Depeche Mode
Spirit


4.0
excellent

Review

by Raul Stanciu STAFF
March 17th, 2017 | 139 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A painfully accurate record that portrays some of today's main political and social issues...

Like clockwork, Depeche Mode have been dropping albums every four years since Ultra saw the light of day two decades ago. I must say I anxiously await them, because they never disappoint. For better or for worse, the band never released the same album twice. I admire them for venturing like this so far in their career, when they could easily just lay back and not care anymore. The blueprints are familiar, yet changing producers keeps a fresh input even during struggling times (see Martin's creative block throughout the Exciter writing sessions). After finishing the "Ben Hillier trilogy", the veterans opted for James Ford to work on the latest record, Spirit. The younger musician became famous after working with Arctic Monkeys or Florence and the Machine, among many others, thus bringing a different vibe to the table.

Overall, Spirit is a truly interesting affair, being broken in two main parts both lyrically and musically. On one side you have the usual love themes this time set against strong political and social awareness. Although they flirted with the latter on the early works, here you can find their boldest & most vitriolic statements. On the other hand, musically, there's the vintage analog instrumentation that meets a more inciting side consisting of warmer moments. It's not that easy to pinpoint this record since it borrows several elements from different eras, while carving a niche of its own in the discography. There are pieces that could've been lifted off Delta Machine or the mid-80's, especially when poignant synths take over. 'So Much Love' is an uplifting number that reminisces 'Soft Touch/Raw Nerve' off the above mentioned LP. The energetic industrial sound scapes topped by Dave and Martin's vocals really breathe life into the more subdued second part. 'Poorman' and 'Cover Me' fall into this old school meets 21st century Depeche Mode category too. Driven by sequencers, they are smoothly enhanced by a wide array of embellishments: guitar licks and brooding synth bass lines join in on 'Poorman', creating an interesting vibe, whereas 'Cover Me' grows from lush, hazy pads (echoing the ones on 'Enjoy the Silence') to krautrock-influenced grooves. There's a soothing tone while Gahan sings about leaving this place to find another life beyond the stars and the moment he stops, that dream "ensues" with the sequencer's appearance. As a departure from Delta Machine's often suffocating arrangements, the guys left more room here for the music to expand without layering too much either and it really pays off.

Contrasting this side of the album, we receive a warmer counterpart represented by cuts such as 'Going Backwards', 'The Worst Crime' or 'Where's the Revolution'. Bittersweet piano lines and steady drum beats instantly greet us on the lovely opener, 'Going Backwards'. Again, highlights are the two members singing in unison, plus the song's progression, which becomes more and more urgent, but in an elegant way. As atmosphere builds up, the main political manifesto, 'Where's the Revolution' kicks in. At first, I was reluctant to admit, however, it's an excellent track that says so much with such few lyrics. Moreover, it will surely be a highlight on tour when sung by tens of thousands people at the same time. The moment the chorus starts and everything bursts is just golden. The simplicity offers that charm and the two men singing together doubles the message's power and catchiness. 'The Worst Crime' and 'Poison Heart' are a couple of slow numbers that bring that intimate side of Depeche Mode to the forefront. As the former reveals the mournful feel of Dave's work with Soulsavers, we are asked why haven't we done anything to make our lives better. We prefer to spread and comment on the misinformation we're fed daily, without lifting a finger to improve our situations or see behind the veil of lies. It's something we're all aware, but many latently pass by. Meanwhile, 'Poison Heart' deals with relationship deterioration, using this icy guitar strum and a slow, heavy drum kick accompanying it. Although Gahan's songs have been getting stronger with each album, it's nice to see him write again with live members Peter Gordeno & Christian Eigner who are accustomed to the band's sound.

