I am not sure what I can say about Depeche Mode that has not already been said before, but I need to write some sort of introduction to this review. So, instead of talking about their past, I will do a little introduction to how this album was created. It has been four years since they released 'Delta Machine', an album I sadly did not have time to review, but it was still a good record. Since we have last heard from them, there has been various solo records from various members of the band and when they regrouped, they have looked at the current state of the word and it has not been to their tastes. On 11th October 2016, they announced the tour to support this album which was recorded at Sound Design (Santa Barbara, California) and Jungle City Studios (New York City, New York), it was produced with James Ford who has worked with the likes of Florence + The Machine, Jessie Ware, Foals, Peaches and other artists. The album was released to a lot of hype, there was a lot of talk about the message of the album, about how political they had become on this record. So, let us see how it has turned out....
01 - Going Backwards
From the beginning of this album, it is clear from the very beginning of this record that the state of the world is at the forefront of Martin Gore's mind. He has written a song that focuses on how the world is in danger of destruction with the human race regressing and not progressing with our political and weapon enhancements. As you have come to expect with Depeche Mode, it is a lucious alternative synth pop number, it has a powerful message and it does it without looking reference to their own past. Fourteen albums in, still moving forward.
02 - Where's the Revolution
The first song to be released from the album, one that bemoans the lack of fight by the common people as they are being repressed by proxy and the lies are being fed as truths. They say if a lie is said often enough, with the right amount of conviction and passion, it will become the truth. That is an argument that I agree with, this song that embodies that message, driving the message home to the listener whilst mixing it with some of the best hooks I have heard from Depeche Mode in a while. It was an obvious single, it has that big chorus that you can imagine be sung in unison at their upcoming world tour.
03 - The Worst Crime
This minimalist song is looking at how humanity is currently being driven by fear that has been fed to us by our leaders, making us scared of everything and we are going against our inherent good nature and letting ourselves down in the process. It is a stop/start affair and it does not really gel for me musically, it does not have a constant flow and just as it is getting interest, it stops and restarts from the beginning. But I cannot deny that the powerful lyrics makes this song interesting, if not a little frustrating.
04 - Scum
'Scum' in contrast to ’The Worst Crime' is a sound explosion, but to be honest that is not very hard. It is a simpler beast, biting at the pond life of the political elite who are in charge, how they are only interested in things that benefit themselves and it is laid out on a glorious, but sparse electronica tune. It is a great song, one of the best on the record.
05 - You Move
One of four songs on the album that features writing credits for Dave Gahan and the only to be co-written with Martin Gore, this song is a contrast for the political leanings of the rest of the record. It is a song about sex, it does not have anything to with the state of the world. It is a welcome relief in many ways, also musically it is a dark as anything on this album with sinister synth sounds echoing from speaker to speaker at it is played.
06 - Cover Me
This song is about how you cannot expect to achieve change by doing nothing about it, about how the momentum for things to difference that you desire. This is achieved by telling the tale of a man who travels to another planet, only to find he cannot escape his own nature, but if he worked for it, he could achieve so much more. It is a slow number, one that sort of drifts along for a lot of the song and does not really go anywhere. It ends a lot better than it begins, the instrumental section of this song is uplifting and is in direct contrast to the first half which is a little bit too morbid to be honest.
07 - Eternal
An interlude which features vocals from Martin Gore, this little tune speaks of protecting a loved one and making promises that might be hard to keep. It is good, but it is over so soon for my tastes. I like it, but it could have been so much more as it contains some of the best music of the album, but it is far too short.
08 - Poison Heart
Another Dave Gahan song, one which Martin Gore has gone on record and said is possibly the best that Dave Gahan has ever wrote, this is an unintentional break-up song or at least that is what David Gahan has said about it. It is a larger than life tune, one with melody, passion and drive that is sometimes missing from parts of this album. It is a really good song, one that deserves praise and will be spectacular when performed live.
09 - So Much Love
'So Much Love' is a song about having so much love, so much goodness and compassion inside of yourself, yet not being able to show it as you are scared due to the way that the world seems to perceive these emotions as weakness. This is another song that brings some much-needed energy to the record, it is almost a ray of light that shines out like a beacon in the night. I mean, it is still a dark synth pop number, but it is such a good tune that it adds some much needed of positive energy on this album.
10 - Poor Man
The post-industrial machine is in full flow on 'Poor Man', this dark synth number is a hymn for the repressed, who are awaiting the trickle-down economy is allegedly working for the great unwashed, but in reality, it never really happens. It is one of the heaviest songs on the album in terms of music, it is also biting in the lyric department as well and it adds another layer of interest to this album.
11 - No More (This Is the Last Time)
The penultimate song of the album is about the end of a relationship, where everything is coming to a close and the writing is on the wall. With more melody that you get on quite a lot of this album, 'No More (This Is the Last Time)' has a dark passion at its core, this influences the music and to a certain extent it also hinders it. It seems like it could reach a high peak, but it sorts of plateau's when it is about to take the next step and reach that peaks which can make a Depeche Mode song so good. It is sort of like that sneeze that does not happen, or the itch you cannot scratch - there is no satisfaction once it has finished.
12 - Fail
Ending the album is 'Fail' and there is no hope on this one, there is only the sound of a man who is looking at humanity and not enjoying the view. It is something I can relate to; the world is not in a positive place at the moment politically and it could get worse before it gets better. Musically, the sound is very industrial and it sounds harsh, Martin Gore's vocals reflect the pain of the words and it is a fragile and damaged number. It is a powerful statement that mirrors the feeling and words of ‘Going Backwards‘, maybe not my favourite of the album, but not one that I dislike either.
I like the way Depeche Mode have never rested on their previous albums, always trying to alter their collective sound in a way and never being afraid to try to say something new. It is a brave album and after 'Risk to Exist' by Maxïmo Park, it is the second biggest political statement of the year. It is a shade too long for my tastes, especially when you consider that there is a deluxe version of the album with another five tracks on it. There is not much light on this album and not one that rests easy on the listen, but that is by design and you are not meant to feel comfortable after this album. You are meant to feel angry and wanting to take on the political elite and bang their heads together, which it achieves this to a certain degree, but it is a little bit too forceful in places. The lighter passages (in a given sense of the word "lighter") of this album come when Dave Gahan is in the writing chair, which helps balance out the album. It means it is not all minimalist political statements (however spot on these statements are, it gets a bit too much in places) and this helps with the flow of 'Spirit'. Also, for a band that has been a round or so long, you naturally as a fan compare it to their back catalogue, trying to figure where it stands in that illustrious list. At the moment in time, the jury is out as it will take a while to settle, but it is not a poor album by any measure. However, when comparing it to their 'Songs of Faith & Devotion' or 'Violator' period, it does not quite match those standard. They are not trying to recapture those albums and that is to be applauded as they are all about moving forward, yet you cannot help but compare to those high-water marks. But at the end of the day it is a very good album that will keep the faithful happy, even if it is a little preachy in place.
7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out
Top track - Poison Heart
You can purchase Spirit from Amazon here.
You can visit the Depeche Mode website here.
You can follow the activities of Depeche Mode on Facebook here.
You can stream the deluxe version of Spirit on Spotify here.
You can stream the normal version of Spirit on Deezer here (you can also find the deluxe version on Deezer as well).
You can stream the normal version of Spirit on Tidal here (you can also find the deluxe version on Tidal as well).