Depeche Mode (photo by Anton Corbijn, PR)
Depeche Mode is back and they have a lot to say. Spirit is the band’s fourteenth studio album and it finds the British trio invigorated and brimming with conviction and purpose.
It's an understatement to say that the world’s current political climate fuels a lot of what is dealt with on Spirit. The album is one of Depeche Mode’s most topical, dealing with humanity, civil rights, political unrest and the misplaced mindset of some of the world’s leaders. There's a lot of fear, anger and disillusionment that's propelling lead singer Dave Gahan, vocalist and guitarist Martin Gore and bassist and keyboardist Andy Fletcher throughout Spirit.
Much of the album’s material is written by Gore, but there are key contributions from Gahan and some outside contributors too. James Ford, best known as one half of the duo Simian Mobile Disco, not only produces, but contributes drums and pedal steel too. (Ford has also produced albums by bands like Arctic Monkeys and Foals.)
Pointed questions are asked throughout Spirit that demand answers and actions. “Going Backwards” sums up the band’s disgust over mankind’s inability to progress: “We’re going backwards/Armed with new technology/Going backwards/To a caveman mentality.”
“Where’s The Revolution" is a call to action, demanding that humanity rise up: “Where’s the revolution?/Come on, people/You’re letting me down.” And no mercy is shown towards the antagonist in “Scum.” On the brooding “Poorman," the fury is directed at wealthy and powerful corporations that maintain their opulence with no regard for the down and out.
Political and social matters do take a back seat at points on Spirit via songs like “You Move,” “Cover Me,” and the haunting “Eternal" which provide a mid-album reprieve from the turmoil. “Poison Heart” directs lyrical barbs at an individual for something other than crimes against humanity. “Fail,” sung by Gore, is a dark conclusion, offering the observation that there is no hope and humanity has failed.
In the past, Depeche Mode has dwelled on the human psyche, often looking more inward than out. With Spirit, their focus is directed squarely outwards, determined to dissect the sociopolitical adversity that is damaging the world. In the process, the trio offers up some hope for change and, perhaps, an improved future.