Depeche Mode

Reprise, 2001


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Wake me when it’s over. That was my initial thought when I first got a listen of Depeche Mode’s 2001 ambient album, Exciter. Don’t let the title fool you – there isn’t anything remotely exciting on this one. If anything, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, and Martin Fletcher sound tired, bored and, over the hill. It’s certainly a disappointment after the high water mark that was set with 1997’s Ultra. By toning their aggressive tendencies down, they also watered down the sound that made them successful in the first place. It was a tradeoff experiment that ultimately failed, leading to Warner Bros. dropping Depeche Mode from their artist roster.

There are two tracks here that DM fans will appreciate, “The Dead Of Night” and “I Feel Loved,” but both have that my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 been there, done that better before feel. Both “I Feel Loved” and the lead-off single “Dream On” were big #1 hits in the dance clubs, but sadly, the Modern Rock chart proved elusive from this point on. The Mode members didn’t seem to mind the embrace from this new audience, though from an artistic standpoint, it must have been a letdown. You see, artists that have been “put out to pasture” end up being taken on by club land remixers. These producers can recycle a bad song like nobody’s business and make it sound great. They are the true magicians of the music world helping to keep acts like Depeche Mode alive…albeit on life support.

With three awful albums in a row, you do have to wonder how long Depeche Mode can afford to stay in the game. Both Gahan and Gore have released solo album in the interim, but neither have broken through to mainstream audiences. Languishing in an endless series of club gigs simply won’t do the trick. Diminishing returns on the Depeche Mode investment will also be like prolonging the inevitable. There’s something foolishly resilient about these British artists (like Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Duran Duran, Annie Lennox). They may not be popular or relevant anymore, but they keep putting out those albums regardless. Their “new” music all starts to sound the same after a while, but the words “end” or “stop” still aren’t anywhere to be found in their vocabulary.

The sparseness and simplicity of Exciter should have opened up Depeche Mode’s sound, but instead, it had the opposite effect. Tinkering with their formula to this extent is quite the departure, but it is not an easy fit. If anything, it makes them sound like indie amateurs. The rhymes sound forced and the musical structures are cast to the wind, resulting in tunes that are all of a single note with very little variation. These songs have no direction, so they lead the listener to a barren wasteland. With Exciter, Depeche Mode arrived at the point of no return. As Dave sings on one of the better tracks “I Am You:”  “There’s no turning back, we’re in this trap…I must live with this reality.”

Rating: D

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.