Depeche Mode
Black Celebration



by Stephen Gore USER (43 Reviews)
December 14th, 2006 | 17 replies

Release Date: 1986 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Mode shy away from the light, and drag YOU down into the mire, too

Even as far back as 1986, Depeche Mode had been on quite a journey. Their debut album, a cacophony of upbeat tinkly-bonk sounds and one-fingered synth riffs, had made the UK top ten. Then, their principle songwriter (Vince Clarke) left, and the remaining members spent three albums experimenting with political sloganeering, samplers, metallic clangs and leather jackets in an attempt to carve out their own identity.
A cult band even at this point, Depeche finally made sense of it all with Black Celebration, a step away from the commercial leanings of its predecessor, Some Great Reward. Martin Gore finally came into his own as a songwriter, and the ever-increasing talents of Alan Wilder, aided by paternal figure Daniel Miller, sculpted the band's craft into one of the darkest and most influential albums of the eighties.

It all starts with the title track, 'Black Celebration', which blends the up-tempo feel of the previous album with rather morbid lyrics - "Your optimistic eyes/Seem like paradise/To someone like/Me". 'Fly On The Windscreen' is even darker; a cold, rhythmic synth riff nestles up against lyrics like - "Death Is Everywhere/There Are Lambs For The Slaughter/Waiting To Die".

But it's not all doom and gloom - this is an album of feeling, and Gore's relationship with Christina Friederich comes to the fore on this album; indeed, this album has more Gore-sung ballads on it than any Depeche have ever produced. 'Sometimes' is remarkably similar in style to 'Somebody' from the last album, albeit more ethereal, while 'A Question Of Lust' is second only to 'Home' in terms of Depeche ballads. It swells with feeling, and adds an optimistic edge to an otherwise brooding album. 'It Doesn't Matter Two' is oh-so-avant-garde, yet impossibly avoids the pitfall of seeming pretentious - it remains one of the highlights of the album. 'A Question Of Time' follows, reminding you that the Basildon boys can still rock to a funky, thrashing (though processed) guitar riff. 'Stripped' is the centrepiece of the album, and a definitive example of how Depeche Mode can sound at once depressing and utterly uplifting.

After this the album does fall away somewhat. 'Here Is The House' has a vaguely catchy melody, but it sounds out of place on this album. 'World Full Of Nothing' has one of the sweetest melodies Gore has ever composed, complete with misanthropic lyrics, but the final two songs are what let the whole album down and stop it being the classic it should be. 'Dressed In Black' is a waltz-noir trip into plaintive moaning that finally lets some pretentiousness through, while choosing to end the album with the words "Princess Di is wearing a new dress" was probably not a good idea.

Black Celebration is not a perfect album - far too much reverb, overused sampling, some pithy lyrics - "Death Is Everywhere/There Are Flies On The Windscreen/For A Start" - but overall the album epitomises what Depeche are all about. It nails their colours to the mast.
Non-commercial, dark, brooding, sometimes sentimental, never too saccharine, Depeche were masters of the 80s alternative scene and though newcomers may indeed prefer the more accessible 'Violator', 'Black Celebration' remains a deep, atmospheric and pivotal moment for a criminally underrated group.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
The Jungler
December 14th 2006


Violator is all I've heard from Depeche Mode, but I've been looking for a second album to listen to. Maybe I'll go with this.
Well-written review, especially for a first. Break up the paragraphs though.

December 15th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

Stripped, Black Celebration, A Question Of Lust, A Question Of Time are all classic Depeche Mode songs, making this CD a solid addition to any record collection.

July 24th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

this is my favorite DM album of all time (yes, i think it's even better than Violator). there is not 1 bad track on here. i agree with you though; Here Is the House does sound out of place, but it's still such a good song!!This Message Edited On 07.24.07

July 24th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

I'm gonna go with her on this one, this is probably DM's best album outside Violator and SOFAD (but I'm partial to Playing The Angel since it's the first DM record I got).

On a side note, whatchu know about The Watchmen, foo? :DThis Message Edited On 07.24.07

October 10th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice to see Black Celebration is #12 on the top albums of 1986.

December 9th 2009


Stripped is one of my favourite songs of all time.

January 24th 2010


haha, i came back to this thread to say the exact same thing...

oh well, this band is one of my favourites of all time.

January 26th 2010


Album Rating: 3.5 album has "But Not Tonight" as track 12(which is a great pop song).

This is a great album.A Question of time is amazing.

January 26th 2010


SLA that song rules too

February 18th 2010


Album Rating: 3.5

The first 7 songs minus "Sometimes" and "It Doesnt Matter Two" are really great.Too bad that out of the 4 remaining only "But Not Tonight" delivers.

Still,great album.

February 18th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

Jesus, my first review...

I'm with you about Sometimes, but I still think It Doesn't Matter Two is great. It's better live, it was performed on the Exciter tour, very cool

March 8th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

The first of 4 DM classics, don't miss the other 3: Music for the Masses, Violator, and Songs of Faith & Devotion.

July 21st 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Depeche Mode completely obliterated their dodgy beginnings with this dark masterpiece. Black Celebration is often refered to as the band's "goth album", but thats just as close-minded as saying Devotion was their "rock album". Depeche Mode are completely on their own out there, they dont sound like anyone else and no one sounds like them. Black Celebration is a very pure Depeche Mode record, its dark, romantic, bewildering, cinematic but also bombastic and uplifting. I couldnt help but notice that you felt "Here Is The House" was some kind of a weak link, for me personally its the album's strongest track, fantastic wistful melody with beautiful harmonising from Gore. The mighty, euphoric "Stripped" of course is a close second!

March 11th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Black Celebration flows greatly. One of the band's best works, later topped by Music for the Masses.

July 6th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

Don't feel this one as much as the most do but definitely another step forward for DM! "A Question of Time" and "Stripped" are true classics. Also i really do love "Here is the House", which is totally underrated. The last three songs are a huge letdown and stop it from being a 4...

January 12th 2014


I wish sometimes was longer. Other than that this is perfect imo

Digging: Cigarettes After Sex - EP

July 21st 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

I think this edges Violator tbh

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