In praise of...Music for the Masses by Depeche Mode

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

It's always been about the one after it, so many would claim. And yes Violator is the one with The Biggest of Big Hits and is truly wonderful. But this is the one I keep coming back to in recent times, probably due partially to the connection with 101, which is a great film and now a really grand DVD as well. That's not all of the reason why this is such an interesting album, though, not even close.

Depeche are one of those bands you can audibly hear getting more and more used to larger and larger places to play as they went throughout the eighties. Everything seemed to get scaled up more, like the echo and reverb was in place because they wanted to create what it would sound like to actually hear them in, if not the Rose Bowl every time, then some place cavernous. And Jesus fuck "Never Let Me Down Again" is SO RIDICULOUSLY HUGE. When those buried orchestral swells and weird wordless cries -- if they are that -- appear at the end, the whole thing becomes a tight loop/effect that is as much grandeur in sound as anything Phil Spector did at his most opulent. Not to mention the fact that the combination of Gahan and Gore singing is a secret weapon, then and now. Gore's proud of being a doo-wop fiend and loving the interplay of different voices and this is one of many points of evidence showing as to why that's a good thing.

So logically "The Things You Said" does a complete 180. Like many things on this album it makes no immediate sense but that's precisely where the logic of the ten songs works, that things connect/disconnect. From David Gahan delivering a soaring invocation to the joys (?) of drug use to Martin Gore's calm, quiet laceration of emotional brinksmanship. Another secret goddamn weapon every time, that beautifully moderated way he sings. Then there's the long opening whisper/sigh into the low, quietly relentless bassline, the star-twinkle melody after every line, a perfect bridge or near to it, the way it all builds up to get busier while still seeming so quiet and restrained, the last isolated overdubbed "They know me better than that..."

"Strangelove" is not the single version and that's a good thing, because I like the machine gear loop noise and that barely audible bell-like synth bit then BAM BAM BAM and it's suddenly bass and drums that in its brute simplicity could be, I dunno, Prince 1984 in Eastern Europe or something. Motown 1971 after the apocalypse when the robots took over. The guitar on this one is subtle compared to That Riff on "Never Let Me Down Again" but like on so many later songs it's this lovely shading hiding out amid the strident synth riff that's this unmissable nag nag nag. And the song's about circular codependency of extremism in 'love' or somesuch. I like how at the end there's a part where Gahan calls and responses and then suddenly where his voice 'should' be a sudden high synth bit squirrels across the mix.

"Sacred" starts with a drone that Thomas Köner would be proud of, maybe. Except then the steady beat comes in and apparently that would be a bad thing if one were Köner, but this is the fourth song in and goddamn if Martin Gore didn't come up with a catchy and memorable pop hook every freaking time! Depeche were HATED by so many contemporaneous electronic experimentalists and extremists in the eighties because they were, you know, too catchy, but that was the freaking point for everyone who came afterward and listened to Depeche first and realized two things: "Wow, these sounds are great and I want to hear more from people who work with things like this" and "I couldn't get these songs out of my head if I wanted to and I don't want to!" So there's sitar samples (I guess) and once again there's more than one rhythm going on and instead of this being just another conflation of sex, religion and death (not that there's anything wrong with that) you can dance to this sucker *and* the beats are sharper than anyone realizes. But again, reverb. It was psychedelia, then.

What the hell IS the loop on "Little 15"? Strings and music box or what? The lyrics appear to be the unconcerned-with-legalities equivalent of "Hey 19" but for me it's all about the first time that the string part appears in full, and then how that descending piano line (sign 45231 that Gore is a glam FREAK and still is) heralds this quiet second melody which THEN heralds the from-the-mountaintop drums and then this break that's suddenly pure EuroRomanticElegantGloom, like the train broke down in the Alps or the Carpathians and the Russian winter is about to take over the land and everyone is resigned to their fate. And of course by the end of the song everything's about as detailed as a Bomb Squad mix, not that most people would ever admit to that. And this is a ballad!

Sign of the times for my youth -- that a rattling hubcap in perfect stereo could serve as an opening hook. I don't know how many times I heard "Behind the Wheel" when I got that single but it was the first Depeche single I did ever get and I think I warped the vinyl after all the plays. Motorik-as-disco-as-techno-as-involved overlay of about three or four different synth melodies and loops and also this basic as hell guitar part which is ALL YOU NEED. It's like Gore loved playing anti-solos. Flamenco hand claps as martial beats, gear shifts as machines exhaling, more synth as semi-string-psych something, vocal snippet brutally cut into a loop. And one actual car part in stereo. "The Passenger" was about watching everything and thinking it looked good, but Iggy was still in control. This is about losing control and loving every goddamn minute of it, surrender to the other and the arrangement.

So at this point everything's been straightforward enough, but now all of a sudden while losing none of the pop at all everything fragments a bit. It all turns a bit strange even for a very strange album indeed. This is partially because on the seventh song Depeche Mode have just invented Timbaland. You know how the whole thing for a while with him there was "Wow, a breath as a rhythm and a sample on a pop song!" Here it is about a decade earlier, "I Want You Now" is about four or five different breaths and hums and gasps -- male and female -- interwoven around each other, around accordion again perhaps, vocals rising through the minimal synth line, sudden dramatic silences, a random unsettling burst of laughter, a siren loop, wordless keening overdubs. AND IT'S STILL A POP SONG DAMMIT.

