By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Rejoice, dysfunctional reader! Depeche Mode is back after a four-year hiatus and a whole
bunch of the -band-might-break-up chatter. And the influential kings of brooding,
sado-masochistic electro-pop are apparently the same as they ever were.
That is to say: Dark and more than a little subversive.
The modern-rock mope-tops are releasing their 11th studio album, "Playing the
Angel," on Oct. 18, and it's not exactly shiny, happy, up-with-people pop.
Song titles include "Suffer Well," "A Pain That I'm Used To,"
"Damaged People," "Introspectre" and "The Sinner in Me."
And, in a record company release, principal songwriter Martin Gore describes the lyrical
concerns thus: "anything that appeals to really dysfunctional people."
Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan has joked that Gore fashioned quite a career out of
writing songs about a single subject. But, says Gore: "I disagree; it's two!"
Nice that Depeche Mode can snicker about this stuff now.
Ten years ago last month, Gahan tried to kill himself by slitting his wrists. Nine months
later, he overdosed on a speedball -- a mix of cocaine and heroin -- and actually
flatlined for a few minutes. After detoxing, Gahan said that he'd deluded himself into
thinking that he had to feel the pain and suffering of Gore's lyrics if he was to continue
performing the songs.
Since then, Gahan has turned clean and sober, and Depeche Mode has released two studio
albums: 1997's "Ultra" and 2001's "Exciter." But neither recording
rivaled the stateside success of the group's triple-platinum 1990 album,
"Violator," which featured the modern-rock hits "Enjoy the Silence"
and "Personal Jesus" and reached No. 1 on the U.S. charts.
Much has changed since the release of "Exciter" four years ago -- and, for that
matter, since 2003, when Gahan and Gore released dueling solo albums ("Paper
Monsters" and "Counterfeit 2," respectively) and Gahan repeatedly wondered
in interviews whether Depeche Mode had a future. Most notably, a new wave of Depeche
Mode-influenced bands washed over the music scene during the electro-pop resurgence of
2004, when the Killers and their eyeliner-wearing, synthesizer-loving ilk surged up the
It's quite possible, then, that the stage is set for a major Depeche Mode comeback.
So, cue "Just Can't Get Enough" here! Or not.
"The Killers, the Bravery, Franz Ferdinand -- that whole wave of music owes a
tremendous amount to Depeche Mode, but you wonder how people will react to a heritage act
like them," says Matt Smith, music director of Southern California's pioneering
modern-rock radio powerhouse, KROQ. "No question, the new album is going to be huge
for KROQ -- an event release. But we're different than a lot of stations because we've
been around for so long. Our library has close to 30 Depeche Mode songs that we play from
time to time."
In the last year, programming suits have flipped the formats of Depeche Mode-friendly
alternative rock stations in cities such as Philadelphia, Seattle, New York and, of
course, Washington, where WHFS was recast as the all-Spanish El Zol.
Regardless, Depeche Mode is planning a U.S. tour later this year. No dates or venues have
been announced, though the band has posted a list of cities on its Web site -- and yes,
Washington is included.
Fair warning for a black celebration.