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Playing the Angel

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Editors’ Notes

Twenty-five years and 11 studio albums and Depeche Mode still matters. Once underground/alternative masters of the dark end of the synth-pop dance floor, DM is now one of the world’s most successful electronically engineered groups. While the music world has caught up to their technologically driven impulses, it hasn’t learned how to successfully replicate the human ingenuity that powers them. You still need the trio of Gore, Gahan, and Fletcher to run the program. Playing the Angel, the follow-up to their 2001 studio release Exciter, delivers all the expectant drama that made the band favorites of introverted malcontents for three decades. Producer Ben Hiller (Blur, Doves), who admitted to not being a fan of the band’s music before working with them, pushes the group up a few beats to give them a newfound sense of urgency (“A Pain That I’m Used To,” “John the Revelator”), but the trio still drapes their crestfallen images in beautiful electronic hues (“Precious”). Dave Gahan aids main songwriter Martin Gore with three tracks of his own that fit snugly within the group’s internal angst. No amount of worldly success can temper this group’s alluring dark side.

Customer Reviews

playing the angel - the return of the darker mode

For the first time in DMs history, Dave has left his microphone to write two songs; suffer well and i want it all. the two songs contribute to the dark overtone that appears on this album as on most DM releases and they both fit in fine. Lillian, A Pain that I'm used to, and John the Revelator are stand out tracks to me and could all be future singles along with the previously mentioned Suffer well. As with earlier DM releases, the songs that i first dislike grow on me quickly as i replay the album. A definite buy for DM followers, and an excellent opportunity for newer fans to give DM a chance.

A return to form...almost.

After a few subdued albums during the past decade (Ultra and Exciter), I began to worry that Depeche Mode was getting a bit too mellow with age, as both records seemed to lack the edgy percussion of their earlier years. Thankfully, the band still seems to have enough left after almost 25 years to pump out some impressive, powerful songs. The album's opening track is a screamer, with heavy distortion and percussion that is far removed from anything on Exciter. "John the Revelator" could be the next "Personal Jesus," with a rousing chorus that will undoubtedly get crowds fired up on the upcoming tour. The next few tracks are equally strong, bringing on "Precious" - perhaps the catchiest single the band has released since "Enjoy the Silence." From here, the album takes a bit of a disappointing turn, with the punch and power of the opening half fading into the dull "Macro." There are a few glimmers of life in the latter half of the album..."Lilian" being the standout. The return to mellow tempos is something I was hoping the band would avoid...not so. And Martin Gore's routine ballads are becoming a bit of a DM cliche...tracks that I have a feeling I'll be skipping most of the time. If the strength of the opening tracks continued throughout the entire album, this could easily go down as a true DM classic. If only...

This is a great album

I was a little dissapointed with DM's last two efforts, and I didn't know what to expect with this album...however after listening to Playing the Angel I can safely say that this is DM's best album since SOFAD. Overall this is a hectic and crazy album which melds a number of different styles together, but almost every song has a hint of the old DM style that garnered so many fans for this group (i.e. late 80's early 90's). This album rips into you with the first song "A Pain That I'm Used To", in which the screams from "The Dead of Night" (Exciter) grab your attention right away. The second track, "John the Revelator" is equally as catchy, and David Gahan's incredible vocals demand you give him your full attention. The "Sinner in Me" is a little more downtempo and monotone, but still deserves some respect. I think the next track "Precious" is by far the best rack in the whole album, and obviously someone else agrees with me since it was the first release. I was really hoping for more "Precious"-type songs, since it borrows heavily from DM's unique style that they developed with their most sucessful abum, "Violator". The second half of the album is a little dissapointing, with "Macro"'s false bravado, "Nothing's Impossible" impossibly cheesy lyrics, and "The Darkest Star" lack of any discernable melody. Nonetheless, all three of these songs manage to grow on you after a few listens. As well, intermingled with these songs are tracks that are more up to snuff ("Damaged People" and "Lilian"). Overall I think DM is finally returning to form after spending a few years in the "has-been" wilderness.


Formed: 1980 in Basildon, Essex, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Originally a product of Britain's new romantic movement, Depeche Mode went on to become the quintessential electropop band of the 1980s. One of the first acts to establish a musical identity based completely around the use of synthesizers, they began their existence as a bouncy dance-pop outfit but gradually developed a darker, more dramatic sound that ultimately positioned them as one of the most successful alternative bands of their era. The roots of Depeche Mode date to 1976, when Basildon, England-based...
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