Then without a break, the Russian radio broadcast kicks in and the dark evil heart of this album slowly but surely unfolds. Again, a pop song, it has a melody. You can sing it. But it's not a traditional pop song as such, it has no chorus, it's just one verse, one slow, spiralling downward, grinding, dark, monumental, dour, desperate crawl out of the pit because it's all over verse. Piano lines sneak around the vocals, quiet vocal counterpoints slide beneath David Gahan's singing and it's only with the final part that you realize that "To Have and To Hold" is pretty much saying that a relationship and/or marriage isn't about contented settlement as it about giving yourself an anchor and a way out of, y'know, hell or something. Except that's where the song slides to anyway. No, I can't imagine why the Deftones covered this song or why Nine Inch Nails really liked these guys or why Linkin Park would have cared, no not at all!

Which is why "Nothing," which is about as uneasy a song about the control of people via larger societal forces beyond anyone's grasp, not to mention the power of business and the absence of god, as anything by Devo, perhaps, is actually kinda soothing in comparison. Funk guitar bursts, dreamily lovely synth parts on the break, it's fairly upbeat, I like the 'oh-hoo-hoo' parts on the chorus, very good to dance to I've found, actually kinda bright and aspirational sounding towards the end. Except it's about being in an empty universe regardless.

So logically the way to end the album is to have a song based around a piano part that's attractive as well as a little ominous and to slowly and carefully add on barely audible bells and a stentorian three note/beat bass/drum/more piano 'begin the pagan fires for the blood ceremony!' rhythm and then high and slightly tortured sounding strings and a contrasting low/high/low/high vocal exercise and then MORE bells sounding like the chimes of doom and cymbal splashes and then Valkyries keening on high and then demented church organ loops and the sense that perhaps Gotterdammerung might actually be heralded by some dudes from Basildon and then there's an echoing stop. I love "Pimpf." I also like the final snippet of bottles and a door closing and feet walking over a bit of mournful strings once again caught in a loop that appears after a few seconds. Who needs a high tone only dogs can hear to end an album?

I need to resist including "Agent Orange" and the rest of the songs on the CD version as well because, well, they're CD bonus tracks and all that (even though "Agent Orange" is an instrumental that showcases both calm serenity and the ever so obsessive focus on all the different elements in the mix to make it the best ending to a romantic epic movie that was never used as such).

I can and do catch things in the arrangements that still surprise me every time -- like how on the second verse of "Never Let Me Down Again" there's a new rhythm pattern that subtly kicks in over the main one, a gently raspy overlay. Now I need to go back and listen to it again.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 13 January 2005 07:06 (9 years ago) Permalink

ned, you've made my night. thank you!

derrick (derrick), Thursday, 13 January 2005 07:19 (9 years ago) Permalink

Wow -- I'm starting to question whether "Violator" really is the better album after reading that :)

I've always been surprised that "Little 15" was a single. It's partly due to the subject matter -- although "A Question of Time" was also about lust/abuse toward underage girls -- but mainly because of the slow build, and lack of a verse/chorus/verse structure like their other singles.

The line "now all that she wants / is three little wishes" always gives me chills. At that moment, the song reaches its loudest and densest point, emotions are swirling along with the music, and I start to empathise with the girl's incredibly disturbing position. The hurriedness, the feeling that everything is moving very fast, the pressure to make a quick decision, "will she or won't she?" -- it's like a classier, less sexually upfront version of the equivalent moment in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". This was a single?

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Thursday, 13 January 2005 07:34 (9 years ago) Permalink

i've had this on the backburner for a long time. it's always seemed an awkward bridge from the stentorian authority and rigor of Black Celebration to the lurid sexuality and sinew of Violator. there's less sound experimentation and it's a little more slick than BC, but we haven't quite reached the smoothness, the sly of Violator. i've always loved 'Never Let Me Down Again'. it's just so fucking HUGE.

this was the first depeche mode i'd ever heard. i had just started my first job, was 16, and was listening to a lot of portishead, massive attack, bjork, curve, morcheeba, whatever. a coworker asked what i listened to. 'oh, nothing that's on the radio, y'know.' i was an insular teenager, a little sore about my music taste, because noone else in the worlds seemed to understand it. she pressed, though, and i dropped names, and she recognized them. instant friendship. after a staff dinner in august(i started in may), she took me to the virgin megastore. 'you have to hear depeche mode. you'd really like it.' sure, i was into new music, though i was unsure. weren't depeche mode scary? really serious? i grew up in a pop-culture vacuum, so hadn't really been exposed to anything but the hype around ultra's release in 1997 and 'the love thieves' off of the La Femme Nikita soundtrack, which i really liked. moreso, i was worried about starting into a band with such a catalogue, given my completist tendencies, which were already in full display. Music for the Masses was on sale, $9.99, and it seemed as good an album to start with as any. i wasn't sure at first. it was certainly nothing i'd heard before, and it took some time to acclimatize to the relatively unpolished production sound. i don't think i was even a real convert by the time i moved on to more albums... Ultra, Violator, Singles 81/85, Songs of Faith and Devotion, etc. etc. and then i was gone.

derrick (derrick), Thursday, 13 January 2005 07:55 (9 years ago) Permalink

Since I can't get enough of lists:

Rank the songs on "Music for the Masses"

The Things You Said
Never Let Me Down Again (an easy #1 if we're talking about live versions)
Little 15
Behind &Tuml;he Wheel
Strangelove (would have been higher had I made this list in 1989)

I Want You Now
Pimpf
Nothing
To Have and To Hold
Sacred

There's a significant discontinuity in quality between the top half and the bottom half of that list. In my view, this does not apply to "Violator", which is one reason why I think it's a better album.


MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Thursday, 13 January 2005 07:55 (9 years ago) Permalink

(hey, why didn't my html work?)

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Thursday, 13 January 2005 07:57 (9 years ago) Permalink

"Relatively unpolished production sound" -- in what way? I think DM albums are impeccably produced (from "Black Celebration" onward).

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Thursday, 13 January 2005 08:00 (9 years ago) Permalink

big, cavernous reverb that seems too blanket as to be wholy intentional. lots of treble, but too much reverb to really sound crisp. big drums with little definition. again, i say relatively unpolished; compared to most, it's impeccable, but up against Violator or SoFaD, MftM falls short for me.


  • Never Let Me Down Again
  • The Things You Said
  • Behind the Wheel
  • To Have And To Hold
  • Sacred
  • Nothing
  • Little 15
  • Strangelove
  • Pimpf

    derrick (derrick), Thursday, 13 January 2005 08:45 (9 years ago) Permalink

  • I'm glad the Ned Raggetts of this world are able to give voice to the sublime worlds within worlds within albums like this. For me to add any more of my own would be, um...

    Stephen Stockwell (Stephen Stockwell), Thursday, 13 January 2005 09:22 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I need to resist including "Agent Orange" and the rest of the songs on the CD version as well

    but the aggro mix of never let me down ... oh, supplicate before the jackbooted genius.

    ned, that was wonderful: thank you. funny you should bring this up: i hadn't listened to music for the masses for years - maybe eight or nine - and then i picked up a copy for six francs when i was on holiday in france last september. i nearly posted something here about it, oddly: the sheer visceral fucking joy of hearing an album again after so long; something you used to love yet, for whatever reason, neglected. the only other time i've experienced that is when i heard bowie's low again after a five or six-year gap.

    violator is and always will be my core depeche album, but that's only because i heard it first and it blew my tiny teenage mind. but - objectively - hasn't masses stood the test of time better? it still sounds like nothing else; or, rather, nothing else has ever quite managed to sound like it.

    grimly fiendish (grimlord), Thursday, 13 January 2005 12:14 (9 years ago) Permalink

    My default Depeche Mode album is Construction Time Again but if you really look at it, "Never Let Me Down Again" is probably the best single they ever released. There are so many things right about that song, it's staggering.

    Promises me I'm safe as houses
    As long as I remember who's wearing the trousers

    The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Thursday, 13 January 2005 14:25 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I didn't even go into half of what I love about said song. Maybe I should...

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 13 January 2005 15:21 (9 years ago) Permalink

    yes. do. i'd like to read it, anyway.

    grimly fiendish (grimlord), Thursday, 13 January 2005 15:43 (9 years ago) Permalink

    yes, do.

    I agree that Never Let Me Down Again is probably their best single.

    derrick (derrick), Thursday, 13 January 2005 16:12 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I'm glad the Ned Raggetts of this world are able to give voice to the sublime worlds within worlds within albums like this. For me to add any more of my own would be, um...

    I know what you mean. Great piece of writing there, Ned.

    Leon the Fatboy (Ex Leon), Thursday, 13 January 2005 16:19 (9 years ago) Permalink

    *BLUSH* Aw, thanks. :-) Everyone's praise has been quite lovely.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 13 January 2005 16:28 (9 years ago) Permalink

    How come Depeche Mode can organise singles/remixes reissues so easily, but can never organise a decent remastered album series?


    oh, and more praise for Ned

    Jedmond (Jedmond), Thursday, 13 January 2005 16:35 (9 years ago) Permalink

    How come Depeche Mode can organise singles/remixes reissues so easily, but can never organise a decent remastered album series?

    This is one of those Great Mysteries.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 13 January 2005 16:45 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Wow, Ned, nicely done. This makes me want to dust this album off and give her a spin. I actually was quite into Black Celebration more than this album (and, as you predicted, Violator), but you're spot-on about the BIG sound that permeates throughout.

    Always wondered something: during the fade-out of "Never Let Me Down," Gore sings behind Gahan's repetion of the title. The lyrics sound something like....

    See the stars are shining bright...

    After that, I've never caught the end to the couplet. Any ideas?

    Alex in NYC (vassifer), Thursday, 13 January 2005 17:50 (9 years ago) Permalink

    ...everything's all right tonight

    Simple-sounding, but when you consider the song's about being in a drug-induced high, somehow appropriate.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 13 January 2005 17:53 (9 years ago) Permalink

    after buying masses, i dug out black celebration ... and was rather unimpressed. i remembered it being dark and shadowy and angry; instead it seemed a bit weedy and plinky.

    grimly fiendish (grimlord), Thursday, 13 January 2005 19:19 (9 years ago) Permalink

    a bit weedy and plinky.

    Agreed. More like a Pinkish-Grey Celebration.

    Alex in NYC (vassifer), Thursday, 13 January 2005 19:20 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I'd have to strongly disagree, but Dan will be able to say more about this -- while there's nothing as completely wracked in terms of sound as well as mood as "To Have and to Hold" on there, say, the whole second half of the album is a pretty dour (and dourly pretty) wandering through the emotional wasteland.

