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|Main Category:||Synth Pop|
|Also applicable:||Mope Rock, Dance Pop|
|Starting Period:||The Divided Eighties|
|Also active in:||From Grunge To The Present Day|
Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Depeche Mode fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Depeche Mode fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1981
Overall rating = 11
Exclusive synth pop for five-year old non-heterosexuals. A terrific target audience if there ever was one.Best song: PUPPETS
Track listing: 1) New Life; 2) I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead; 3) Puppets; 4) Boys Say Go!; 5) Nodisco; 6) What's Your Name; 7) Photographic; 8) Tora! Tora! Tora!; 9) Big Muff; 10) Any Second Now [voices]; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) Just Can't Get Enough; 12) Dreaming Of Me; 13) Ice Machine; 14) Shout; 15) Any Second Now; 16) Just Can't Get Enough [schizo mix].
Illustrious and all-merciful bodhisattva of synth-pop, I call to thee. Be it thy mercy to grant thy humble servants, Vince Clarke and Martin Gore, the right and the privilege to lead a miserable existence in the hellish palaces of the underground judges, Yamaha and Casio, for as many kalpas as there have been second- and third-hand talentless, tasteless, cheesy, dorky-looking, robot-minded, lip-synching imitators of their style in the ensuing decade (European audiences, in particular, will know what I mean when I whisper the Gorgonic-effect "Modern Talking" in their ears). But be it also thy compassion, when thousands and millions of years have gone by, to tell the austere judges to free them from whatever torture devices have been set up for them, and grant them a few years of peaceful existence in Your blissful gardens for the shameful, but irresistably entertaining aural mess that is Speak & Spell.I may be wrong here, not being a well-versed expert on synth-pop (and trust me, I have little interest in actually becoming one), but somehow I've always had this notion that Speak & Spell was actually the first true synth-pop album, with emphasis on "pop" rather than "synth". Naturally, by 1981 even formerly guitar-frozen bands like Bad Company and Queen were using synthesizers all over the place, and electronic rhythms had been pushed further than necessary by Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and the Human League, but most people still had no wish to actually write an unpretentious, consciously "non-artsy" pop album that would be exclusively driven forward by synths; it took Depeche Mode to make that initial move and trigger the abominable wave of blandness that, for a short period, threatened to massacre good popular music altogether. As it always happens, though, pioneers have the advantage. The advantage of Depeche Mode was obvious. With no less than three keyboardists in the band (plus a lead singer and that's it - drummers are so passe, you know), they hammered out an all-synthesized pop sound that could actually be solid all the way through. Speak & Spell is, in fact, more complex in nature than almost any given Kraftwerk album; it usually features several 'layers' of synth, with melodies and countermelodies and all that goes along with normal pop songwriting. In fact, all of these songs could have easily been translated into guitar-based compositions and then you'd have your typical decent power-pop record with a New Waveish flavour, kinda like the Cars but somewhat more bouncy and upbeat. As such, you get a seriously innovative sound - but, of course, a dead rut for anybody whose level of tolerance for synth-pop is near zero. It should be seriously noted, though, that this is nowhere near the "classic" Depeche Mode of the Gore variety. The band is still trying to find their horses, and at this point, Vince Clarke is the principal songwriter. So there is a bunch of dark atmospheric numbers scattered here and there, but they really constitute the exception rather than the rule. If you're into Depeche Mode for their darkness and decadence, the sissy nature of the album will be a tough pill to swallow. But what is impossible to deny is how well-written the melodies actually are. No, they aren't wonderful melodies, and most of them are too slight and flimsy and repetitive to be considered total masterpieces - but when it's song after song after song and there's nary a true stinker in the bunch and they all invite you to sing along and stuff, you know you're dealing with professionals. And actually professionals with talent, too; that makes a difference. 'New Life' starts off nice and cool, like your average optimistic, friendly pop-rocker recoded in electronic terms; the Kraftwerk influence is immediately evident in the sonic nature of the tape loops, but Kraftwerk on their average day would have serious problems coming up with something that friendly and catchy. (Correction: would have rather renounced German citizenship than agree to come up with something that friendly and catchy). The 'Twist And Shout'-inspired vocal harmonies at the end of the track show that these boys are in no way refuting the "guitar-era" technologies of songwriting - they are just telling you that we're living in The Age of The Robot People, with its own requirements and amendments, and, well, like it or not, they got a point there. 