Depeche Mode - Spirit

by Oliver Rose

Jesus, this album is bad. I mean, in all honesty, I had expected it to disappoint – but this is something else entirely. End to end, Spirit is just rampantly, violently poor. Longways, sideways, edgeways – in every way you can possibly imagine, Martin Gore bends language to the extremes of its capacity for awkwardness. At every available opportunity, the exceptional tonality of the music is rendered unsalvageable by the moronic words. These are not just the worst lyrics to grace a Depeche Mode record – they are amongst the worst I have ever heard. These are the most forgettable tunes they’ve ever composed. This album is, without doubt, the worst thing Gore and co. have ever done.

It defies belief just how lousy these lyrics are, but honestly – the protest song is now, officially dead. Have a listen, and tell me otherwise. The rhymes are more predictable than the right-wing atrocities they attempt to condemn; the words’ articulation of dismay as frigid as the limp-wristed artwork adorning this horrid thing. It’s a genuinely miserable package to behold. God-forbid I should ever find myself holding a physical copy – I might break out in some sort of rash.

“We are not there yet,” sings Dave Gahan, on opener Going Backwards; “we have not evolved / we have no respect / we have lost control.” It’s this kind of obviousness pervading the rest of the record. “We had so much time / how could we commit the worst crime?” the lyrics on track three plead, Gahan identifying with a collective that ‘we’ apparently now belong to. Things never improve. Here are some ‘highlights’:

“There’s a thorn in my side / there is something I can’t hide” – So Much Love

“Hey scum […] / what have you ever done for anyone? / Hey scum […] / what are you gonna do when karma comes?” – Scum

“So step out to the gallows / and accept your sentence / for being so shallow / you must pay a penance” – The Worst Crime

At their worst, Depeche Mode eschew this already-embarrassing model completely, instead taking on a Morrissey-style critique of the general populous. You can hear the patronising self-righteousness of World Peace Is None of Your Business ringing anew through the accusatory Where’s the Revolution – “where’s the revolution? / come on, people / you’re letting me down.” As though we’re all supposed to be so bloody upset at having let down Depeche Mode. Shit man… where were you when you realised… *chokes into sleeve*… that you’d failed Dave Gahan and Martin Gore and… and… you know, the other one?

Elsewhere, when they’re not utterly roasting you for failing to stage a coup (you bastard), Depeche Mode waste no time ensuring that every song on Spirit is either mind-numbingly uninteresting (Cover Me, Eternal) or worse, slightly reminiscent of something done better one album before (cue So Much Love, a sort of boring, remixed version of 2013’s Soft Touch/Raw Nerve). Say what you want about Delta Machine – Depeche’s thirteenth LP. It had the good grace to offer us some fun singles (Soothe My Soul, Should Be Higher) and some really excellent production (Angel), with the occasional tune chucked in for good measure (Broken, Secret to the End). Sure, it was no Violator 2 (we wait, ever-patiently for anything of that calibre), but the consensus was unnecessarily harsh – especially given the bizarrely good reviews Spirit’s been getting this week.

As if all this weren’t enough, it’s got arguably the crappiest cover ever conjured. Anton Corbijn ought be ashamed of himself. That’s some diabolical graphic design right there –just awful. To rub salt in the already gaping wound, every remix of lead single Where’s the Revolution was naff – and the video, to boot (about as gut-wrenchingly obvious as the horrendous lyric). The final blow here is the sad fact that the music (regardless of constructive quality) is quite beautifully built. Under this blizzard of portentous garbage, there are some of the warmest, squelchy synthesiser tones ever programmed by the band. I particularly enjoyed the manic, gated drums closing Poorman, and the warm, synth stabs on No More (This Is the Last Time), recalling the sinister, glowing melancholy of John Grant’s far superior, Why Don’t You Love Me Anymore.

They’ve had their ups and downs, Depeche Mode and, since 1991, things have been pretty rough for them. A few decent tracks here and there maybe (check out Precious, Martyr and Oh Well), but, by and large, their latter catalogue is a slow-burning non-event. Now, on album fourteen, they stall to an absolute halt. The game is well and truly up for this band. Pains me to say it, but they’re finished.

In the very end (providing you make it that far), Depeche Mode treat you to unintentional, autobiographical epitaph number, Fail. As if to perfectly account for the forty-nine minutes you can now never have back, Fail vomits a shit melody and shit lyrics all down your already vomit-caked face and clothes: “our dignity has sailed / […] we’ve failed,” sings Martin Gore; “Our souls are corrupt / […] we’re fucked.” Such delicacy. “How many roads must a man walk down”, indeed…