Sitting somewhere in between these main styles are the two dancing numbers, 'Scum' and 'You Move'. Head scratching on a first listen, 'Scum' is definitely a grower. The hand clapping, distorted groove boasts pulsating synths that beautifully complement the overall mood. Full of pathos, Dave's performance lures you in while you dance to the beat, shouting "pull the trigger!". The target might be Trump or Richard Spencer, the American white supremacist, yet we are given only clues. Then, (the first Gore/Gahan track present on any DM LP's main track list) 'You Move' brings back the '80s entwined with a modern, deep bass lead, breaking the tension in the process. Although it might not seem, Spirit is one of their most complex efforts in a long time. You really have bits of everything Depeche Mode have done, all compressed into 50 minutes.

In the end, Spirit needs much like any of the band's albums some spins to truly reveal itself. In many ways, this is Delta Machine taken into a more organic direction, offering glimpses of past efforts in the process. The decision to let the songs breathe through airy layers was wise, because you can easily focus on them this way. Thankfully, taking on different political and social issues we all face today recharged them. Even so, you can never tell where they're going to go next, so we have 4 years to digest this LP and anxiously wait for another. This is one of the few groups that remain relevant by simply following their strengths and never settle into a comfort zone. You can instantly recognize their music, still there's always something different to it, no matter how small.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2017


4343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I didn't know what to think in the beginning, but this grew on me a lot. Excellent album, stoked to see them live on this tour playing these tracks. I know it was barely released, but I have had the album for over a week now.



Here's the stream - http://exclaim.ca/music/article/depeche_mode-spirit_album_stream

Digging: The Flying Eyes - Burning the Season

Storm In A Teacup
March 17th 2017


22050 Comments


the hype is strong with this one. yes please and thank you.

zakalwe
March 17th 2017


22744 Comments


Loved Delta Machine love this.

CoreyHaimsGhost
March 17th 2017


255 Comments


i didn't like the first single but eveyrbody here seemed to. hope the other tracks are better

DrGonzo1937
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2017


13294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm absolutely loving this so far.

Digging: Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 17th 2017


24601 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

This is the most hyped I've been in advance of an album so far this year. Believe it or not, it will only be my second full DM listen (the other is Violator). Great work with this review, I'm even more excited now.

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

zakalwe
March 17th 2017


22744 Comments


It's no violator

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2017


4343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thank you Sowing! Yeah, I saw you got really into 'Where's the Revolution' and the entire album is very strong. It's probably the tightest since Playing the Angel.

You have to listen to their late '80s and '90s stuff. Personally, I love Exciter too even though most fans consider it one of the weakest DM records. It's their most American sounding IMO and the hazy ambience make it different from others.

CaptainAaarrrggghhh
March 17th 2017


420 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, it's a grower alright, but it still reeks of this "we don't need to really try anymore" attitude to me. But in all honesty they really don't.

Currently I can't get "You Move" out of my head.

DrGonzo1937
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2017


13294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great rev insomniac. Pretty much fully agree with it.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2017


4343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'You Move' is great. 'Scum' is another damn catchy song.



Thank you DrGonzo!

Arcade
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2017


8410 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

haven't really cared for DM since Songs of Faith and Devotion but the good reception this is getting has me mildly intrigued.

Digging: Zola Jesus - Okovi

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2017


15031 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Mild is always the appropriate descriptor with the Depeche

Digging: East River Pipe - Shining Hours In A Can

Azertherion
March 17th 2017


429 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Violator/Ultra begs to disagree.

Digging: Vangelis - China

bloc
March 17th 2017


43026 Comments


If this is actually good, I will have tears in my eyes

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
March 17th 2017


4479 Comments


it begs it so mildly though..

Digging: Rip Rig Panic - God

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2017


4343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like everything they released since Black Celebration. They feel a bit rejuvenated here by tackling other subjects too. Definitely easier to digest than Delta Machine or Sounds of the Universe.

Sabrutin
March 17th 2017


4415 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

NEED TO CHECK but I bet it's no Playing the Angel level of modern Depeche

Digging: Paradise Lost - Medusa

JWT155
March 17th 2017


13537 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I dig the sound but I'm not sold on the political message yet, the single to me was very monotonous and seemed more pandering then genuine. Still stoked tho.

bloc
March 17th 2017


43026 Comments


Mhmm, I don't think PtA can be topped ever with modern DM



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