'I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead' is the kind of song without which there'd never be any Pet Shop Boys for sure. Not that it sounds much like the Pet Shop Boys. It can only dream of having all those juicy "extras" with which the Boys would later - unsuccessfully - try to convince sceptics that synth-pop can be High Art. But it's got the backbone, and where would the Boys be without a backbone? Hooked to life support, that's where. I used to think that the main 'whistling' synth line that carries the song is too wimpy to fit into any acceptable taste pattern, but I got over it. Give wimpy music a chance, people. If it sounds like it's been tailor-made for the pre-school age, that's not a valid accusation per se. If Mother Goose can be a classic, so can this early Depeche Mode stuff. Okay, so 'What's Your Name?' can't be a classic, not even in a world where alien fascists have eliminated all music except for electronic teen-pop. It's abominable, but it's an aberration rather than a necessity. Real living proof: 'Boys Say Go!', which carries pretty much the same message but manages to do it without repeating the line 'hey, you're such a pretty boy' for about a million times in a row. Besides, 'Boys Say Go!' is at least a fuckin' anthem. It's got a fuckin' point. It's got a fuckin' attitude. 'What's Your Name?', in the meantime, merely has an attitude of fuckin'. And since I do not belong to the target audience this attitude of fuckin' is directed at, and yet, just about every time I hear it, I get a feeling they're calling out to get me, I reserve my personal right to forget about its existence. Not that I think that actually being gay would improve the effect. I'd rather my potential gay friends celebrated their way of life to Pete Townshend's 'Rough Boys' or something like that. Anyway, that's just one song; sort of an extreme shot of the light side, amply showing you why the dark side is so much more comfortable. And there's plenty of hints at the big turnover to come, starting already with track number three, 'Puppets'. In quite a catchy way, they announce that 'I'm your operator baby, I'm in control' and back that statement up with a particularly well-chosen ominous synth riff (granted, Modern Talking and other lameass synth-pop bands used very similar synth riffs - but they actually used to have one such riff per song, leaving everything else to the charms of the syrupy-sweet lead singer, whereas 'Puppets' is a much more complex and musically-based affair). Nothing else on the record is quite as gloomy - and besides, 'Puppets' itself isn't so much gloomy as it's sexist and stalkerish - but 'Photographic' and a couple other tunes come close. This ain't Eldorado the whole year round. Namechecking every single song on here would reek of too much pedantism, besides, there's a whole bunch of bonus tracks on my edition (B-sides, US-only compositions, etc.) that rank from passable to very good (including their first single, 'Just Can't Get Enough', which is basically a slightly less cringeworthy piece o' cornball than 'What's Your Name?'). But if you've heard the first four or five songs, you can pretty much say you've heard it all. Everything is accessible, everything is working, even the Gore-penned instrumental 'Big Muff' (the kind of thing that the Ventures probably would end up doing in the early Sixties had they been equipped with synthesizers instead of surf guitars). The important thing is to get adjusted to the sound and realize that yes, it is the basic Eighties synth-pop sound, only in this context it's being used to encode some really fantastiwastic pop melodies. Get over the primitive, un-elaborated pssht-pssht-going drum machines and Kraftwerk-induced bloopy-bleepy synth loops. After all, it's not really any more fair to say this album sounds 'dated' today than it is to say Black Sabbath sounds 'dated' because we've had Def Leppard and Poison since then. And in retrospect, Speak & Spell is truly many times better than the absolute majority of mainstream electronic dance pop flooding the airwaves today - if only because these guys actually cared about the music more than about the image.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1982
