Depeche Mode is likely the band I have been following and listening to the longest out of all the artists that I would consider as part of my all time greats. I first came upon them mid-way through high school and have been listening to them ever since, which if you actually knew how old I am, you’d realized is quite a long time.
Back in 2020, the synth pop icons celebrated their 40th anniversary together as a going concern. The COVID pandemic likely scuttled some of the big plans the band might have had to celebrate the occasion but it thankfully didn’t impact their well-deserved induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That very same year I dedicated a bunch of words and time writing three posts celebrating some of my very favourite tunes by Depeche Mode in the 1980s and 1990s and everything thereafter. I had mused back then that the group was due for a new album, given that it had already been three years at that point since their last.
When founding member Andrew Fletcher passed away in the spring of 2022, though, I figured that was it for one of my favourite bands. I’d heard that Martin Gore and David Gahan planned to soldier on as a duo but I didn’t believe anything would really come of it. When they announced the impending release of Depeche Mode’s 15th studio album, “Memento mori”, I knew I would give it a listen but never did I suspect it would be my favourite by the band in almost two decades.
Listening to tracks like “Wagging tongue” and “Ghosts again” reminded me of what drew me to them in first place. Indeed, this new album got me reminiscing, once again, on their incredible back catalogue, how it has soundtracked the best and worst times of my life, and has probably done the same for many others. And that thought got me thinking about my favourite tracks by Depeche Mode and I started putting together a playlist of what I’d consider to be the best of their best. A new playlist, I thought, what a novelty!
Usually, I limit these playlists of mine to 25 songs but it just didn’t seem enough for Depeche Mode so I stretched it to 30. And here is the playlist (with some commentary) in all its Youtube glory:
- The band’s first ever single is the obvious place to start this playlist. Written by Vince Clarke, its light energy foreshadowed the dance pop material on their debut long player.
- The big single off Depeche Mode’s debut album, “Speak & spell”, is the only other song here written by founding member, Vince Clarke, who shortly afterwards left to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet. He was always concerned more with hooks than lyrics and this one left it all on the dance floor.
- Martin Gore took over the bulk of songwriting duties with Clarke’s departure and he really started to hit his stride on the band’s third album, “Construction time again”. I’ve include an extended version of the first single, a rail against corporate greed and corruption.
4. People are people
5. Blasphemous rumours
- “Some great reward” was the first album by the band that I purchased for myself on cassette tape, years after the band’s fourth album was released. I remember singing the chorus of the first of these two singles over and over again while delivering papers as a teen and the second one was favourite for turning up loudly in my bedroom when I was feeling low.
6. But not tonight
7. A question of lust
- I picked up a used CD copy of “Black celebration”, the fifth album, many years after its original release and a few years after becoming a fan. It marked a further journey into darker and more romantic (or is it just lustful) territory, as evidenced by the latter two of these tracks. The first was a bonus track on my CD that appeared in the 80s rom-com “Modern girls” and for some reason, always got under my skin.
9. Behind the wheel
10. Never let me down again
11. The things you said
- The sixth album’s title was a tongue-in-cheek play on the group’s place in popular culture and their commercial appeal and ironically, found them finally finding success in North America. These three tracks from “Music for the masses” are Mode at their gloomy best.
12. Black celebration (live)
13. Somebody (live)
- During their very last (101st) stop on their North American tour in support of the last album, the shows were recorded and collected as a double live album called “101”. It’s one of my favourite live albums of all time and given the playlist, considered by many as almost another ‘best of’ collection. It was my own introduction to much of their incredible back catalogue.
14. Enjoy the silence
15. Personal Jesus
16. Waiting for the night
17. World in my eyes
- Coming off their most successful tour, the synth pop quartet then recorded what is arguably their best album. “Violator” spawned four incredible and at the time, ubiquitous singles, three of which are represented here. The fourth is one of my favourites of all time by the group, a haunting track that is best listened to with the lights out.
18. Death’s door
- Depeche Mode contributed this uncharacteristically low-key track to the soundtrack to the 1991 Wim Winders film, “Until the end of the world”. It perfectly fit with the mood and lackadaisical pace of the film and those of us hungry for new music from the group ate it up.
19. I feel you
20. One caress
21. Walking in my shoes
- Three years seemed an eternity between Mode albums at the time but 1993’s “Songs of faith and devotion” was worth the wait. It was by times more aggressive and rock-oriented than their previous work and at others, had a lot more soul and life. By all accounts, though, its recording was difficult and is the final album on which Alan Wilder appears, given he left the group after its tour cycle.
22. Barrel of a gun
23. It’s no good
- The remaining trio soldiered on and returned with “Ultra”, their ninth studio album, in 1997. The results for me were a bit uneven. Though I enjoyed a few of its tracks, include the two singles above, this was the first of their albums that I rarely wanted to listen to all the way through.
24. Dream on
- On “Exciter”, the group moved on from synth pop into electronica territory. The album’s first single was “Dream on”, on which Martin Gore set a driving guitar line against rave-ready beat and David Gahan gave it some soul.
26. A pain that I’m used to
- “Playing the angel” found the group back in familiar Depeche Mode territory. Indeed, the two excellent tracks included here are both sleek, dark, and sexy.
- The second single released off of Mode’s 12th studio album, 2009’s “Sounds of the universe” is real spiritual. The song is heavy percussive low end synths with high end electronic beats, flittering and frittering digital party streamers, and then, more synth washes give way to breakbeats and other flourishes.
- The group’s last album before the pandemic and before Andy Fletcher’s death whittled them down to a duo was 2017’s “Spirit”. It wasn’t my favourite of their albums but had a couple bright spots, including this twitchy and industrial, political call to arms.
29. Wagging tongue
30. Ghosts again
- And here we are at the end, or is it a new beginning, only time will tell, but as I hinted at above, tracks like above two from the new album are some of their best in a decade or so.
For the whole playlist on Apple music, click here. Enjoy!
If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.