After 1991, I went off of Depeche Mode. Unlike many former bands of my collection, my disengagement with them had nothing to do with machine-like house mixes of vapid redundancy. I bought every disc I saw that had something unique to offer from 1981-1991. None of these failed to entertain, as did many Pet Shop Boys or Erasure singles of the same period. After that I just stopped. Probably the biggest factor was the band was simply burnt out after flogging the great “Violator” album and its brace of [good] singles over an extensive two year period that saw them hitting arenas the world over. I finally saw DM on this tour, but by that time, I was more jazzed at Nitzer Ebb opening up for them on their “Showtime” tour, truth be told. When a band you’ve been following for a decade plays your town for the first time in an 18,000 seater concrete bunker, it’s really anticlimactic.
The group took time off to understandably recharge, and when they emerged two years later with the single “Walking In My Shoes.” Not only did it fail to convince, but it coincided with a move on my part that saw me eschewing music purchases of all kinds for a year as I put my money into the new digs and my first computer at a cost in the mid four figures at the time. Well, that’s what top of the line cost twenty years ago. The only Depeche Mode album I have bought since then was “The Best Of Depeche Mode” at a Goodwill basically for the DVD that accompanied it.
#24 • Dave Gahan: Hourglass US CD 
- Saw Something
- Deeper + Deeper
- 21 Days
- Use You
- A Little Lie
I saw a Dave Gahan solo album in the Harvest Basement and thought, “why not?” At their prices, revisiting a group long since abandoned might yield results, and if not it would be no skin off of my nose. Last year a Martin Gore 12″ I bought failed to convince. Would Dave succeed where Martin didn’t? I popped the disc in and it sounded not a million miles away from that I remembered hearing last from Depeche Mode. Then “Kingdom” hit and I found myself thinking “hey, this sounds pretty good.” The track sounded like the bluesy kind of a groove sported by “Personal Jesus,” which is almost the point where I got off of the DM bus.
The next track was definitely “off road” as it explored the sonic wilderness that had been hinted at when I last heard DM with a ferocity that they wouldn’t dare to undertake. The tune was constructed upon glitchy noise sample loops and the most striking thing about it was the backing vocals, which sounded to me as if Pete Burns had been enlisted to sing them! That was not what I had been expecting. I thought to myself, “this sounds pretty good” with some element of surprise. But by the midway point of the album, I found myself mentally walking away from it. By album’s end I thought that the vibe at a certain point had calcified and the energy level, never very high in laptop-based DAW recording* at any rate, had evaporated completely as the album chugged to a perfunctory end.
* Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but this sounds like pure samples and loops in a DAW with a bit of strategic guitar added for spice…
There was also a certain uniformity of plodding tempo to the songs here that distanced myself from them. Dave seemed to give it his best shot, vocally, with more variation on his vocals than the rest of the production, but ultimately, it failed for me. Since I had bailed from the DM bus in 1993, I missed all of the drama that surrounded the band members [particularly Gahan] in that time, but I was at least dimly aware of them. On one hand, Gahan has absorbed his environment well and can write a Depeche Mode song that doesn’t sound appreciably inferior to what Martin Gore writes nowadays. But on the other hand, that and a four dollars will get me a cup of chai.
Perhaps, therein lies the source of my indifference. I’ve just outgrown Depeche Mode; never the leading lights in my musical universe. I’m happy to listen to “A Broken Frame,” “Some Great Reward,” and Violator” and the rest are also rans for my ears and time. Life’s too short to bother with vaguely acceptable music.
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