Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel

2006-03-30 08:16

WIN: Playing the Angel hampers courtesy MWEB and EMI

If Depeche Mode's darkest album to date, Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993) was the big black Cadillac hearse of electropop/rock, Playing The Angel is the gigantic 10-ton truck of new wave. It may not seem as stylish and prestigious as its forbear, but it will certainly crash through any pretentious obstacles you put in its way - and then some.

Sadly - or perhaps thankfully - newcomers to the Mode probably won't be impressed.

Firstly, it's a production loaded with red herrings. For example - the opening sound of the opening track ("A Pain That I'm Used To") may remind the pop crowd of the 'tyre burn' on the popular "I Feel You", which opened Faith and Devotion. But it's actually closer to the 'guitar' screech effect on "Dead of Night" from Exciter (2003) which sold far fewer copies..

Secondly, Martin Gore has returned to his favourite gothic themes of God and suffering, meaning an altogether more vivid and introspective bent in the songwriting process. Such serious themes are not de rigueur, if radio and TV vox pops are to be believed. David Gahan contributes songs for the first time as well - he released a solo album earlier this year.

And so it goes on: "Suffer Well" references the one-two analog bounce of "A Question of Time"; "Precious" is as light and dancy as "It's No Good" off Ultra; and here and there there'll be the odd reminder of past pop and rock transgressions. But it's when listening to the chillingly beautiful of "The Sinner in Me" that everything else on Playing The Angel seems to make sense and suddenly takes on a character of its own.

Depeche Mode was never supposed to be a rock band, after all. Their main role in popular music has been to continually challenge the 'norm' concept of pop music's sound. Having mainly succeeded, they now reside in a self-designed bubble somewhere between pop and art-rock. Nobody else sounds like Depeche Mode, do they?

Playing The Angel is a very difficult, and weirdly exhausting album to listen to at first. Its sound design is unforgiving, unfriendly, jarring and even crunchier than earlier efforts like Black Celebration (1986). But that's not a regression in the band's originality or creativity. It's actually a progression - like rejoining a highway a few miles along after a slight detour.

Combining the lessons learned during "the dark time" of Faith and Devotion with the self re-discovery of the gorgeous Ultra (2001) and the demure but even better Exciter (2003) has resulted in an album true DM fans will smile about.

- Anton Marshall


The troubled electro kings have come storming back with an album that shines with trademark Mode melancholia and dark sexuality.
- Zoe Street for

...the formula remains largely the same, although the group adds some production tricks, dialing down the perv factor and turning up some extra chirps and bloops they haven't used before.
- Gavin Edwards for Rolling Stone

Depeche Mode have the distinction of making their best and worst album in one go: Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993) put the band so far beyond itself that it led to a breakup, which took ten years to repair. With Playing the Angel, the last little cracks have finally been sealed.

kaz 2005/11/17 9:46 AM
playing the angel great to hear a group that can still be reconized by their lyrics and sounds. yes
Bokdrol 2005/11/21 2:47 PM
Playing the Angel, one of the best to date Long-time DM fan rates this album one of the darkest and best yet. Pure lovely dark brooding Depeche Mode. DM in SA in 2006?
Reds Lemmer 2006/02/19 3:41 PM
MR Depeche Mode -- what can I say? I love everything they do! When are they visiting SA?
Chasey 2006/02/20 1:32 PM
DM Rocks! Was there any doubt, ever, that this band would grow from strength to glorious strength?
Heather 2006/02/21 12:22 PM
Playing the Angel A bit different to DM stuff, but still good. yeah
Willem 2006/02/21 8:41 PM
As good as you get The CD is so good that I have one of the songs as my ringtone, excelent Playing the angel
Wayne 2006/02/24 8:51 AM
Mr Flanagan I think this album is excellent, Depeche Mode has come a long way. I recall the days of Speak and Spell. It would be great to have a CD with a mixture Definately
Wayne 2006/02/24 8:51 AM
Mr Flanagan I think this album is excellent, Depeche Mode has come a long way. I recall the days of Speak and Spell. It would be great to have a CD with a mixture Definately
Wayne 2006/02/24 8:51 AM
Mr Flanagan I think this album is excellent, Depeche Mode has come a long way. I recall the days of Speak and Spell. It would be great to have a CD with a mixture Definately
MICHAEL 2006/02/28 6:26 PM
the marshall's 2006/03/16 12:04 AM
precious - dm as always brilliant - if your'e a DM fan. if not you have to listen a couple of times and you'll be hooked. dave sexy voice and martin's excellent song writing set them way ahead of anyone else. any and all depeche mode albums
Justin Whitehead 2006/03/19 8:07 AM
Excellent!! As always, DM DELIVERS!! They may have been out of the game for a while with all their 'detours' along the line, but they are definitely BACK, a blast from the past. I have been listening to DM ever since I was a teen and I am 33 this year and still do, and never grow tired of listening to any of their music, old or new!! Excellent!! Go DM!! :)))
Diane 2006/03/21 7:03 PM
playing the angle i find the music dark and dead ...... sorry but i really didn't like this CD.. I've been managing a Reliable Music Warehouse shop recently and when I put this cd on to play the floor.... you could see even the shoppers didn't like it.. Oldies from the 80's should be brought back. I was recently been given a few songs from a friend and two songs made an enormous impression on me as well as friend i played it to. They are well worth listing to, "Tell Him" by Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion and "It's hard to say Goodbye" by Paul Anke and Celine Dion.... Two fabulous songs. I must admit Celine Dion is not one of my favorite singers, but these songs are great. Barbara Streisand Guilty 25th Anniversary
joy 2006/03/22 11:32 PM
Depeche Mode -Playing the Angel If u love DM u will love this cd. Otherwise for the intellectual, the lyrics r soulful and meaningful. Depeche Mode -Playing the Angel
Michael 2006/04/26 9:57 AM
Depeche Mode Diane... this is dark music for the tortured soul and if you would mention Celine Dion and Streisand (echoing tortured screams!...) in the same breath, then you would never relate. This music is gloriously morbid, with heart-rending lyrics and even more soul-rending guitar rifs, as they languish in their magnificent ocean of excessive emotions. How we have missed them and welcome them back, with this new offering. Long live the Kings of Soulful Crooning! A worthy addition to my DM collection.
werner 2006/04/26 1:55 PM
Playing the angel the best in a long time....for depeche mode fans
Adrian 2006/04/26 2:32 PM
Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel This CD is one of their best. I have been a Depeche Mode fan since they first released "Speak and Spell". I would recommend this CD to anyone that enjoyed the music of the 80's. I have purchased all of Depeche Modes CD's and I do this without even listening to it first. I know that their CD's will be excellent before I even get to listen to it. Do your self a favour, go out and buy this CD! Depetche Mode - Playing the Angel"
Verenia 2006/10/17 5:46 PM
Playing the Angel Absolultely fantastic - I love DM - everything they do sounds good to me!
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