Depeche Mode’s 11 best songs

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The synth-pop legends’ most essential moments

Depeche Mode were born to be different. They were Essex kids playing electro-pop before anyone else did. They surged synth-pop to the charts when it didn’t look possible. And they ditched the tropes of a traditional band before it was cool to swap instruments and roles for fun.

In the last three decades, their status as go-to innovators has gone hand in hand with a steady ascent. They’ve sold millions of records, conquered the charts Stateside, and translated their sound to stadium shows. The group are still going strong, too. This year saw the release of their 14th studio album ‘Spirit’, and after an epic and life-affirming gig at London Stadium, they’ve just announced tour dates for winter 2017. Here’s a rundown of their most essential songs, in no particular order:

‘Never Let Me Down Again’

Album: ‘Music for the Masses’ (1987)

Martin Gore claims the song is about “nothing in particular,” but wily Mode fans could easily relate this to singer David Gahan’s drink and drugs addictions. “Never want to come down / Never want to put my feet back down,” he sings, synth notes sounding both euphoric and ominous.

‘Enjoy the Silence’

Album: ‘Violator’ (1990)

Little-known fact – on the remastered album version, the song gives way to a minute’s silence, and then a rush of ambient instruments. Very meta.

‘People are People’

Album: ‘Some Great Reward’ (1984)

Lodged to the 80’s, this hasn’t aged as handsomely as other Depeche Mode classics, but that’s part of the charm. Metallic percussive parts clash like tools being dropped in a factory, while Eno-like signatures define the production.

‘Barrel of a Gun’

Album: ‘Ultra’ (1997)

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, Gahan praised his bandmate Martin L. Gore. “I don’t even know if the song was written about me, or for me, or poking at me to say ‘For fuck’s sake, get your shit together!’ But it worked.” No doubt about it, the lyrics don’t beat around the bush: “A vicious appetite visits me each night / And won’t be satisfied, won’t be denied.”

‘New Life’

Album: ‘Speak & Spell’ (1981)

Impressively, the opening track on Depeche Mode’s debut album lasts the test of time. What was groundbreaking in the early 80’s could still translate to a modern pop banger. Vince Clarke, chief songwriter at the time, deserves much of the credit. But following his departure in 1981, they were able to follow in his footsteps.

‘Personal Jesus’

Album: ‘Violator’ (1990)

Glammed up and swaggering, this arrived at the centre of the band’s creative peak. It eventually found itself covered masterfully by Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash, arguably becoming their most celebrated song.

‘Strangelove’

Album: ‘Music For The Masses’ (1987)

An outlier on ‘Music For The Masses’’ pitch black, gloomy aesthetic, Mute head honcho Daniel Miller decided to give the track a more expansive, spacious remix.

‘I Feel You’

Album: ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ (1993)

Covered by Placebo and Johnny Marr, this stands out as a more rock-rooted effort, a bid to define the 90’s with new shades. One simple, bluesy guitar line paves way for a song that could shadow the most gigantic of spaces.

‘Just Can’t Get Enough’

Album: ‘Speak & Spell’ (1981)

Just about every football terrace has their own take on this classic. The most famous is for flesh-nibbling Barcelona and ex-Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who became a cult hero with this as his soundtrack.

‘Everything Counts’

Album: ‘Construction Time Again’ (1983)

Standout lyric “The grabbing hands / Grab all they can / Everything counts in large amounts” could be applied to a present day, anti-Tory election poster. At the time, the band’s disdain seemed to be directed to the thirsty music industry, or even the business-first, “competitive world” Thatcher spearheaded in the 80’s.

‘Stripped’

Album: ‘Black Celebration’ (1986)

Songs as recent as Arcade Fire’s ‘Everything Now’ write about themes that ‘Stripped’ explored three decades ago – this idea that human nature has been eroded by technology and greed.

“Metropolis, has nothing on this,” they declare, blissfully unaware of the gadget-glued, distraction-filled future that lay ahead.