With an interval of six years with respect to Spirit, his previous work, the new Depeche Mode album, Memento Mori (Sony), is published this March 24 with the aroma of farewell, without the group having confirmed anything in this regard, except for a handful of indications that call to live the last happy moment before death, as the title of the album indicates. .
The work is published after the death, in May 2022, of its third member, Andy Fletcher, whose compositional contribution to the group is minimal but his presence has been key to keeping the group together despite the decades. At least to preserve what Depeche Mode is as an entity, as a company, as a machine, despite the clash of egos that Martin Gore and Dave Gahan may have represented at some point, as well as the losses of former colleagues, such as Vince Clarke but above everything Alan Wilder, and possible negligence or distractions.
As usual, the album is accompanied by a world tour, which started this Thursday night in Sacramento (California, USA) and in which setlist they have only included five songs from Memento Mori: My Cosmos Is Mine, Wagging Tongue, Soul With Me, Ghosts Again y My Favourite Stranger. Five themes out of 12, which we analyze here in detail.
‘My Cosmos Is Mine’
The album begins very slow, arid, surly, like a song created to be listened to inside a car parked at night in the middle of the desert would sound. It is always important to choose the first song on an LP because it is a gateway, a declaration of intent. In this case, Gore and Gahan tell us that a slow, very electronic album with a spatial sound is coming. Saying cosmic would be redundant with respect to the title of the song, but it is exactly that.
This is the second single from the album, which had already been released. The lyrics speak to us in the first person about how the world is martingoriano in which he lives when he looks in: there is no war, there is no fear, there is no fear, there are no clouds or rain.
The second step into the world of Memento Mori is also known by fans, just like My Cosmos Is Mine, but this time in an unintentional way, since the song – like the album, on the other hand – had previously leaked. Martin Gore’s obsession with synthesizers vintage leads you to find some sequences here kraftwerkianas and that are reminiscent of the more pop krautrock, like that of Neu!, a synthpop territory that the group had already traveled on their first albums, since the electronic programming is accompanied by a perhaps excessively simple vocal melody. Let’s also say that illuminated but not because of its genius, but rather as a term opposed to darkness; the dark as a cold, mysterious, difficult, shocking element, to which Depeche Mode accustomed us in its best moments.
This would be the fourth co-authored song between Gore and Gahan in the group’s entire career, a dynamic that has been going on since 2009.
Here comes what has been the first single from the album, published in advance on February 9. A great song, faster paced than the previous ones, with a brilliant vocal performance from Gahan and a declared optimistic intent, conveying an impetus to get ahead from somewhere carried away by nostalgia. Not only is the vocal performance of the frontman but also that of Martin Gore, who contributes some choirs that cover and sustain the song in its proper measure, unlike Wagging Tongue, where Gore resorts to his rescued and forced vibrato.
One of the novelties that this album brings regarding Depeche Mode’s career to date is the unprecedented involvement of Richard Butler (singer of the British group The Psychedelic Furs) accompanying Gore in the composition. This is his first appearance on the album and any responsibility that can be attributed to him can only be for the best.
‘Don’t Say You Love Me’
Finally an unknown song appears. “You will be the murderer, I will be the corpse” is one of the first and steely verses of this song sweetly watered with crystalline guitars and a Gahan that is rightly placed crooner in a beautiful song composed by Gore together with, again, Richard Butler. The strings provide a charismatic personality in the song, involving the voice of Dave Gahan, in a strange type of song in the group but which, in this case, embroiders.
‘My Favourite Stranger’
It begins with a promising synthetic bass line, crossed with whiplashes reminiscent of a certain 90s dirt (a la Garbage) timidly close to what the group rehearsed on their album. Ultra (1997).
Once again, a more than welcome compositional collaboration with Richard Butler that explores a slightly more glam sound than usual, always within the parameters of electronic pop in which we move.
The lyrics of the song are also interesting and suggestive, a strangeness noir in which the protagonist finds in his reflection in the mirror someone who looks like him but is unknown to him, someone who perpetrates a crime in his name.
‘Soul With Me’
‘The Martin Gore moment’ has arrived, the theme —two is usually more common but here there is only one— that the composer and second singer reserves for him: always slow and intense songs that he gives them a special connotation, that for some reason For this reason, he feels that he has to sing and not Gahan, for whom he has been composing all his life. The strange start of Soul With Mewith celestial choirs and ambient mattresses, lead us towards a vaporous production that at times reminds us of the great ballads of the 50s —a sound also present in Don’t Say You Love Me— but also one of the most bombastic balladeers of the 80s. Olivia Newton John would have loved to sing it. Martin also looks delighted with himself singing it but he might as well have cut the duration of these four minutes in half.