Vince Clarke is out, and Martin Gore receives the relay baton as the band's chief songwriter. Presto-changeo, the sound is revamped: most of the lightweight, unassuming, happy-face synth-pop of Speak & Spell is ditched as Gore leads the band into "doomier" territory, with minor chords, heavy atmospherics, pensive lyrics, and even an occasional Gregorian chant here and there. This is the start of Depeche Mode as everybody knows them, the geeky heroes of the Moody Synth Tune. This is how they gonna stay forever.Unfortunately, this isn't really such a hot start. Vince Clarke may not have possessed a "vision", but he had a knack for hooks and classy melodies which he certainly did not leave to the band, but in a fit of egotistic temper took over with him to Erasure. Gore, on the other hand, seems to have had that "vision" right from the start, but he lacked the pop sensibility of his colleague. Now if the dark mood of Broken Frame were somehow transferred onto the immaculate hooks of Speak & Spell, this would have made up for an all-time classic. But when you separate the ingredients, you suck. The album utterly leaves me cold, and not in the "good" sense in which Depeche Mode records are supposed to leave you cold - icy, detached, emotionless, frigid, whatsoever; it just passes by without my noticing much of anything. The only song which seems to have enough catchiness is the blatantly Clarke-style 'See You', but it kinda suffers from sounding way too much like a typical Sixties pop number revamped for a full-fledged synth treatment, er, I mean, check out the rise and fall of the vocal melody in the chorus and tell me it ain't ripped off from the Hollies or whoever. Elsewhere, it's just pure atmospherics from beginning to end. You know you're in trouble when out of these non-thoroughly-pop songs the best one turns out to be a relatively primitive instrumental number ('Nothing To Fear') - which could have served as a great background for a TV commercial or something with its naggingly repetitive main theme, with just one member playing out a catchy, but not very imaginative synth riff with one finger. For four minutes, mind you. But hey, I'm not complaining, because the theme at least gives me some solid basis to hold on. I don't detest those atmospheres, see. It's still nice to see this band expand on what they already had and try to fashion their own - very often imitated, but rarely surpassed (although I'm certainly talking of their later records here) - brand of dark-mystique-synth-pop. It's just that the overall sound is too thin and the actual atmospheres are rarely backed with more than one or two minimalistic synth overdubs, and with that background, even the band's gloomy "ooh ooh" chanting at the beginning of 'Leave In Silence' sounds stupid rather than impressive. And excuse me, but the actual melody of the song is based on the same looped three-note bassline and nothing else, which hardly makes it better than your average generic techno track. It's good to see that the song is used to convey dark and bleak emotions rather than blatant sappiness, for instance, but as far as melody goes, even Modern Talking could beat that on a good day. Minor highlights on the album (and 'minor' as in 'songs that caused George W. Bush to refrain from referring to this album as 'top secret terrorist psychological weapon' in any of his recent addresses to the nation') would include: 'Secret Gardens', where the vocal melody somehow meshes in well with the ominous synth pattern, whatever that would mean to you; 'Photograph Of You', which is an absolutely awful song but it's kinda fun because it almost sounds like a parody on Clarke's overall style; and the closing number 'The Sun & The Rainfall', which isn't the next coming of Christ but I guess it's still the best song on here, kinda like a reworked and embettered version of 'Nothing To Fear' with vocals added. I have a creepy feeling that the main vocal hook (the 'all that we're saying, the games we are playing' line) was actually borrowed from somewhere, but my memory is blocked. Kinks? Stones? Whatever. A very "muffled" album this is, too - quiet and inobtrusive, which is better, I guess, than having generic obtrusive techno pounding on your brain 24 hours a day, but there's gotta be limits to everything: this is inobtrusiveness to the point of complete unmemorability and facelessness. Apart from 'Photograph Of You', I guess, there are no absolute stinkers here, but it is actually goddamn hard to imagine how a single band could go from "hooks galore" to "now how did that song go?" mode over the course of one year. Well, I mean, the actual reason is obvious, but it's fun to be asking rhetoric questions once in a while!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1983
Yeah, I agree - it is construction time again, as the band finally starts to rebuild itself and its music after the devastating loss of Vince Clarke. However, while I'm not sure, the album title might also have been a slight nod to the band's fascination with industrial art a la Einstürzende Neubauten at the time (their name means 'collapsing new buildings'), and a positive answer to the industrial destructivism of the times. In any case, only a preoccupation with industrial can explain one of the most daring tracks on here, the percussion-heavy 'Pipeline' which does not feature a dance rhythm, substituting it for exactly the kind of cling-clanging that Blixa Bargeld and his croonies were famous for. Normally, it's not a track that Depeche Mode fans love because it's so much at odds with their typical material, but when you take it within all the musical context of the early Eighties, it's actually a good one. 