Songs Of Faith And Devotion

Depeche Mode

Sire, 1993

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


To follow their smash-hit Violator with the startlingly experimental Songs Of Faith And Devotion might have seemed a career debacle for Depeche Mode. After all, the band risked alienating a newly extended family of fan base -- reaped from Violator’s wide reach -- with a move so extreme. But like every great band that’s always reinventing itself to stay relevant, DM went with the sign of the times and created their very first rock album.

In the angst-ridden grunge period of the ‘90s, there was no room for ‘80s merriment. And for someone like DM, whose music was getting darker and more inaccessible to begin with, the dramatic shift in the moors of popular music was a perfect catalyst to take their music to a whole new dimension. The singles “I Feel You” and “Walking In My Shoes,” with their grimy guitar-dominated sound, are nothing like DM had ever recorded, and they fit perfectly with the rest of unkempt flannel-clad anarchist music that was being played on MTV in 1993.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But DM didn’t transform into a rock band. They just used the guitar to the fullest extent without turning into one. At the same time, DM was also not going for the barmy dance-rock sound of EMF or Jesus Jones that was so popular at the time. This was an ambitious project. Songs Of Faith is an intense record, with the music relying entirely on guitars and drums. The production is dense and the mood is bleak at its cheerful best. But beneath the surface the equation hasn’t changed. The album is still blessed with Martin Gore’s superb songwriting and his ability to write great melodic songs. So instead of turning into a grim industrial-rock noise-fest, Songs Of Faith ends up a classy pop record shimmering with beautiful ineligible guitar noises and driven by machine-like rhythms that can still be danced to.

Songs Of Faith is difficult if only because of the lack of synth-pop. Otherwise, it is still very much like a traditional DM record, full of catchy sophisticated pop songs. In addition to cuts like “I Feel You,” “In Your Room,” and “Rush,” which make the very first encounter with this shocking record pleasant and even enjoyable, the more eccentric ones, too, like the gospel-tinged “Condemnation,” the Uilleann pipe-flavored “Judas,” or the strings-infused “One Caress,” all turn out pretty easy sells.

Songs Of Faith might not be remembered as dearly as DM’s albums from their ‘80s era. But for its sheer boldness and visionary brilliance, this is record is clearly DM’s greatest achievement.

Rating: A

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