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Depeche Mode
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Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode is a synth pop band founded in 1980 in the town of Basildon, England by:

The band's name (pidgin French for "Fast Fashion", or "Fashion Today/Now/Dispatch" which meant "Fashion News" in common french) was inspired by a French fashion magazine of the same name.

Verbally contracted to Daniel Miller's Mute label, Depeche Mode are one of the most successful of the New Wave//New Romantic bands.

After the release of Speak & Spell;, their first album, song-writer Clarke left the band and went on to form Yazoo (Yaz in the US) with Alison Moyet, The Assembly with Feargal Sharkey, Dave Clempson and Eric Radcliffe, and later Erasure with Andy Bell.

After the release of A Broken Frame in 1982, Alan Wilder joined the band as a permanent replacement for Clarke and Martin Gore took over as the band's primary song-writer.

In the early 1980s the band's popularity was largely confined to Europe (particularly Germany) and their style was Synth pop. In 1984 Depeche Mode made in-roads into America, which spawned the US-only release of Catching Up With Depeche Mode.

In the intervening years between the mid-80's and 90's, the band's popularity in the US grew to massive proportions. The 101 tour culminated in a final concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl with a sell-out attendance of 80,000 (the highest in 8 years for the venue). The tour was documented in a film by D.A. Pennebaker, recently released on DVD, which is notable for an element of fan interaction.

1993's Songs Of Faith And Devotion was released to huge acclaim and went straight to number one in the US. But the style of the record was anything but Depeche Mode and did not fit with DM's happy image at all. The synths were hidden among layered arrangements and muted and the record featured complex melodies and cerebral lyrics. An example from "Walking in my shoes" follows illustrating the unbelievably non-Pop and non-Depeche Mode lyrics:


Morality would frown upon
Decency look down upon
The scapegoat fate's made of me
But I promise you, my judge and jurors
My intentions couldn't have been purer
My case is easy to see


I'm not looking for a clearer conscience
Peace of mind after what I've been through
And before we talk of repentance
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes

One wonders why is one of the most successful synthpop bands of all time, with a worldwide following, shedding tears about the hardships they have been through. Although it was not easy to listen to like previous DM records such as Violator and many fans of DM were put off by this record (some were actually angered by it and felt duped by the band they loved), which opened without warning (so that you had no chance to lower the volume) with an ear-piercing horriffic shrieking sound that lasted a few seconds, which seemed placed at the start to intentionally torture the DM fan for buying the record, ultimately the record was recognized as artistically one of the best DM records of all time (by their most hardcore fans but it ruined DM's reputation with younger fans who were not aware of DM's previous work), with almost all the songwriting done by Martin Gore.

The record is said to grow on the listener as time passes, after one has made considerable effort to listen to it. Most newcomers would probably not buy another DM record, if this was the first DM record they bought and definitely not make the effort to listen to it the approximately 20 times in agony, before the record starts to make some sense and deliver some entertainment value. This record is extremely dark and depressing and is a far cry from happy DM records - which is what one expected when buying a DM record. All songs are 180 degrees away from the likes of songs like "I just can't get enough" (with its lighthearted beat and lively lyrics).

Additionally, one gets the distinct impression that DM is trying to shun keyboards and are really ashamed for having been such a heavily synthpop band in the past. This impression is increased by the fact that Dave Gahan is seen lovingly holding an accoustic guitar in the CD booklet and there are no pictures of any keyboards nearby. This is a very strange image since guitars are not what DM have ever been about at all - keyboards are what DM are about, so what's Dave Gahan doing caressing the enemy (i.e. an accoustic guitar)? And whose brilliant idea was this anyway?

In June 1995 after the Devotional tour, Alan Wilder left the band citing unsatisfactory internal working conditions, to continue work on his personal project Recoil. One wonders, if the colossal failure of the band to recognize its own brand appeal in releasing the previous record, may have played some part in his departure. Some critics have said that Songs of faith and devotion seems like an attempt at taking a shotgun and aiming for the heart of DM at point-blank range - unwittingly, of course, in a horribly misguided attempt at reinventing the band in a more guitar-friendly way (remember this was the time when grunge was all the rage and syntheisizer based music was being widely derided in the US as fake music).

DM had apparently panicked in what appeared to be an unstoppable avalanche of grunge (i.e. guitar based music), in the US (one of their biggest markets) and failed to realize that legions of loyal but silent DM fans had continued to stay loyal to them and their synthesizers and had not necessarily been swayed by grunge and guitar based music (which sounded like nothing more than stylized white noise or worse to many of them).

2003 saw the release of Dave Gahan's solo album, Paper Monsters, followed by a worldwide tour and a DVD taken from it, titled Live Monsters, Martin Gore continued his solo career with the release of Counterfeit 2, and Andrew Fletcher launched his own label, Toast Hawaii.


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