The collaboration between Butler and Gore continues on a song with a surprising chorus, and not precisely because of the best of its connotations, but because it is strange both within the song and within what could be considered a frontman sound. It rattles a seventies air but also New Wave. The verses, on the other hand, could be attributed to a Nick Cave who played technopop instead of dark tavern blues.
‘Before We Drown’
Gahan’s first compositional contribution comes with certain orientalist sounds, with quite melodic bases, loaded with lyricism, which appear dotted with some sound reminiscent of the likes and desires of Gary Numan and which seeks to grow, in intensity and breadth, as if wanting to be bigger, deeper and faster, but only a little. That is a recurring problem on this record, if we want to see it as a problem, and it is that it is a contained compositional work, which does not want to stray from its margins, which seems to not want to bother anyone. Depending on how you look at it, it can also be a good thing: the desire to make something small and precious that fits inside a little box. However, anyone who knows Depeche Mode’s career well knows that it is a group that has sought to get out of the box as much as possible, their most spectacular moments happen precisely when they are able to run wild.
On this song and as is usual with Dave Gahan, he is accompanied in the composition by his friends and live partners Peter Gordeno (keyboardist) and Christian Eigner (drums).
‘People Are Good’
As will happen later with another song, a certain suspicion arose before a title that shared the first words with another incunabula, People Are People, which unleashed theories about whether these songs converse, in some way, with the past. As it is a capitular disc, a possible career closure, it could make sense. But once you listen to the song and inspect the lyrics, there’s no further indication of such a thing. In this Gore-composed song, Gore’s author does her best to convince herself that people are good even when they do bad things.
Convincing verses are painted on forceful rhythmic bases highly influenced by Kraftwerk, with a Gahan that shines in choral, and a sultry chorus, as well as a bridge that makes you want to jump (to make it shorter) but that gives way again to the stanza, which is repeated excessively without contributing anything to it. The song ends with an echo in which she repeats herself, as if she doesn’t know how to give up. Above all that, some incomprehensible whiplash of distorted guitar.
Here Martin Gore alone composes a song that once again settles in electronics minimal on which it is built Memento Mori and that makes one wonder what Christian Eigner will be good for on stage during the songs on this album.
This is one of the songs on the album where the goldsmithing that sustains it is most clearly demonstrated: the beauty of its intricate millefeuille of synthesizers.
We are facing a typical song of romantic exaltation by Gore with a vocal performance by a Gahan who grows and dazzles in the second part.
‘Never Let Me Go’
Be careful, the darkwave appears on the album in a song that throws the cane back to past moments of chestnuts that are a true resurrection of the fan’s spirit, especially at this point in the album where the LP begins to suffer from uniformity. It is not lost on anyone that the first three words of this title lead us to another three first words of one of the group’s great anthems, which had aroused suspicion when the titles were known, long before we could hear the songs. songs.
Musically this song does not resemble Never Let Me Down Again and it’s not nearly as good as her, but it is one of the best on the album. Voice and music seem to go in unison in the same direction (unlike the previous theme, where you could say that voice and bases are two different songs). This song speeds up the tempo of the album, which is appreciated, and introduces a refreshing guitar that electrifies the environment.
In the lyrical question, once again, the classic theme martingoriano of the star that shines in the dark, a classic of the house.
‘Speak To Me’
The record ends with a ballad attributed to Dave Gahan in which the record’s producers, in addition to Christian Eigner, have participated in its composition: James Ford (also producer of Spirit, his previous album from 2017) and a newcomer to the front team, Marta Salogni, an Italian engineer specializing in experimentation vintage like the one used in the German krautrock of the 70s to create loops and effects with magnetic tape devices, so it is not surprising that Martin has enthusiastically recruited her to Memento Mori.
It’s a pity that what could have been a very good album, without a doubt the best since Playing The Angel (2005), has included this song, which should not have made the cut, as well as another one that should have been expunged in order to leave the vinyl LP on only two sides, and not all three (with two discs in total, leaving one empty) on which it is traded Memento Mori, plus I gave in and, surprisingly, a cassette tape fetish.