    Unexpected highlight joy of seeing them at Dodger Stadium in 1990 -- Martin Gore, solo with acoustic guitar, singing BC album track "Here is the House," never released as a single or anything...and the entirety of Dodger Stadium singing along word for word, as best as I could tell.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 13 January 2005 19:35 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I used to have this on cassette in high school. My favorite track was "Pimpf". I may still have it somewhere, though I haven't played it in years. This thread is inspiring me to dig it out.

    o. nate (onate), Thursday, 13 January 2005 19:37 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Unexpected highlight joy of seeing them at Dodger Stadium in 1990 -- Martin Gore, solo with acoustic guitar, singing BC album track "Here is the House,"

    I think I have a bootleg recording of this show ... if not that exact show, then another one on the "Violator" tour when he performed that song (which was very rarely).

    One weird thing about "Black Celebration" is that the saddest song on it ("World Full of Nothing") isn't a very dark-sounding song at all.

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Thursday, 13 January 2005 19:53 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I'm also tempted to pull this out...I haven't listened to it in two years, save for Christmas Day when "Agent Orange" got stuck in my head out of nowhere...it seemed really appropriate.

    Track by track:
    Strangelove
    The Things You Said
    Little 15
    Never Let Me Down Again
    Nothing
    Pimpf
    Behind the Wheel
    To Have and To Hold
    Sacred
    I Want You Now

    Ian Moraine (Eastern Mantra), Thursday, 13 January 2005 20:20 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Nothing is tops for me!

    Grell (Grell), Thursday, 13 January 2005 20:54 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I underrate this album as well, I think. But Ned's post was so great that I had to put it on again. It is very good, and the arrangements are often really ace. I think my favourite tracks are "Behind The Wheel" and "The Things You Said" - the restrained dancefloor minimalism on "Behind the Wheel" in particular works so fantastically, and it's a shame that they worked that angle so rarely (the other ace examples being "It's No Good" and "Personal Jesus", although the latter is sort of off in its own world). I find I always want DM to go darker and darker, more muscular and physical (but not necessarily rockier), so "Behind The Wheel" is just perfect for me. But I love the bonus remix tracks on this album as well for similar reasons.

    Tim Finney (Tim Finney), Friday, 14 January 2005 03:09 (9 years ago) Permalink

    But Ned's post was so great that I had to put it on again.

    Well thank ya Tim, yours is a fine one in turn. :-) Those bonus tracks are certainly grand and maybe I'll do an adjunct post on them. Did you snare all the recent remixes that came out with the box set and the singles?

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Friday, 14 January 2005 03:14 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Kudos, Ned. Kudos. You've just brought back a flood of high school memories - good ones, too: my Mode-head first girlfriend, bugging the DJ to play "Behind The Wheel" at school dances, teaching myself to play all the bass and synth lines from "Strangelove" on piano (and marvelling at the 12-inch remixes of same).

    Along with New Order, Depeche Mode left an INDELIBLE mark on my musical development - I've forgotten how many times I've referenced / cribbed / ripped them off wholesale over the years.(Oddly enough, I've never sampled either artist.) Even though my own work has become increasingly house- and techno- focused over the years, these guys are still relevant as fuck to me.

    I don't have my vinyl copy of this anymore, so it's time to go get this and Black Celebration in one shot.

    Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Friday, 14 January 2005 03:40 (9 years ago) Permalink

    But--does Ned like it or what?

    Seriously, that was a plummy spew of love, and I don't say that lightly.

    Still, I prefer Black Celebration--it has that goth Liza Minelli thing you just can't find enough of these days.

    igrey, Friday, 14 January 2005 05:02 (9 years ago) Permalink

    i think this is OK, though i prefer the DM stuff before it (and violator).

    "pimpf" really is a pretty silly song, though.

    Eisbär (llamasfur), Friday, 14 January 2005 05:10 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I too would like to voice my approbation to the Nedster for his fine essay. If I remember correctly, Music for the Masses was about the fourth album I purchased (I know I already had The The's Infected and the Pet Shop Boys' Please and Disco by that point), but it's not just nostalgia that causes me to regard it as one of my all-time top-ten albums (evah!), and my absolute favourite from the Mode canon.
    Music for the Masses cast a particularly long shadow over the development of my musical tastes. It seems even now to have been a high-water mark in terms of imaginative songwriting and perfectionist studio-craft. (Would it have been such a triumph without the production and arrangement skills of Alan Wilder? I think not.)
    101, the movie, brims over with arresting images, but a particular favourite is the scene in which one of the fans (the pretty blonde girl) dances to Nothing on the tourbus. She gyrates pertly as Dave intones that we must "learn to expect... nothing", and the congruence of sex and nihilism is so very Modish.
    It's interesting that people assume that Little 15 is addressed to an adult. Maybe it's because I was about fifteen years old when I first heard the song, but I never imagined that Little 15's lover was anything other than a boy of her own age. Indeed, I don't think I've ever heard a song that so perfectly captures the all-consuming obsessiveness of the teenage love affair.

    Palomino (Palomino), Friday, 14 January 2005 19:15 (9 years ago) Permalink

    It's interesting that people assume that Little 15 is addressed to an adult. Maybe it's because I was about fifteen years old when I first heard the song, but I never imagined that Little 15's lover was anything other than a boy of her own age. Indeed, I don't think I've ever heard a song that so perfectly captures the all-consuming obsessiveness of the teenage love affair.

