As you may know Depeche Mode weren’t always the epic, dark, sensual band they became known for. Their first albums are pretty terrible when compared with their greatest works. The band hates them so much they often dismiss them and refuse to play any of the songs from those eras live. Their third release is an interesting one. While it still can’t hold its own next to masterpieces like Violator, it’s not bad. It’s a step in the right direction for the band with more industrial influences coming through and the songwriting moves away from teeny bop love songs, even though it’s still not really strong.
The first difference you hear from the opening track “Love in Itself” is extensive use of syth. On this track the music sounds like it’s from an 8-bit video game. It’s kind of odd, but in its own way it makes the song stick out. It’s not bad and is one of those tracks that eventually grows on you. “More Than a Party” has frantic kooky music that’s reminiscent of Oingo Boingo. You can tell Martin Gore wanted to try a darker and meaningful tone to his songwriting by trying address greed in our society, but it comes off dumb with Gahan repeating “This is more than a party/more than a party.” It’s something you don’t mind listening to, but it’s not their best. The one track that shows their progress as a band is “Pipeline.”
Even though it’s not one of their biggest hits this song deserves more recognition. It’s a step in the musical direction the band would eventually go. A lot of their industrial sounds come through here with clinging and clanging heard throughout. There are so many interesting noises heard here you need to sit with it a few times with really good headphones to hear them all. All the additional noises and Gore’s light crooning in the background gives an ominous feel to the song. From the way the music progresses and evolves makes it the most complex track on the album. Still, the best song on the record has to be “Everything Counts.”
The content for this song seems to be taken from the band’s experience with record labels, greed, and the extravagance new bands are exposed to. Even though the lyrics are kind of bleak, it’s still really catchy with fun, playful music repeating throughout the track. Seriously, this song is so easy to get stuck in your head. When considering this song and the entire album itself, it’s as if the band felt guilty being exposed to a world of excess due to their new found fame. With songs like this and “Shame” they were showing that they weren’t a part of that world; they knew bigger problems existed in the world. It’s as if they were sending out a message to those who lived that life saying they should be ashamed that they’re not more concerned for the world.
A lot of the songs here have good messages behind them like “The Landscape is Changing,” which addresses the decaying environment and how people should be good to the earth. But due to weak songwriting and an overuse of synth music, most of the songs come off as cheesy. In the aforementioned song, the music is catchy, but how they blatantly say “I don’t case if you’re going nowhere/Just take good care of the world” sounds forced and corny. It’s understandable that they wanted to get away from their previous pop image. They tried this by writing songs with political messages, but since they’re not being true to themselves or writing about what they know, it just comes off forced and dull most of the time kind of like when Green Peace people force you to care about the environment while you’re running late to class.
Overall, the album gets 7/10. It’s not a terrible album, but if you’re looking for the dark and moody Depeche Mode, you won’t find it here. Most of the songs are decent, but it’s clear the songwriting is weak. The forced political messages get tiring and come off as cheesy. But the album is still an important once for the band since it allowed them to experiment with industrial sounds, which would help shape their future sound.