Depeche Mode’s fourth album has some of their breakout hits, including “People are People” and “Master and Servant” alongside other great tracks. The music is classic Depeche Mode: electronic inspired and heavy on the synthesizer. While not all the songs are dark, a lot of them do focus on bleak subjects and depressing matters. The music meanwhile sounds as if it’s inspired by industrial work.
All of the songs here are Depeche Mode classics: they have great synth music, catchy beats, and easy to sing along verses. “Stories of Old” has creeping music for most of the track until the synth comes in loud and unexpected to add the “dun-dun-dun” rhythm under Gahan’s vocals. Gahan sounds sensual as he sings “I wouldn’t sacrifice anything at all for love.” The political driven “People Are People” sounds as if it’s being perform inside of a machine, with all the clanging bells and steam sounds playing throughout. It has a great message that’s still applicable today and Gore’s pleading soft and sweet vocals will break your heart.
“Master and Servant” is a cryptic song that explores the world of domination in both the bedroom and in the workplace. The song basically states that while domination can be fun in the bedroom it’s still pretty degrading either way. This is another song that relies on mechanical sounds and even has what sounds like steam wooshing out of pipes. The end of the song features light breathing and for some reason the music makes me think the song will segue into “Personal Jesus.
One of the best songs on the album is also one of the darkest. “Blasphemous Rumors” explores the dark side of religion and blind faith as it tells the story of the death of two young girls and a mother who could only pray for them. You can hear the doubt and cynicism in Gahan’s voice as he sings “I think that God has a sick sense of humor.” It’s a very bleak and depressing song that has sound effects of gears turning and things dropping in the background. The song then ends with a short instrumental that features constant sniffing. The more you hear it, the creepier it gets. It’s unsure whether the sniffing is related to drugs or someone shedding tears. This uncertainty makes the sniffing all the more disturbing.
While all the songs on the album are good there’s only one that doesn’t live up to the others. “Somebody” isn’t a bad song, it’s just a sappy love song. It even has a rainstorm playing during the verses. Gore is basically describing what he wants in a relationship even if it’s not perfect. It’s kind of sweet, but it’s kind of cheesy at the same time. The mushiness is even pointed out in the song. Gore sings “Though things like this make me sick/in this case I’ll get away with it.” The song is kind of amazing since it’s only Gore and a beautiful piano, but it’s still pretty sappy. There are also random sound effects of children playing that are just confusing. This isn’t an awful song, but if you don’t like ballads, I wouldn’t suggest it.
As mentioned earlier, the music has a mechanical feeling. Whether it’s provided by the heavy percussion or the catchy synth, a lot of the songs sound as if they were recorded in some sort of factory. Sometimes the music even sounds like it’s coming from machines. Clanging, banging, steam being released and what sounds like gears turning can be heard in most of the songs. You get this feeling the most in the opening track “Something to Do.” It’s interesting that the music sounds so industrial because the songs themselves don’t sound cold nor are they all dark. Regardless, the music is still catchy and has the groove the band is known for.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. While their later work may be a lot better than the material found here, this is still a strong album. It features some of their best known songs alongside others that soon became fan favorites. Even though the music seems industrial inspired, it’s still catchy and still manages to get you moving. Though some dark themes are explored in the songs, there are also talk of love that adds a sweet, bright side to this album.