    I always thought Little 15 was about a mother and daughter, with the mother wanting to recapture her youth through her teenaged girl.

    Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Friday, 14 January 2005 19:47 (9 years ago) Permalink

    EDIT: Whereas "A Question Of Time" from Black Celebration is clearly about trolling for underage booty.

    Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Friday, 14 January 2005 19:49 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Sound quality on 101 DVD = Dud.

    Chris Ott (Chris Ott), Friday, 14 January 2005 20:20 (9 years ago) Permalink

    8 months pass...
    and then i picked up a copy for six francs when i was on holiday in france last september

    er, francs euros, i meant. jesus, i'm a twat sometimes.

    grimly fiendish: noticing mistakes nine months after making them, Thursday, 13 October 2005 19:39 (9 years ago) Permalink

    WELL JEEZ. ;-)

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 13 October 2005 19:42 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I'm glad you cleared that up.

    KeefW (kmw), Thursday, 13 October 2005 20:14 (9 years ago) Permalink

    HOOOO

    PEEEEEMPF

    HOOOOO

    PEEEEEEEEEEPMF

    HOOOOOOO

    PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEMPF

    HOOOO, Thursday, 13 October 2005 20:21 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Sound quality on 101 DVD = Dud.
    -- Chris Ott (edito...), January 14th, 2005

    really? how so? it sounds fine to me.

    piscesboy, Thursday, 13 October 2005 20:26 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Everybody please rank DM's albums, so I know what order to buy them (or when to stop buying them). I just got Violator, and it's the greatest thing I've every heard. What next...?

    Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 01:04 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I'll leave out the new album, for even though I think it's one of their top two or three albums upon initial listens, it hasn't had time to sink in yet and be ranked along with the others. I'll also leave out the two live albums, just because.

    Violator
    Music For the Masses
    Ultra
    Black Celebration
    Speak and Spell
    Songs of Faith and Devotion
    Some Great Reward
    Construction Time Again
    Exciter
    A Broken Frame

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 01:13 (9 years ago) Permalink

    You rate Black Celebration and Speak and Spell higher than Some Great Reward. Is that the consensus?

    Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 01:34 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I can't speak for others here, but most fans wouldn't rate Speak and Spell as high as I did. Many ILM'ers rate Construction Time Again very highly, but it's never been one of my favourites.

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 01:36 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I bought this album recently. For the first six tracks it is undoubtedly the Greatest Depeche Mode Album Ever but like Violator it does lose sa fair amount of steam towards the end (especially "Pimpf"--sorry, just can't get down with their weird medeival-goth instrumentals). Maybe I need more listens. The first six tracks (four of which I already knew going into it) do ensure this one total classic status regardless, though.

    The Good Dr. Bill (The Good Dr. Bill), Monday, 24 October 2005 02:12 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Some Great Reward is their best album!

    dar1a g (daria g), Monday, 24 October 2005 02:33 (9 years ago) Permalink

    and also this basic as hell guitar part which is ALL YOU NEED. It's like Gore loved playing anti-solos.

    hey now, this may be true Ned, but if i'm remembering rightly this album was the first real use on DM records of any "guitar parts" full stop? and Martin was actually still learning to play i think, so it may have been basic as much from ability as intention. can't argue with the end result in any case though.

    but, ah this just reminded me of some friends back in the day who always sang pimpf as "more..... beeer". brain surgeons, them.

    Kim (Kim), Monday, 24 October 2005 02:40 (9 years ago) Permalink

    and Martin was actually still learning to play i think

    Martin learned how to play guitar when he was ten or so. ;-)

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 02:49 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I like Black Celebration the best - despite its reputation for darkness I think it's their best pop album... it's much cheesier than most people give it credit for

    Tim Finney (Tim Finney), Monday, 24 October 2005 02:49 (9 years ago) Permalink

    well i stand corrected then. (i was right about them not *using* them prev. to that tho?)

    Kim (Kim), Monday, 24 October 2005 03:07 (9 years ago) Permalink

    The first guitar I can think of used on a Depeche track comes with a couple of brief bits during the instrumental break on "Love In Itself," beyond that I'm not sure.

    By all accounts Martin composes most of his songs on acoustic or electric guitar, and he's well known for apparently always having a guitar with him or nearby, so it's not like he's afraid of the darn things. ;-) So in ways that's why I'm impressed with him as a guitarist -- he aims for the killer hook first and foremost, which in large part is why Depeche songs with guitar feature just that hook and nothing more, in that nothing more is needed. "Enjoy the Silence" is the almost paradigmatic example...

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 03:12 (9 years ago) Permalink

    no waaaayyyyy, there's guitar in that song?! i'll have to relisten and get back to you.

    Kim (Kim), Monday, 24 October 2005 12:14 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Heh, it's quite clear! The break basically alternates between four 'acoustic' bits -- some piano, a little guitar filigree, more piano, and then a soft, glam-descend-like guitar bit, and then back to Dave. None of these parts is longer than a couple of seconds, but they're not buried, and they're great additions to the song.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 13:15 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Never close to my favourite album by Depeche Mode (as a matter of fact, the only album I like less is SOFAD), but I joined this thread to praise just one song: "The Things You Said" is one of the best things they ever did. An absolutely perfectly sad and desparate song, backed with synths that sounded like synths for once. One of their best ever moments.

    Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 24 October 2005 14:43 (9 years ago) Permalink

    As far as I'm concerned, Depeche Mode as an album band does not exist before Construction Time Again. I really really dislike those first two albums (even though there are some songs that exhibit the greatness they would grow into on there, listening to either of those albums in their entirety makes me want to scream).

    The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 14:55 (9 years ago) Permalink

    An absolutely perfectly sad and desparate song ... one of their best ever moments

    yes. absolutely.

    I really really dislike those first two albums

    i have a soft spot for "speak and spell", although i think the non-album tracks that were later included on the CD (ice machine, shout, the instrumental any second now) are better than anything on the album proper. but there's an oddly beguiling mix of innocence and homo-eroticism about the whole affair that makes it more than the sum of its parts.

    and "puppets" is quite simply ace.

    i have "a broken frame" on cassette and "some great reward" on badly scratched vinyl, so those are the two i listen to the least (ie haven't listened to in years). the fact i've never bothered to get them on any other format says a lot; that said, my tastes have changed hugely since my early mode-buying days (14 years ago, mostly) so i know i should revisit them. IIRC there was one song towards the end of "broken frame" with an absolutely killer melody; and, as i think i said somewhere else, "precious" reminds me of it slightly.

    i still don't own "ultra" and haven't heard it in its entirety. my bad.

    grimly fiendish (grimlord), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:04 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Ultra is easily the best of their 90s albums IMO; it's much more cohesive than SOFAD and it isn't completely forgettable two weeks later the way that Exciter is.

    You should totally give Some Great Reward another spin, especially for "Lie To Me", "If You Want" and "Stories Of Old".

    The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:11 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I still rate Violator over Ultra in terms of the nineties albums but Ultra is really something, keeps getting better every time I hear it. Some older thoughts.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:14 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Violator is really, really excellent but there's something about the level of familiarity I have with it that may cause me to unfairly underrate it.

    The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:18 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Yeah, you. *beats Dan down*

    Strictly speaking I love all the Depeche albums YES THAT INCLUDES THE FIRST TWO but there are those that are clearly a cut above. Ultra is one, Playing the Angel is another.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:21 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Ultra is a little bloated -- it's an hour in length and it feels like a LONG hour when you listen to it all the way through. Compared to their other great albums (including "Playing the Angel") the songs sound same-y. I'm sure they wanted to capture a particular mood that would seep throughout the whole album, but "Playing the Angel" shows that they can do that while still utilising a large palette of different sounds. while Some of those five/six minute tracks could lose a minute or two, and the album could stand to lose about two tracks and 10-15 minutes. It's the only DM album that I would criticise for being too long (I believe it is their longest?)

    Still, the good stuff on it is *fucking great* (the singles, THE BOTTOM LINE, Insight ...) so I love it despite its many flaws.

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:38 (9 years ago) Permalink

    You're weird sir. (More specifically, let's hear you name a couple of songs to drop -- the brief instrumental bits don't count. ;-) )

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:39 (9 years ago) Permalink

    You could drop "The Love Thieves" and "Sister of Night" without hurting the album too much.

    "Freestate" takes forever to get where it's going, but once it gets there, it's great. They could have chopped a minute or so out of "Home", as well.

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:46 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I'm sure somebody will claim that "Sister of Night" is Dave's best vocal on the entire album. That may be true, but the song doesn't measure up to the other tracks on the record.

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:47 (9 years ago) Permalink

    If anything, they need to add about 27 minutes into "Home" and make it into "This Corrosion Pt II".

    The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:48 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Make it "Insight" instead of "Home" and I'm with you.

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:51 (9 years ago) Permalink

    There is no way I'm going to dismiss Martin Gore's best melody line since "A Question Of Lust".

    The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:52 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Also, they should have made Jaki Liebezeit a full-time member. Only great things could have come of this.

    MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:52 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I'm sure somebody will claim that "Sister of Night" is Dave's best vocal on the entire album.

    That's the one vocal on the album which was recorded when he was still in his smack hell. It's edited together from about thirty takes!

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:57 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Dan, of course, scathingly right about "Home." That said, Barry scathingly right about "Insight." My only real regret that there was never an actual Ultra tour, understandable though it was, is that "Insight" never got a live airing. I think it is probably my all time favorite Depeche album cut and is definitely my favorite album ender by them.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:58 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I just went to the Kim's near Columbia (for those of you familiar with NYC), and they didn't have Music for the Masses on the racks. I ask the guy at the counter if they have it in stock. He looks it up in the computer, and tells me that they don't carry it. Ever. WTF?

    Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:28 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Abuse him.

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:29 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I was going to say, "How can you not carry one of the quintessential albums of a band that has been hugely popular and influential over the last 25 years?' But then I remembered who their principle clientele is.

    Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:44 (9 years ago) Permalink

    Dave Matthews Band fans?

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:46 (9 years ago) Permalink

    'Indie' is the largest section in the store. It's about 3 times the size of the R&B section.

    Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:57 (9 years ago) Permalink

    I don't understand, Ultra only has nine songs! Why would you want to cut any of them??

    I think the only one that annoys me even slightly is "Freestate" because I don't really like it when Gore's recent tendency to become positive 'n' preachy - but even then it's only because it feels like it prepares the way for "Freelove", and yeah, the last half is killer. "Barrell of a Gun" occasionally annoys me because it seems a bit try-hard, but then at other times I love the very same thing about it.

