with Violator and "Song's of Faith". Maybe my tastes have changed or I've got older. Either way this album is on pre order and I'm interested to see what it sounds like.

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jamie
Mar 1, 2017 12:33pm

interested in hearing this. i love DM, but like many others, i think alan was the secret ingredient. once he left it just wasnt quite the same. hoping this changes things around, but the fact its all slow/mid-tempo is a bit alarming.

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rdl
Mar 1, 2017 1:13pm

In reply to anthony m:

Then please just give up on them and go away.

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rdl
Mar 1, 2017 1:22pm

I'm looking forward to hearing it. I've liked everything they've done (aside from a track here or there on a
few albums) and there are of course albums I listen to more than others. But I do find their stuff from Music for the Masses and on much better to listen to than their earliest albums, which to me sound dated. I especillly like Ultra and Sounds of the Universe. They've evolved. They're not just spitting out the same old stuff over a 30+ year career. That's how it should be. For those who keep showing up and pining for Alan, it's not going to happen - so please just enjoy the few albums they released and stop coming back again and again expecting something else. Or just coming back to say the same things. It just makes you look foolish.

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Cyrilgrey
Mar 1, 2017 2:18pm

Master & Servant political? I must be mishearing the lyrics, I guess- for the past 30+ years!

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rob
Mar 1, 2017 4:11pm

I always love the Quietus breakdowns! It's honestly a much better tease than hearing small snippets of the tracks themselves. Thanks! Also, if you want a presale ticket link for North America, http://depmo.de/2la9GHw

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Lionne Leao
Mar 1, 2017 8:51pm

In reply to :

Richard Spencer doesn't understand DM, and "Steve Bannon" obviously doesn't know first thing about them. What is "Everything Changes"?

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mckenzieg
Mar 1, 2017 10:53pm

In reply to :

I doubt the daft arse never listened to Music Complete, `heritage act`? He sound`s like one himself.

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Luke Beckett
Mar 2, 2017 1:33pm

Gahan and Gore need to get on the phone right now to Neil Tennant/Chris Lowe to discover the secret formula as to how ageing electro pop rock dinosaurs can still max out a dancefloor!

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Mar 2, 2017 10:11pm

In reply to Luke Beckett:

Yes, PSB fills dance floors and DM fills Stadiums. They are two different entities, you imagine Jonny Cash or any acclaimed artist covering a PSB fun number? lol

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game over
Mar 4, 2017 12:01am

Where’s The Revolution? asked the multi millionaire pop stars, where's the fucking tune? asked the longstanding D.M. fan..

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Christian
Mar 4, 2017 8:01am

They've been better, much better

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Iain Thompson-Hogg
Mar 8, 2017 10:59am

Ah, here we are again my friends, the old school Depeche supporters, who cannot get passed Violator or SOFD, and Wilder leaving the band,and us...........the progressives. The progressives who hear the quality within Depeche's sound and not harking for another Violator clone, which I, like many others, would not disagree is the highlight of Depeche Mode's musical career, but not a musical career which stops at Violator. We should never forget the impact/influence this band has had on electronic music, and hold them in the highest, along with Kraftwerk, who i feel could have made much much more of the talents they possess. I see Depeche for the band they are, the Daddies of electronica, still experimenting with sounds, and pleasing the masses, and as they age do not expect every track to be high in the BPM count, they are not a dance act.

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Graham
Mar 8, 2017 8:59pm

Heard the album today and quite shocked at the amount of negative views on it. Where as delta machine was a collection of songs, this does sound like a fresh, cohesive album...... scum, no, more, and so much love are great songs and Going backwards is the best intro since I feel you... it's their best work since ultra. 8/10

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anthony m
Mar 8, 2017 9:45pm

In reply to rdl:

I stand corrected, Ultra, Playing the Angel, & Sounds of the Universe are quite good (albums after SOFD).

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t kren
Mar 8, 2017 11:58pm

In reply to Graham:

Heard it today been a fan for long time love them but this is not mode songs sound like soul savors very slow pace maybe need to go at it again but not impressed sorry!