'We're working on the pipeline...', with those gloomy 'ooooommm' noises in the background, really gives the impression of the slow, depressing, endless process of piling up bricks on one another (or tubes, or whatever). The funny thing is, you can actually hear a ping-pong ball bouncing off the tennis table at times. Cute.But whatever. It's just one of those rare excourses into "audacious" material that isn't at all typical of the record. What is typical is that overall, the moods and the impressions of the songs become much, much darker than before - most probably due to the arranging talents of new band member Alan Wilder. There's not a single 'all I wanna do is see you, don't you know that it's true' kind of song on the album any more. Instead, you get strange songs with ominous-sounding messages, bits of sarcastic social critique, and even eco-rock of all things. Now frankly I don't much care about what Depeche Mode have to say lyrically, especially since they choose the most ridiculous combination of mainstream arranging and production with "protest" messages and give the impression of taking themselves way too seriously. But fortunately, Gahan's singing never really gets in the way; acting as an inescapable part of the general "moodpiece", it doesn't place too much emphasis on itself. I mean, it took me an active consultation of the lyrics sheets to get the "critique motives" they're using here. So you're well advised to stay away from the lyrics sheets, anyway. These guys aren't exactly Van Der Graaf Generator. The melodies and moods is what counts, and there's plenty of good stuff on the album. Starting, for instance, with the hit single 'Everything Counts', one of the band's catchiest songs ever. 'The grabbing hands grab all they can, everything counts in large amounts'. I'm pretty sure this line will have staying power with anybody who doesn't lope off his ears at the first note of Depeche Mode music. This faux-recorder and faux-bagpipe sound that accompanies the chorus also rules. I'm not sure if the "extended" version of the track that you can find as a bonus number on some CD editions is worth your patience, but the actual number cooks so much they even use a snatch of it as an 'outro' to the entire album. Another favourite of mine is the bass-heavy 'More Than A Party'. The bass/doomy chime/Gahan melancholy combination on the track slightly recalls the original atmosphere of 'My Secret Garden', but this one's the better song - it's faster, more expressive and more involving. That keyboard bassline is totally killer, even if it's simpler than Phil Collins' forehead. 'Shame', again heavy on industrial-inspired percussion (but this time around, much more rhythmic), is one of the most successful paranoia-simulating mood pieces in the synth-pop genre so far; think early Roxy Music, but with a minimalistic twist. 'Told You So' is a straightforward rocker, so straightforward it can almost get annoying, but the synth riffs and vocal melody totally regains that level of 'cheesy catchiness' that the band had on Speak & Spell, and complements it with those evil 'told you so, told you so' whispers that add mystery and magic. Okay, scrap "magic". Replace it with "interest". Calling Depeche Mode "magicians" would be too much of an honour to the lamest decade in mainstream rock, really. Then there are selected moments in songs I don't care all that much for; 'And Then...' has this neat two-note repeated synth pattern that adds darkness and danger to an otherwise unremarkable composition. Also, some songs actually feature limited guitar and piano, if my ears don't deceive me - isn't that acoustic guitar and piano I'm hearing on 'Love In Itself'? Sure the horns are synthesized, but those other non-synth instruments? Fuck those sellouts. There they had that pure, primal, energetic SYNTH texture going on, and then they put guitars and pianos on it which ruin the entire experience by sucking all the life and sincerity out of that raw, honest synthesizer sound. Fuck 'em. Don't buy this album unless you're in it for the REAL thing.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1984
Some great reward for what? For being patient enough not to dump the band in the trashbin for their two previous "construction years"?Actually, yes. This is the first Depeche Mode album that can actually rival the trivial, but fun catchiness and "inspired lightness" of Speak & Spell; not that it's oh so 'complex' and 'deep' as some DM fans would have you believe, but one thing is certain: Gore's songwriting reaches total and complete fruition. And the band's sound has never been more firm and self-assured; by now, they are able to merge "goth", synth-pop, and industrial elements in a seamless mold that highlights their unique style. Inventive percussion, un-annoying synth patterns, and catchy vocal melodies a-plenty. And, of course, atmosphere. With each album, they get more and more angry and dark, dreary even for a synth-pop band. Which also means they're getting more and more artsy, but fortunately, the 'pretentions' of the songs are easily matched by their quality, so I have no problems with that. The fast driving grooves are the main point of attraction: for instance, no DM album has yet started on a better note than this one with 'Something To Do', where the paranoid