    "Insight" is awesome, "Sister of Night" is probably better for that huge synth riff than for the singing, but best of all the album tracks is "The Bottom Line" for me.

    Tim Finney (Tim Finney), Monday, 24 October 2005 21:25 (9 years ago) Permalink

    You could drop "The Love Thieves" and "Sister of Night" without hurting the album too much.

    No, you couldn't. "The Love Thieves" is the best track on the entire album.

    Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 24 October 2005 21:27 (9 years ago) Permalink

    (Hey wait Tim, have you heard the new album yet? GET IT NOW.)

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 21:31 (9 years ago) Permalink

    just got this. listening now. aw. yay. it's good.

    Kim (Kim), Monday, 24 October 2005 22:48 (9 years ago) Permalink

    duh, i mean just got the new one! forgot which thread i was on.

    Kim (Kim), Monday, 24 October 2005 22:48 (9 years ago) Permalink

    If I were as eloquent as Ned, and it weren't 2:30 in the morning, I would write a smilar essay as to why Exciter is the great overlooked Depeche Mode album.

    I must agree with whoever posted that I've always loved 'Never Let Me Down Again'. It's just so fucking HUGE. Yes, it is, particularly the version on one of the live DVDs that I have - One Night in Paris? Been a while since I watched it. However, filler such as Pimpf dragges Music for the Masses down as an album, imho.

    John Hunter, Tuesday, 25 October 2005 06:34 (9 years ago) Permalink

    8 months pass...
    Mmm reissue I love you...

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 23 July 2006 21:36 (8 years ago) Permalink

    2 months pass...
    as do i .. especially when 3 quid in fopp.

    mark e (mark e), Friday, 20 October 2006 13:53 (8 years ago) Permalink

    2 weeks pass...
    lol ned raggett i love orignal post

    a name means a lot just by itself (lfam), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:20 (8 years ago) Permalink

    i love that you love this music so much


    "Strangelove" is not the single version and that's a good thing, because I like the machine gear loop noise and that barely audible bell-like synth bit then BAM BAM BAM and it's suddenly bass and drums that in its brute simplicity could be, I dunno, Prince 1984 in Eastern Europe or something. Motown 1971 after the apocalypse when the robots took over. The guitar on this one is subtle compared to That Riff on "Never Let Me Down Again" but like on so many later songs it's this lovely shading hiding out amid the strident synth riff that's this unmissable nag nag nag. And the song's about circular codependency of extremism in 'love' or somesuch. I like how at the end there's a part where Gahan calls and responses and then suddenly where his voice 'should' be a sudden high synth bit squirrels across the mix.

    a name means a lot just by itself (lfam), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:22 (8 years ago) Permalink

    OMG is "A Question of Time" on this one? I'm not really a very big DM fan but that song still appears in my head sometimes at like 7 in the morning and things like that.

    All The Furniture Is In The Garage (Bimble...), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:24 (8 years ago) Permalink

    No, it's Black Celebration isn't it? Sorry.

    All The Furniture Is In The Garage (Bimble...), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:25 (8 years ago) Permalink

    i love that you love this music so much

    I love you love me love

    Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 6 November 2006 07:05 (8 years ago) Permalink

    3 months pass...
    france didn't have francs in 2004 and if they did 6 francs would be almost less than $1 US. a record like 'music for the masses' wouldn't sell for that.

    that said, fantastic album

    'never let me down again' is an absolute tour de force. one of the most compelling opening tracks around. from there on the record mellows and explores different moods, but everything remains cohesive and intriguing, and on a sheer track by track level, things hold up very nicely. it's a bizarre sort of record, one that is on certain levels quite subtle and self-absorbed and on other levels grandiose and dramatic.

    'nothing' is really very lyrically profound. understated in delivery to be sure, but the lyrics demand close atention

    Charlie Howard, Thursday, 1 March 2007 16:02 (7 years ago) Permalink

    "The Things You Said" is fan-fucking-tastic, as Martin-led songs usually are. Sometimes it's my favorite DM song, but of course that changes every five minutes. :) Does it really have anything to do with the "joys of drug use" though??

    I love love love this album. Not quite as flawless as Construction Time Again or Black Celebration but I have no complaints to speak of. It's got great beats.

    Curt1s Stephens, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:36 (7 years ago) Permalink

    Oh and also "Nothing" is AMAZING. I really love the synth hook.

    Curt1s Stephens, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:50 (7 years ago) Permalink

    Does it really have anything to do with the "joys of drug use" though??


    Er, I was referring to "Never Let Me Down Again."

    Ned Raggett, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:51 (7 years ago) Permalink

    Oh, yeah, duh.

    Curt1s Stephens, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:53 (7 years ago) Permalink

    I still don't see it as my favourite Depeche Mode album. It is partly the entire 1987 aesthetic I dislike (electronic music in the midst of primimtive D50/M1 sampling machines and the DX7 - never liked the sound of those). I also feel like the album wears a bit thin towards the end.

    Like I already said, I absolutely love "The Things You Said". I also have a soft spot for "Sacred" and "Nothing", and "Strangelove" sounds great in the album version (as opposed to the somewhat thin-sounding single version that predated it)

    "Never Let Me Down Again" and "Behind The Wheel" are just too monotonous for me to enjoy them. I know they are loved by several fans, but I haven't quite gotten the grip. The too-authentic-sounding piano on "Never Let Me Down Again" also puts me off somewhat - somehow it just doesn't sound synthpop/electronic enough. "Behind The Wheel" sounded better in its 7 inch version btw.

