- NOV 11, 2022
- Playing The Angel The 12" Singles
- 35 Songs
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About Depeche Mode
Electronic pioneers who became arena-filling pop titans, Depeche Mode aren’t just icons of New Wave; their early years represent the seismic shift that triggered a tsunami of synthesizer-centered acts. When the UK group got its start in 1980, punk had wiped the slate clean; aspiring young musicians were trading guitars for electronics, and everything felt possible. Depeche Mode proved as much, masterminding an austere yet bewitchingly melodic sound built on cutting-edge synths and clean-lined drum programming. Their sound grew darker after their comparatively chipper 1981 debut, Speak & Spell, once founding member Vince Clarke left to form Yazoo, then Erasure; he was replaced by Alan Wilder, who remained in the band until 1995, leaving original members Martin Gore, Dave Gahan, and Andy Fletcher as the group’s long-standing lineup.
Under Gore’s songwriting, key themes emerged: primarily the pleasures of sin and the relief of redemption, with occasional forays into the kinds of dorm-room philosophizing (“Blasphemous Rumours”) that have made Depeche Mode perennial faves for generations of brooding teenagers. The title of 1987’s Music for the Masses came to look like a premonition: In 1988, they corralled 75,000 fans for a Los Angeles concert—numbers that, just a few years earlier, would have been unheard of for a synth-pop group. While their sound remained strictly electronic, Gahan developed the leering voice and louche stage presence of a swaggering rock star (exhibit A: 1989’s bluesy “Personal Jesus,” which Johnny Cash himself would eventually cover). 1990’s Violator is widely hailed as their masterpiece: lush, mysterious, and multidimensional, pairing some of Depeche Mode’s most compelling songwriting with their most advanced electronic sound design. That record established the formula they’ve continued to tweak album after album. Having inspired artists across techno, alternative rock, emo, and pop, Depeche Mode was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020—the ultimate confirmation of the synthesizer’s enduring influence.
- Basildon, Essex, England
- March 1980