bassline, the goofy 'croaking' synth rhythms and these pseudo-Goth chim-chim-chiming "synth leads" are used to perfect effect, and of course, you probably won't be able to resist that goddamn 'is there something to do, is there something to do?' chorus. So much for paranoia and depression; but you also get your "we're so pissed off and you will feel it even if we're playing these dinky synths" number, 'People Are People', which is anti-racist or something (spare me your disdain if I don't pay that much attention to Depeche Mode's social comment; Martin Gore ain't no Martin Luther King, after all) and has a cleverly arranged industrial-influenced percussion track (I guess after 'Pipeline' the band just gave up on plain industrial music, preferring instead to merge it with dance rhythms - too bad, they didn't suck at it) and very stupid, but attractive in a guilty-pleasure way 'oom oom oom' encoded vocals during the breaks. But is it catchy? You bet your life it is! Actually, the more I think of it, the more I start understanding it's also their most diverse effort so far. For Chrissake, it's got their first non-electronic song, the cute little ballad 'Somebody' which, after twenty introductory seconds of industrial noises, is just Gore and a piano. And it's good, in a 'Songbird' kind of way - you know, it takes some talent to create a good piano-driven ballad, and these guys prove themselves worthy. Maybe just a little bit too much sap in the vocals, but I guess you can get used to that. Besides, I love the way the guy intones 'I don't want to be tied to anyone's strings...'. Heck, neither do I. At any rate, it's really much better sounding than the synth-driven ballad 'It Doesn't Matter', which, I guess, is arranged rather tastefully according to synth-pop standards, but it just doesn't have a single chance of standing the competition - final proof that more traditional instrumentation wins over the friggin' gadgets, heh heh. Down with the synthesizers now! Give me my mandolin, my Jew's harp, my lute, my qin... sorry, got carried away, and right in the midst of a Depeche Mode page, no less. I guess it's time to remind ourselves that the band actually made electronic instruments sound interesting, too, so let's go listen to one of the album's major highlights, the grim gloomy unfriendly 'Master And Servant'. Whether it's about society in general or just a dominatrix friend of Gore's isn't as important as knowing that the song contains some of the most haunting "robotic rhythms" of the decade. There's two or three different rhythm tracks on here, all cold and bleak and cruel, none really innovating on Kraftwerk, but all selected and constructed with a lot of diligence - so that the final product really subverts you. And, of course, the 'we call it master and servant' line is immortal. It's pretty brutal to realize that this sound, tamed to an accessible user-friendly level, was arguably the best entirely "new" thing to come out of the Eighties, but it's probably the truth. And what's wrong with that, after all? It's the very sound that gives us the excellent closing track, 'Blasphemous Rumours'. More of that industrial percussion, and a chorus that will never get out of your head - 'I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that God has a sick sense of humour...'. I tell you, the use of drum machines and other percussion effects on this album is probably the second best thing after the vocal melodies. Funny how the elitist artists take pains to create all kinds of listener-unfriendly sonic textures for the select few to enjoy, and then along comes a dorky band like Depeche Mode and "borrows" their textures to fit them inside their mainstream pop-slop, eh? Well, let's not forget that bands that are truly mainstream pop-slop do not usually waste their time on listening to elitist music in the first place. And after all, it's the synthesis of the weird and the normal that I value the most. And Depeche Mode deliver in that respect. Sure thing there's a couple of uninteresting tracks on here ('If You Want', for instance - what is there about that song that's not present on the better tunes?), but the filler is limited to several corners, which really and truly makes Some Great Reward, well, a rewarding listen. These guys may directly ask you to lie to them, but they sure don't lie to you, nosiree!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1986
