Depeche Mode

Reprise, 2001


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


After most bands undergo line-up changes, they tend to make sloppier albums, but after losing one of its key players -- Alan Wilder -- and being reduced from foursome to threesome, Depeche Mode surprisingly didn’t get affected by the line-up change shock. Instead, as if to prove his prowess, Martin Gore became a better songwriter and took Depeche Mode to the pinnacle of its musical height with the resulting Ultra.

By the time Exciter was made, DM was well overdue to be bitten by the “line-up change” bug. This is an album that is confused and lacking. The torturously slow and minimal music is nothing like my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Violator, which was in a lot of ways pretty stripped-down and languid. In comparison, Exciter is mostly bland; not even Dave Gahan’s sharp vocals can do much to salvage this disaster.

In all their incompleteness, “Freelove,” “Comatose,” “Goodnight Lovers,” and “Breathe” are arduously insipid and downright soporific. While “The Dead Of Night” inherits the stylistics of Ultra, it sadly doesn’t conjure up the same magic and sounds completely haphazard. And instrumentals “Lovetheme” and “Easy Tiger” are total cold sores.

However, the disc does offer some hints of glory which do redeem it from absolute boredom. To begin with, the subtly simple single “Dream On” has an amazing guitar hook, and with Gahan’s vocals, which spookily resemble those of The The’s Matt Johnson, the song has instant personality.

The very sensuous “Shine” -- undoubtedly the best song here -- has a sensuous meditative charm, never seen since Violator’s “Blue Dress.” Similar is “I Am You,” which is bleak and devoid of any apparent percussion and has a stunning chorus that builds up slowly through the song to a grandiose climax.

Comparable to Ultra’s “Barrel Of A Gun,” Exciter’s “The Sweetest Condition” is disrupted and cacophonous but anomalously delightful. On “I Feel Loved,” an uncomplicated foot-tapper, DM relives its ‘80s synth-pop days when dance-music was straightforward and utterly contagious.

Except for a very handful of worthy mentions, Exciter is sketchy, missing vitality where it could have done with some. After the pompous Songs Of Faith And Devotion and Ultra, the effort to write a simpler, Violator-styled album resulted in a collection of mere fillers. Maybe the band was finally missing Wilder after all.

Rating: D

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