Courtesy of Columbia Records

March 22, 2017

TEST SPIN: Depeche Mode — Spirit

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I knew pop music reached a turning point when Depeche Mode released their single “Where’s the Revolution” and Katy Perry followed, a week later, by releasing “Chained to the Rhythm.” Ever since the presidential election, everyone became “woke,” including artists. I expected Katy Perry to buy into this, but not Depeche Mode. “Where’s the Revolution” left me hoping for something less industrial and more like the band’s trademark upbeat synth sounds. I had high expectations for Spirit and, sadly, they were not met. Rather than continuing to make thoughtful, soul-searching soundtracks, Depeche Mode bought into the rising “Purposeful” or “woke” pop act.

Before Spirit, Depeche Mode had not released an album since Delta Machine in 2014, which was not their best work. After three years, I expected Depeche Mode to come back and give us all a deep, thought-provoking album. That’s not to say they didn’t try to do that, but they simply went about it the wrong way. Spirit was possibly not in the works until after the election, when the national political climate reached boiling point. Over the three-year period between Delta Machine and Spirit, it appears that Depeche Mode did not begin to work on Spirit until November of 2016 or maybe a bit earlier. Therefore, Depeche Mode’s finished product was something that resembled Delta Machine, but took all the less appealing elements of it, such as songs that were excessively slow and monotone, along with obnoxiously haunting rhythms. This, however, does not mean that the whole album was worthless. Depeche Mode has always delivered poetic lyrics, and Spirit maintained that consistency, at least with the few tracks that were not political, such as “Eternal,” “Poison Heart” and “So Much Love.” Nevertheless, this lyric consistency failed to follow the album’s political theme.

At least eight of the album’s twelve tracks were a direct slash at current politics, which is something an increasing number of artists are beginning to try their hand at. It’s refreshing to see artists taking on activism through music once more, just as The Beatles and other artists from the ‘60s did. However, this movement is different from that of the ‘60s. Today, artists are putting profit over activism, which is blurring the purpose of the movement. It’s unclear whether Depeche Mode is just going with the act or they actually mean what their songs imply. Depeche Mode has made political songs in the past, but not a whole album revolving around this theme since Construction Time Again in 1983. Martin Gore wrote both albums, but everything since 1982, which was when he became the band’s main songwriter, has been a mix of songs about love, heartbreak, pessimism and politics. Now, suddenly, Gore has written a whole album on politics again. This means that either Depeche Mode is jumping on the “woke” train, or the current political climate is so bad that they had to make another political album, which they hadn’t done in 34 years. Regardless, the music itself did not compare to Sounds of the Universe or Playing the Angel, more recent albums that featured both rich music and lyrics.

Overall, Spirit was unimpressive but Depeche Mode was definitely making an effort to convey something bigger than the music could. This could mean that the end of Depeche Mode happened in 2013 with Delta Machine, but they could bounce back in another three years or more.

Viri Garcia is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]