(Photo by Anton Corbijn) The new Depeche Mode album, ‘Memento Mori,’ has been hailed by some as their best work in the past 20 years. However, this praise might be attributed more to the lack of strong releases in recent times rather than the actual merit of the album.
Dave Gahan, the first Depeche Mode member to experience a near-death encounter, survived a severe overdose in 1996 after two minutes without a heartbeat. Tragically, Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher wasn’t as fortunate; his arterial rupture on May 26, 2022, left Depeche Mode as a duo. The unexpected passing of Fletcher added a layer of depth to “Memento Mori” and takes listeners on an emotional rollercoaster through its various tracks.
The album does have its strong points, such as Gahan’s return to a more subdued singing style and a shift towards subtler electronic sounds. The evident influence of Kraftwerk can be both a strength and a weakness, as Depeche Mode has long been known for their distinct sound. While it’s refreshing to hear these influences, one cannot help but question if the band is losing their own originality.
What about the production on this new Depeche Mode album?
While the production quality is polished, it falls short of the standard set by Alan Wilder during his time with the band. Some tracks, like “Caroline’s Monkey,” have potential but could benefit from a more refined touch. Other songs, such as “Before We Drown” and “People Are Good,” serve as reminders of the band’s former glory.
The album concludes with 2 quite powerful tracks like “Never Let Me Go” – which has a bit of a post-punkish attitude – and the epic “Speak to Me,” leaving listeners wanting more of this. However, one can’t help but wonder what these tracks would have sounded like under Wilder’s guidance. Especially “Speak To Me” has a lot of potential.
In conclusion, “Memento Mori” is a respectable attempt by Depeche Mode to create a memorable album in the wake of Fletcher’s passing and amidst challenging times. We actually enjoyed it quite a lot. However, it also serves as a reminder that their post-Alan Wilder output has yet to reach the same heights as their earlier work, but the ship has turned in the right direction. Hopefully it will get to the harbour pretty soon.
PS: No thanks to Sony, they didn’t provide a promo of the release.
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