Nearly 30 years on, Depeche
Mode remain vital
By JOHN KOSIK, Associated Press Writer John Kosik, Associated Press Writer Wed Apr 22,
12:25 pm ETBy
|AP Depeche Mode
members Martin Gore, left, Dave Gahan and Andrew Fletcher, right, pose for a photo, Feb.
Underneath the gloom and doom, the members of Depeche Mode insist they're actually
lighthearted and funny.
"I've never quite understood that description," frontman Dave Gahan said during
a recent interview. "I understand that we're dark, but there's always been humor in
there. It's this cynical sarcasm about yourself."
Gahan and his mates guitarist Martin Gore and keyboardist Andy Fletcher have
spent close to 30 years mining a subtle black humor from their coupling of submission with
dominance, love with hate, hope with regret.
And they do know how to have fun at their own expense: take a look at the 1997 video for
their hit "It's No Good," which lampoons them as a has-been lounge act.
"I think people sometimes miss things that are humorous in our music," said the
soft-spoken Gore. "People seem to spend way too much time thinking about what exactly
we're trying to do and what exactly we mean."
But one can't deny that Depeche Mode roughly translated from the French as
"fast fashion" have fashioned their seemingly unstoppable career by
trolling the darker waters of human emotion, something that serves as the main draw for
legions of black-clad fans worldwide.
"The surface of Depeche Mode is very dark and gloomy, but sometimes that does seem to
be pushed so over the top that it edges into a kind of inside joke," said music
journalist Alan Light. "Though for some of their fans, the gloom and doom is
precisely what is so appealing."
Gahan, Gore and Fletcher are still wildly appealing to those fans. This week they released
their 12th studio album, "Sounds of the Universe," their most synth-heavy effort
in 20 years.
Utilizing vintage analog keyboards and drum machines, the English trio rekindle their
1980s sound one which still evokes a futuristic, outer space vibe while
lyrically again giving voice to their longtime obsession: The sadomasochistic elements of
relationships and faith.
"Unlike a lot of the electro groups, who were groundbreaking in their use of
technology but unable to translate that into sturdy songs, Depeche Mode feel like real
writers who happen to use these sounds as their canvas," Light said.
On the slowed-down "In Chains," Gahan swoons over a woman he knows is bad for
him but whom he can't resist: "I know you knew on the day you were born/I know
somehow I should've been warned/I know I walk every midnight to dawn in chains."
Other standouts include "Fragile Tension" and "Corrupt," and the
Gahan-penned tracks "Hole to Feed" and "Come Back." But the real gem
is the buzzing lead single "Wrong," with an in-your-face refrain that makes for
the most eye-opening Mode song since "Personal Jesus."
"(Wrong) wasn't the obvious choice. I don't think we picked it (as a single) because
we felt it was the best song. We picked it because we thought it was the most innovative
thing we had done that was challenging the sound of Depeche Mode," Gahan.
With each member approaching 50, the Mode's new material remains their focus.
"We would give up if we knew that people were only coming to see us because they
wanted to hear songs that were made 20 years ago," Gore said.
Appealing to new fans and maintaining a fresh sound is difficult for any artist
particularly those in the constantly fluctuating genre of electronica.
"I think one of the things that keeps us going is still trying to write that perfect
song and not feeling like you've got there yet," Gahan said. "It's a drive. I
mean, we've survived almost three decades now ... which is pretty scary."
Longevity certainly wasn't something they had in mind in the early 80s.
"It's fantastic that we are so relevant and performing to big crowds and there's lots
of interest in our records when we release them," said Fletcher. "It's something
we certainly didn't expect when we started. We only expected to be around for a few
Considering what some might call a rough beginning critics bashed them unmercifully
upon the release of their snappy 1981 hit "Just Can't Get Enough" and
their setbacks, including Gahan's very public battle with drugs (he's been sober for
years) and changes in the band's personnel over the years, the worldwide iconic status
they've gone on to achieve is remarkable.
"When you make music for a few decades, you start realizing that you have to create
your own path," Gahan said.
"You just have to do your own thing. And every now and then it certainly has
happened with us," he laughs, "you become trendy again."