Founded in 1980, Depeche Mode is one of the relatively few active bands long-lived and prolific enough to count several subgenerations of fans. Some have been there since “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Everything Counts”; many more since the “Strangelove” and “Personal Jesus” era; some may have even hopped on, or back on, around Playing the Angel. Newcomers may have a hard time believing the same band is responsible for all three iterations (and a few more besides), but those who listen long enough tend to notice the commonalities that emerge: singer Dave Gahan’s brooding sensuality; Martin Gore’s economical, nakedly emotional songwriting, often preoccupied with sex and religion; and mystery man Andy Fletcher’s keyboard je ne sais quoi. Whatever it is, it’s made Depeche Mode a potent force in alternative music for more than 35 years — and counting.
With their latest album, Spirit, due out March 17, the group will return to the Houston area September 24 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion; tickets go on sale 10 a.m. this Friday through the usual outlets of Live Nation, Ticketmaster and the like. The Houston Press music staff counts quite a few DM fans among its ranks, some younger than others, so we asked them which songs over these many years have reached out and touched their faith the deepest.
"Just Can't Get Enough"
Speak & Spell, 1981
I'm not young, but I'm younger than most of the other freelance writers here. As a child, my first exposure to Depeche Mode came from my father, who wanted to introduce me to music he thought I'd enjoy but that was also something that was "appropriate" for me. Perhaps that's why, to this day, "Just Can't Get Enough" is a song that can instantly get me dancing like a child on field day. There's something so sweet and innocent about the lyrics, and the song perfectly embodies what it's like to first fall in love. ALYSSA DUPREE
Some Great Reward, 1984
It is incredibly difficult to choose a single favorite song by the lads from Essex. After much internal debate, it isn't one of their huge hits, but one that is very simplistic and oozes love. Though it was originally released in 1984, I did not personally discover "Somebody" until many years later. The unembellished track strips the group's usual electronics and drum tracks to leave only Martin Gore's vocals and Alan Wilder stroking the ivories. The vulnerable lyrics speak of the inward desire for the perfect mate and the characteristics that would make that person so. The narrator's internal conflict revolves around wanting to remain free from the "sickening" constraints of being tied down in a relationship, even as he reveals a sacrifice would be made for the consummate partner. Oh, the feels. JACK GORMAN
"Fly On the Windscreen"
Black Celebration, 1986
The 1986 release of Black Celebration was a definitive shift for Depeche Mode that morphed their egos from catchy, fun-loving New Wavers to industrial-pop, fetish-wearing demi-goths. The song is bleak and, for certain lit nerds, seems to point toward Emily Dickinson’s poem “I heard a Fly buzz –when I died.” The departure of songwriter Vince Clarke (Yaz), who wrote the group’s early hits, led to a shift in lyrics to Martin Gore’s more hedonistic, brooding, lapsed-Catholic outlook — apparently prime real estate for attracting the attention of this girl who dared to don all black in blazing Texas summers. VERONICA A. SALINAS
"Behind the Wheel"
Music For the Masses, 1987
I always felt “Behind the Wheel” set the mood for danger — but it was that decadent rush of sensuality that makes the song attractive. The track begins, ominously, with clunky proto-industrial synths and brooding guitar riffs, then drives into full jeopardy with David Gahan and Martin Gore’s commanding, leering presence. Although ambiguity seeps through the lyrics — "I’m going cheap tonight"? — the song sets the listener up to be the submissive, to be the passenger...in a totally good way. VERONICA A. SALINAS
I first heard “Personal Jesus” early in my high school career. Its bluesy riff reeled me in while its pulsating drum beat kept my feet tapping. I was hooked. Having been introduced by Marilyn Manson’s interpretation, I eventually explored Depeche Mode’s entire discography out of admiration for all things Antichrist Superstar. Depeche Mode's music called to mind Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails, which made me realize that Trent Reznor – another idol of mine at the time – had not crafted those sounds I had come to love so much all on his own. He had been influenced by some pretty amazing musicians. “Personal Jesus” was my introduction to Depeche Mode, which led to my discovery of Joy Division, The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain, to name a few. I had heard of some of these artists, but I had never truly explored their catalogs. But thanks to “Personal Jesus,” I finally did. To this day, “Personal Jesus” – no matter which iteration I hear – reminds me of the first time I went down the rabbit hole of music. I haven’t stopped digging since, and I hope I never do. MATTHEW KEEVER
"Enjoy the Silence"
Rarely is a band's best-known song their best song. (Apologies for my U.S. bias when it comes to the definition of “best-known.”) “Hungry Like the Wolf,” after all, is not Duran Duran's best song; shout-out if you read that and said, “Well, duh, it's “The Chauffeur.” Not every band writes and releases a song as transcendentally amazing as “Enjoy the Silence,” which ranks up near the top of songs that are universally understood to be perfect. Everything about it is memorable, a collection of earworms on top of other earworms. Perhaps the weirdest testament to the song is that, at face value, it seems like one any band could cover and have the results be successful, but it's a shockingly difficult song to take on; seriously, check Spotify for a collection of decent to good bands failing to capture the magic at the heart of “Enjoy the Silence.” In the hands of its creators, however, it's something special, something people decades from now will still appreciate. CORY GARCIA
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As mentioned, I was more interested in the lighter side of Depeche Mode as a kid. Frankly, I didn't realize how much of their sound affected my taste until the past two years of my life. As a woman, I now recognize the sensuality that comes with listening to Depeche Mode. In "Blue Dress," the longing that comes with yearning for something simple, like a lover in your favorite dress, encompasses the simple desires that life sometimes can give. All the while, the slowed-down fluidity of the track feels familiar and fresh all at the same time. ALYSSA DUPREE
"Where's the Revolution"
Never mind the revolution, where's the question mark? But Depeche Mode know from revolutions, having survived a dozen or two of them within pop music since their inception. And as we’ve seen after the whole Richard Spencer/alt-right disavowal, they have no trouble calling their fans on the carpet if necessary. So this curious turn toward politics is curious only because it address politics outside the bedroom. And while musically, “Where’s the Revolution” may or may not survive set lists past the upcoming tour, insofar as holding up a mirror to where we’re at these days, right now it hits far too close to home. CHRIS GRAY