Depeche Mode is one of the few bands from the 1980s that survived the cross-over into the 1990s. But more impressively, it became more successful in the later years.
Although critics often disliked it, the band was successful commercially. Many of the big-name bands of today, including Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo and Tricky, have cited Depeche Mode as one of their chief influences. With the band’s latest release, Singles 81-85 (Reprise), listeners can hear the origins of the classic band.
The Depeche Mode of 1981 was a far cry from what it would become in the ensuing years. The band made catchy, upbeat synth-pop music, utilizing the song-writing skills of Vince Clarke. Although the songs seem dated, listening to “Dreaming of Me,” “New Life” and the band’s first big hit, “Just Can’t Get Enough,” you cannot help but tap your feet and feel the urge to dance.
Clarke did not stay with Depeche Mode long. He left to form another classic 1980s synth-pop band, Erasure. Filling the song-writing void Clarke left, Martin Gore is mainly responsible for turning Depeche Mode’s music into the darker sound for which the band is know. The music of songs such as “See You,” “Leave in Silence” and “Love In Itself” is still contagious and up-tempo. But it is darker with a more sinister sound.
In songs such as “Master and Servant,” “Blasphemous Rumors” and “Shake the Disease,” Depeche Mode perfected the style that would dominate its music for the remainder of its career. The famous Depeche Mode sound – Dave Gahan’s rich baritone crooning the disheartening lyrics about sex, death, depression and religion, as cold pounding synthesizers fill the background. Although the music is devoid of much emotion, Gore’s crafting of catchy melodies and rhythms insured that the songs would be hits during the 1980s. Depeche Mode’s music continues to be successful today.
The last part of the album contains Depeche Mode’s first mega-hit, the egalitarian anthem “People are People.” The corny lyrics and perfect melody combine to create an amazing song. A selection of songs from the album Black Celebration, which was the band’s best album from this era, conclude the Singles 81-85.
“Photographic” and “Just Can’t Get Enough” are the last two tracks on the album. The band’s first single, “Photographic,” captures the feel of 1980s music. The remix of “Just Can’t Get Enough” is fun, but another song from this era would have done a better job concluding the album.
Although Depeche Mode’s other singles compilation, Singles 86-98, contains more of the band’s well known hits, Singles 81-85 offers music that shows how the great band began and songs that hint at the success Depeche Mode eventually would achieve.