Album Review: Depeche Mode ‘Spirit’

Depeche Mode Spirit Cover

Stand back now. The grown-ups are in charge – and it shows, in more ways than one.

From the opening bars of this, the 14th album in the nigh on four-decade career of Depeche Mode, you know you’re in the hands of grown-ups. The standard of songwriting is mixed, however – the strength of the opening tracks is not sustained, and in composition, the later tracks tend to feature more experience than innovation.

It is not long before becoming apparent that the ‘spirit’ referred to here is probably one of disillusionment. “We’re going backwards”, insists the first track. And the second, ‘Where’s the revolution?’, points an accusatory digit at our apparent unwillingness to do anything about it: “Come on people, you’re letting me down.” That apathy, mixed with the misbehaviour of our leaders is judged in the sentiments of Track 3, ‘Worst Crime’, further adding to the growing atmosphere of exasperation.

But surely life can’t be all bad, hey Dep? Oh, yes it can, for, now we’re into ‘Scum’, a rant of disgust at an unknown target. I misheard the chorus call as ‘pull the tree down’; and it doesn’t take much guesswork as to who in British political life are commonly referred to as ‘scum’ and have a tree as their logo.

Even the stated appreciation of someone, as expressed in ‘You Move’, carries with it a voyeuristic darkness. Then ‘Cover Me’ opens with the line “I’ve felt better.” You don’t say.

By the time we get to ‘Poison Heart’, I’m beginning to wonder if this album has a single positive thing to say.

The songwriting is not so much plaintive as downright complaining. That said, the aforementioned undeniable musical experience of the band comes through. The album is pretty much gimmick-free, well instrumented and produced; and some, but notably not all of the melodies are evidence of craft and accomplishment.

But you certainly wouldn’t play ‘Spirit’ to your frail old Gran, and I’d avoid sharp objects while auditioning it. Maybe this is one for the more gothically inclined – but this listener prefers something with a tad more colour in its cheeks.

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