Touchdown. Anybody who thought Depeche Mode was nothing but generic synth-stuck pop crap, as well as anybody who thought Depeche Mode was only good as far as hit singles go, is advised to proceed here directly and admit the painful truth that they were just plain wrong. I mean, you can trash this record if you wish - hey, that's what free will is for - but nobody can seriously insist that Black Celebration has absolutely nothing going for it. This is the band's first real claim at real serious artistry, and it succeeds all the way. Well, almost all the way.Many people had been writing Goth-influenced and Goth-based somber music before Depeche Mode, but very few of them actually bothered to make their somber music poppy and commercial. On Black Celebration, Gore perfects his hook-generating machine to the max, and at the same time, spurred by certain negative events in his own life, tightens all the screws on the band's already functioning "machine of synth-pop death". Sure, he deals with it in a sometimes not too subtle way. When you have an album with the word "black" in the title and three separate song titles as well, you know somebody's pushing this creepy stuff a bit too hard on your psyche. I wouldn't pay much attention to the lyrics, either. But apart from that, it's probably the catchiest song cycle about death, fear, creepiness, and evil mysticism ever created. Every song is elaborated to perfection, with some of the band's most tricky arrangements to date, all but a few songs have thoroughly unguessable melody developments, and you know the rest. And while the public in 1986 was probably more than well-disposed to engulfing these "shocking" songs (after all, wasn't it the era of Motley Crue?), my intuition tells me there's definitely much more than just a cold commercial balance over this album. These songs obviously mean a lot to their author. On the other hand, the band never gets overtly dramatic, like, say, the Cure: the songs may all have their share of creepiness, but neither Gahan nor Gore (who takes lead vocals on several of the tracks) "overemote" on any of them. What really amazes me, though, is the extremely small percentage of filler for such a lengthy album. The title track opens the proceedings with a stately, fast-flowing and shivery melody as Gahan implores us to 'have a black celebration tonight'. Thus you at once get the idea that yeah, the songs will live up to the title and the album cover. 'Fly On The Windscreen' is slower, even creepier, with the band's typical industrial percussion we already got used to and a brilliant contrast between the sneering spooky verses "death is everywhe-e-e-e-e-e-re!" and the black romantic chorus ('come here, kiss me now'...). If anything, "romantic" is the word: this album, to my mind, is one of the most successful transpositions of classic (dark) romanticism onto a pop record. This is neither rock nor pop in the true sense of the word, this is something different - and if you ask me, it's one of those rare cases where the presence of rock guitars would actually spoil the effect. Romanticism persists on the next track, the somewhat brighter - but still with a pessimistic essence - 'Question Of Lust', where Gore takes lead vocals and employs them on arguably the most magnificent bit of vocal melody created by the band. Without that chorus, the song is nothing; with the chorus and its subtle, unexpected build-up to the 'crumble to dust...', it's a masterpiece. 'A Question Of Lust' is, probably intentionally, contrasted with the similarly named 'Question Of Time', but the two songs couldn't be more dissimilar: the latter one is a gritty synth rocker, screaming 'paranoia' out of every corner as Gahan sings about desperately needing to get his girl before 'they lay your hands on you and make you just like the rest'. The song's steady frenetic drive, emphasized by a gloomy bassline and more of those little subtle industrial touches in the percussion department (it's amazing what powerful effort can a few well-placed clangings produce), really gets you going, almost feeling sympathetic for the guy as he keeps running on, because, well, it's just a question of time. And no better song on the album than this one to deserve a lengthy apocalyptic coda, with extra sonic layers piled upon each other to get the listener DOWN. Not wanting to mention every single song, let me just point out that the rest of them include the equally spooky "society sucks you in and spits you out" kind of anthem 'Stripped', whose main tagline - 'let me see you stripped down to the bone' - will probably ring and resonate in your head for many hours after the album is over; the band's innovative attempt at "synth-waltzing" with 'Dressed In Black'; the lengthy industrial/early sampling-based instrumental 'Breathing In Fumes', which, I think, is more influenced by Art Of Noise than by Neubauten this time, and even more so than Art Of Noise, lays down the basic rules for rave music, to become popular, um, more than a half decade later; and the lightweight 'breather' 'But Not Tonight', which is somewhat more reminiscent of the band's earliest style. There are still some songs that I can't stomach a lot - a few of the slower ones, I guess - and also, I'm not the biggest fan of "mood albums", you know: this is Depeche Mode's Pet Sounds, if you wish, and over the course of more than fifty minutes it gets a wee bit tedious. But the hooks, diversity of instrumentation, and the willingness to experiment pull the record back up anyway. If you're hopelessly biased against synth-pop, don't bother listening to it; but if you wish to know the difference between what might possibly be excellent synth-pop and atrocious synth-pop, put this back to back with a Modern Talking album and you'll see what I mean. Remember Modern Talking? 'Brother Louie'? Ah, those were the days...
READER COMMENTS SECTION