There have been a few bands that have really influenced my musical appreciation over the years. Duran Duran would be a big one but when it comes to songwriting I've always cited Depeche Mode above all. So as you can expect, I sit eagerly awaiting every album and b-side of theirs. My favorite Depeche Mode song? That's a toss up between "But Not Tonight" and "Sea Of Sin." So for their 12th studio album, the band have made a subtle but important change.
When the band released their 1981 debut album, Speak And Spell, their sole songwriter was a man named Vince Clarke. He had been instrumental in convincing the band to perform entirely with keyboards. The album was very successful but Clarke decided to move on (forming Yazoo/Yaz and Erasure.) Bandmate Martin L. Gore successfully took over the songwriting on the following albums with only one or two compositions by Clarke's replacement on keyboards Alan Wilder. In 1989, Gore would release, Counterfeit, (a solo album of cover songs) and a Counterfeit2 in 2003. Somewhere along the way, vocalist Dave Gahan decided to try his hand more at writing. He had presented songs to the band before and been balked. In 2003, Gahan released a solo album, Paper Monsters, to modest reviews. He then reported that if he were to work on a follow-up to Depeche Mode's 2001 album, Exciter, he would have to be allowed to write some of the songs.
Fast-forward to 2005, I've picked up an early release of their new album Playing The Angel. Gahan has written 3 songs for the album ("I Want It All," "Suffer Well" and "Nothing Is Impossible") and Gore has gone through a recent divorce leading to a lyrically dark album. I'm impressed by the first single, "Precious," but can't find another song that jumps out at me. There seems to be more noise than actual hook in most of the songs. I can actually say that if I had to list my favorite albums by the band this would be right at the bottom. I remain hopeful that this disc will grow on me before the Oct. 18th release date but right now I'm suddenly finding their songwriting is letting me down.