    "To Have and To Hold" is kind of interesting in a weird way, as is definitely "I Want You Now". Both could have done with a better arrangement, as could definitely "Little 15" - a wonderful ballad that is somehow partly spoiled by a nagging and irritating backing track (particularly at the beginning)

    Which leaves us with "Little 15" - probably the most pointless thing they ever did. Would have been better off having been replaced by "Pleasure Little Treasure"; and let me add that I am no fan of "Pleasure Little Treasure" either.

    Geir Hongro, Sunday, 4 March 2007 00:48 (7 years ago) Permalink

    PRE-D50/M1 sampling machines, is what I was supposed to write in that paranthesis up there.

    Geir Hongro, Sunday, 4 March 2007 00:49 (7 years ago) Permalink

    Tedious reverence around them aside, when it comes to the music and performances of it, it just bugs, like an itch you can't scratch. I don't find much in the way of personal connection there, in fact really none, maybe a song or two aside.

    gershy, Sunday, 4 March 2007 02:21 (7 years ago) Permalink

    5 years pass...

    Ultra is easily the best of their 90s albums IMO; it's much more cohesive than SOFAD and it isn't completely forgettable two weeks later the way that Exciter is.

    funny how 7 years later I don't really like Ultra all that much and am really, really, really bullish on Exciter (which still isn't as good as Violator)

    I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

    also, "Never Let Me Down", "Strangelove" and "The Things You Said" all own hardcore

    I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

    Especially in their various album mixes.

    Ned Raggett, Friday, 27 April 2012 17:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

    oh yeah, the single version of "Strangelove" is TERRIBLE and embarrassing tbh

    I don't think there's a version of "Never Let Me Down Again" that I've heard that I've disliked, though

    I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

    There is not one song on this album that I dislike.

    Respectfully, Tyrese Gibson (Nicole), Friday, 27 April 2012 18:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

    I like the remix of "Behind the Wheel" that was on the single more than the album version (probably because I heard the single first)

    I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 18:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

    I had all of the remixes back in the day on a cassette tape, but I couldn't even tell you what they sounded like now.

    Respectfully, Tyrese Gibson (Nicole), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:10 (2 years ago) Permalink

    I like this record but still prefer Violator even if I think about it for more than a few seconds the later album has as much filler.

    Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

    violator is the ne plus ultra of zero filler albums!

    Touché Gödel (ledge), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

    don't like "Blue Dress" or "Clean"

    Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

    well that's just crazy

    I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 20:13 (2 years ago) Permalink

    Great thread, yawl. What a magnificent op too. Love the love for Agent Orange, I keep going back to it. They have some very pretty instrumentals.

    Ned, I hope you're going to vote in this one.

    Ismael Klata, Friday, 27 April 2012 21:06 (2 years ago) Permalink

    Alas, you'll have to make do without me.

    Ned Raggett, Friday, 27 April 2012 21:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

    booooooooooooooooooooo

    I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 22:49 (2 years ago) Permalink

    it would be politically and philosophically incorrect to know Ned's top 20 songs by any of his favorite bands. he gave us Ned's Nineties and anyone who dares connect the dots further from there is on their own.

    pizza pizza and cult jam (crüt), Friday, 27 April 2012 23:04 (2 years ago) Permalink

    Our loss that any alliterative decades are a long ways off (unless he has a Scooby Doo-style change of heart in 28 years and brings us Raggett's Rirties).

    Dale, dale, dale (Abbbottt), Friday, 27 April 2012 23:32 (2 years ago) Permalink

    Now that would be a vision.

    Ned Raggett, Friday, 27 April 2012 23:46 (2 years ago) Permalink

    run rundred rirty eight best ralbums

    Dale, dale, dale (Abbbottt), Friday, 27 April 2012 23:50 (2 years ago) Permalink

    I always tend to prefer the album mixes of Depeche tracks over their single versions. For me, the single versions of 'Strangelove' and 'A Question Of Time' seem to lack the power that the album versions have. I suppose the Zephyr mix of 'In Your Room' is an interesting and different take on the song, but for me there is nothing more powerful than the 6-minute dark and atmospheric-as-fuck album version.

    My favourite version of 'Never Let Me Down Again' is the one on 101 where they segue into the remix briefly for the middle section. I often find myself listening to it and wishing that they could have put that pulsing bass synth section into the album version.

    The Jupiter 8 (Turrican), Tuesday, 1 May 2012 00:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

    I've always found 'Blue Dress' and 'Clean' closes the Violator album perfectly. Granted, neither of them are as anthemic as many of the tracks that came before, but those songs are definitely in the right place on the tracklist. The way that 'Blue Dress' segues into 'Clean' via that interlude piece is one of the highlights of the album for me!

    The Jupiter 8 (Turrican), Tuesday, 1 May 2012 00:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

    Love the video for the album mix of Strangelove. They look so fucking bored in it.

    Dale, dale, dale (Abbbottt), Tuesday, 1 May 2012 01:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

    Also I love that they're projecting this big heart shape on everything but stretched out it's like they're illuminated by a big nutsack.

    Dale, dale, dale (Abbbottt), Tuesday, 1 May 2012 01:29 (2 years ago) Permalink


    You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.