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Adam G
Mar 9, 2017 9:20am

Heard it this morning and it sounds like a collection of b sides. Lyrically its cringeworthy, there are few memorable melodies and Martin Gore's solo tracks have taken a serious nosedive. I found listening to the album hard work, really disappointed

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matt
Mar 10, 2017 10:13am

listened to this a few times now (loud)...and it just grows and grows...the weak points are the Gore led songs, but they even grow on you....for a band in their 50's, they're still right at the front and not afraid to take risks. It sounds fresh, and expansive where I thought Delta Machine (whilst good) was a bit too techy and clunky..James Ford has done a cracking job on the production.
For all those harping on about Alan Wilder, yes I'd like him back, but it ain't happening, so deal with it and move on. Violator & SOFAD will always be their pinnacle, but for me this is their best since Ultra..
Can't wait to see them in London...8.5\10

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james
Mar 10, 2017 7:29pm

delta was a disappointment...pleased to see a new producer.. hopefully spirit will be a little more polished.

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Freestate
Mar 10, 2017 10:09pm

Unlike some, I'm a great fan of the albums DM has released post-Violator in addition to their previous work. Songs like I Feel You, It's No Good, Precious, John the Revelator, Secret to the End, Alone, Heaven, etc. are quintessential Depeche Mode. Of all their post Violator (actually SOFAD) work, I have to say, I've liked Delta Machine most. All that said, for the first time ever, I'm disappointed with a DM album. Spirit does not live up to the high bar the band have set for themselves. I think it's the result of several factors: While I appreciate the experimental approach James Ford has taken, he has failed on this album. I believe he, more than any other reason, is the reason this album has disappointed. There are some good ideas here, but overall he came up way short. The most egregious example would be the terrible vocal processing he applied to Dave's voice on "Scum". Another issue with this album is the level of writing. "I like the way you move"? Really? "We have to break up"? What? The naive, vapid political commentary doesn't help either. In fact, if you look throughout their catalog, the songs in which they get political tend to be their worst lyrically, lacking in the nuance and texture so well executed in most of their other songs. Of course, Spirit is still DM, even if not in their best form. I'll give it every chance to grow on me.

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Mar 11, 2017 1:48am

In reply to Freestate:

Oh dear..this does not sound promising!...then again somebody once told me not to buy playing the angel and I loved it!...can only hope Mr ford has improved gahans nasal sound that killed delta.. Or maybe his voice has just lost a bit..

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Andrej
Mar 11, 2017 11:22pm

Guys,i'm huge fan of DM for many years, but i need to say Depeche Mode is over. I had hope that something will change with this album,some revolution maybe:) Nothing. It's getting worse and worse, Spirit is a total crap...(

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Vince Clarke
Mar 12, 2017 12:46pm

In reply to anthony m:

I wholeheartedly agree, but don't tell Martin I said that...(joke)

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Bullett
Mar 14, 2017 4:34pm

I have an early copy... The first tracks a killer and sets the tone!
Devotees you won't be disappointed.

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Johnny Eno
Mar 15, 2017 5:57pm

This is a weak album , where has the songwriting gone and don't they do melody lines no more. Its just a rush attempt so they can do another tour and get the money in and keep Fletch in bananas .
Very disappointing . They always blew me away now they just dull .

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Mar 17, 2017 8:14pm

In reply to Johnny Eno:

Now heard it in full..utter pants apart from "where's the revolution"... No effort whatsoever!

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President Donald Trump
Mar 18, 2017 1:01am

This is a great album. Fantastic. Possibly the best Depeche Mode album ever.

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James T
Mar 18, 2017 7:28am

Oh, how I wished this would be a great album. How I wished... From first listen, its a step up from Delta Machine - which wasn't a hard task! I think some bands take too many liberties based off past successes. In other words, if this was their debut album, how would it fare? I suggest not well at all, which in my view is the true measure.

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Jesus
Mar 20, 2017 5:21pm

I noticed that Julian, who wrote this review, he either has the mentality of a 20 something year older or the age who only wishes to grab a beer and dance at any stupid catchy sound. This is the most lirically mature album ever made by Depeche Mode. Great sounds and great moods within the songs. I give 4/5 to this album.

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james
Mar 23, 2017 7:25pm

I like this album now..it's a grower!lol..still hate delta though.

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Apr 8, 2017 11:05am

In reply to anthony m:

Precious. John the revelator. Freelove.its no good..... And I am only getting warmed up. You are clearly hard to please.

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Tim Walsh
Apr 20, 2017 3:18pm

In reply to Steve Bannon :

Ahh yes that classic 'Everything Changes'!!??

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