Shortly after I moved in with the Rock Chick, before I knew what was happening, Saturday became “clean the house” day. As a bachelor I had always taken a more casual approach to housework. Well, I probably took a more casual approach to all manner of hygiene, but as usual, I digress. During these Saturday “house cleanings” I would demand that rock and roll music be played in some form. Typically the Rock Chick would let me pick the music, but retained veto power. I had been playing the same few albums for quite a few Saturdays when I spotted a greatest hits album of hers, “The Singles 81>98” by Depeche Mode. I had really never listened to them and thought it would be a nice change of pace. I threw it on the stereo and before the first song had reached the chorus the Rock Chick shouted from upstairs, “Whoa, whoa, do you have any idea what you’re doing? You have to be in a certain mood to listen to Depeche Mode…” I guess cleaning the house isn’t the time for dark meditations on faith and heroin addiction. Who knew?
I really grew to like Depeche Mode, who I had largely missed out on during the 80’s and 90’s. Sometimes a great band will slip by me. “Violator” from 1990 is probably the masterpiece in my estimation but there is a lot to like in their catalog. Similar to the Cult, who I’ve written about in these pages, Depeche has put out some very strong late career albums in this millennium. “Playing the Angel” (2005) was extremely strong and the song “Precious” from that record remains a favorite of mine. They followed that up with “Songs of the Universe” (2009) and “Delta Machine” (2013). I loved “Delta Machine” as it was their most outwardly bluesy album to date. Everything I seem to be drawn to is rooted in the blues somehow.
I read in a recent interview with, of all people, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Billy mentions that he was also a huge Depeche Mode fan. In the 80’s he went to a show and went backstage to meet the band. I can’t imagine what these English synth-rock guys thought about Texas’ guitar wooly-mammoth coming in to tell them he dug their music, but I wish I’d been there. Billy says he could hear the blues in their music even way back then. He’s clearly got a better ear for this than I do.
I’m not a huge synthesizer fan, but I love the musical landscapes Depeche has carved out. Martin Gore is a very underrated guitar player. In the Billy Gibbons interview he said all Gore wanted to talk about with him backstage was guitars, he was trapped under all those synths. Poor guy. The thing that always draws me to Depeche Mode’s music has been the sultry, seductive voice of Dave Gahan. If silk sheets could sing, they’d sound like Dave Gahan, smooth and sexy. We bought the “Touring the Angel: Live in Milan” concert video and Gahan proves he’s one of rock’s great front men. The guy is as charismatic as hell.
I just found out that Dave Gahan has teamed up with a couple of guys who call themselves the Soulsavers. They have just put out what is apparently their second album together, “Angels & Ghosts”. This album is a hauntingly beautiful gem of a record. It’s only nine songs long but they leave an impact. The album is so short it feels like a 70’s throwback. While the Soulsavers carve out a similar brooding, eery landscape they do it with bluesy guitars and strings. The album even has a few songs with a soaring, almost gospel-y backing vocals. It’s a perfect backdrop for Gahan’s amazing vocals.
The album starts off with a bluesy/gospel tune called “Shine”. Gahan is calling all the sinners to the church of rock. I love this tune. The album then slides into a slippery blues tune, “You Owe Me”, that might be Gahan’s best vocal on the record. It’s followed up by two great songs “Tempted” and the first single, “All of This or Nothing”. It’s an amazing start to a record.
“Don’t Cry” is a hypnotic tune that starts off the second half of the record. That second half is a bit mellower than the first half of the record. You’d be tempted to say that it peters out were it not for the beautiful, cinematic closer “My Sun”. Actually the fact that this record is only 9 songs is probably a strength. Any more would have been too much.
As the Rock Chick once said, “you have to be in the mood” for this music, but who isn’t in the mood for some hypnotic blues sung by one of the greatest singers of all time? I dare say Dave Gahan is the greatest “crooner” to come along in rock music since Jim Morrison of the Doors.
As always, pour something strong, turn it up and enjoy.