Depeche Mode
Music for the Masses


4.5
superb

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
February 27th, 2011 | 20 replies | 4,670 views


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Depeche hit the big time with a mellow and sophisticated album that demonstrates a band comfortably matured into its own dark sound. Not a weak moment on the whole disc, superb.

With an album title like 'Music for the Masses' it would seem an incredibly pretentious statement on behalf of the band if the songs weren't up to scratch. Thankfully, the 10 tracks that appear on Depeche Mode's sixth studio album, 'Music for the Masses' most definitely are. Whilst a great number of popular British bands that were recording synth-pop around the early 80s had begun to decline in standards (or disappear altogether) by 1987, Depeche only kept on getting stronger.

There's an air of sophistication throughout the album, suggesting Depeche had grown and refined their sound over the seven years they been together to feel comfortable and confident enough to release subtle and suggestive synth-pop tracks like 'Behind the Wheel'; that didn’t need to rely on totally obvious lyrics or annoyingly catchy synth riffs to deliver its intention.

If you pour over the Basildon boys' catalogue up to 'Music for the Masses', you'll see they did exactly that. Starting out as rather awkward sugary-sweet synth-poppers (Vince Clark's influence draws almost equal amounts of credit and disdain, depending on whom you ask) before moving into a lovable, yet cluttered synth/industrial pop phase, and more recently, darker-than-a-black-hole territory with 1986's 'Black Celebration', its clear to see that Depeche Mode have continually grown and adapted their sound into an evermore consistent wave of darkly compelling synth tunes.

Such sophistication is felt throughout, not just on the aforementioned 'Behind the Wheel' (which takes its time building up to Gahan's baritone vocals, with a simple rhythm that gains more and more elements as it ticks along), but also on tracks like 'The Things You Said'. A Gore sung, low key number, it doesn't need a fast, infectious beat to satisfy - it gains attention by placing the focus on feather-soft vocals and touching lyrics aided by an atmospheric and lush electronic melody.

Even on more deliberate attempts at chart success like 'Strangelove', it retains the bands integrity featuring a slow, deliberate tempo and hints of a darker side, with lines like "There'll be times when my crimes will seem almost unforgivable, I give in to sin because you have to make this life liveable". It isn't an easy or cheap love lyric - it's subtle and considered, opting to suggest, rather than to lay itself bare.

There's an abundance of other worthwhile moments on 'Music for the Masses' such as 'Sacred' displaying its mellifluous, exotic hooks, or 'Nothing' - perhaps the most aggressive track on a relatively mellow album, with pounding drums, droning synths and a catchy chorus.

Depeche Mode's trademark darkness is not ignored either, as 'Little 15' explores gloomy territory, beginning with a simple yet sombre synth riff and ending on a flourish of electronic orchestral whirr as Gahan sings in a stirring and mournful fashion. 'I Want You Now' is as equally shadowy, with an odd breathing intro and fraught lyrics about a desperate need to obtain someone. There are even a few hints at what Depeche would do on later albums like Violator, with the opening track 'Never Let Me Down Again' starting with a guitar riff that drifts in and out of the melody.

With 'Music for the Masses', Depeche Mode showed the world that they had grown extensively from their upbeat, gleeful synth-pop roots into a sophisticated, refined and moody quartet, that produced dark and compelling electronic music. Quite literally in fact, as the album turned out to be bands most successful effort so far, gaining them a growing fan base not just in Europe and the UK, but also 'across the pond' in the US. A consistently sublime album filled with understated and absorbing DM classics.



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user ratings (393)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
sputnikmusicreviewer (3)
If a spotty transition yields occasional genius like "Never Let Me Down Again", it's unfathomable wh...

Stephen Gore (4)
Depeche suddenly learn to blend dark, alluring songscapes with an arena-friendly sound. The result ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Titan50
February 27th 2011



4588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

pos

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
February 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Cheers, Titan50.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
February 27th 2011



5987 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

quality album.

Digging: Lisa Gerrard - Twilight Kingdom

bloc
February 27th 2011



34735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is right on par with Celebration and Violator, so many good songs. Never Let Me Down Again is easily one of my most favourite DM songs.

Digging: Messiah - Choir of Horrors

fr33convict
February 27th 2011



11687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Violator > All

POS'D THIS BITCH

Nagrarok
February 27th 2011



8170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I guess I need to listen to this one next. I see you've been taking my advice into account, have a pos. Another thing is to try making a little less paragraphs: the two before the conclusion could nicely fit together, for instance.

Depeche Mode's trademark darkness is not ignored either, as 'Little 15' explores gloomy territory, beginning with a simple yet sombre synth riff and ending on a flourish of electronic orchestral whirr as Gahan sings in a stirring and mournful fashion. 'I Want You Now' is as equally shadowy, with an odd breathing intro and fraught lyrics about a desperate need to obtain someone. There are even a few hints at what Depeche would do on later albums like Violator, with the opening track 'Never Let Me Down Again' starting with a guitar riff that drifts in and out of the melody.


Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
February 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks to anyone who took the time to give a Pos - i really do appreciate it.

Also, thanks to Nagrarok for the advice. I don't mind a little bit of constructive criticism if its deilvered in an honest and mature manner, like you have. Cheers.

Nagrarok
February 27th 2011



8170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No problem man, be aware that I expect a lot of your take on Violator though ;)

KILL
February 27th 2011



71167 Comments


this bands pretty cool

Digging: David Axelrod - Song of Innocence

fr33convict
February 27th 2011



11687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

no they're pretty terrible

WhiteNoise
November 5th 2011



3086 Comments


Your rating says otherwise?...

KILL
November 5th 2011



71167 Comments


wow

TheNotrap
November 5th 2011



8029 Comments


Dude

You are 5/5

Digging: Savage Grace - Master Of Disguise

someguest
May 11th 2012



20393 Comments


this rules

video for strangelove is lol

Digging: Your Old Droog - Your Old Droog

wacknizzle
May 4th 2013



12896 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah this is awesome. Just got Violator recently too, gonna be goin hard with some DM.

Digging: Plebeian Grandstand - Lowgazers

Eloriaz
June 18th 2013



686 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Happy birthday 101! I was born in 1992, but if I could time travel, I would do anything to go
back to that special day and live it.

18th June 1988
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-94cMzNcEUU

dannyboy89
February 24th 2014



11945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

TONIGHT
YOU'RE BEHIND THE
WHEEEEEEEEEEEEL

bach
July 22nd 2014



12252 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i'll make your heart smile

Digging: Silversun Pickups - Swoon

jefflebowski
July 22nd 2014



7568 Comments


never let me down again is one of the all-time great openers

Digging: Tom Waits - Bone Machine

BMDrummer
July 22nd 2014



5521 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

agrd hard

Digging: Svffer - Lies We Live



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