Depeche Mode

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Andy, Dave, Martin and Alan

Depeche Mode are a British group formed in 1980 in Basildon, Essex. Initially a bouncy Synth Pop group, their songs later took on a darker, more sexual tone as they developed. Their Gothic aesthetic and innovative synth work brought them to worldwide fame in 1990 with the release of Violator, which has made it onto Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums Of All Time" list. They've also been frequently cited as a key influence by Industrial Metal bands, especially Nine Inch Nails.

The band's lineup includes vocalist Dave Gahan (1980-present), vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Martin Gore (1980-present), who serves as the band's main songwriter, and keyboardist/drummer Andy Fletcher (1980-present). Past members include keyboardist/songwriter Vince Clarke (1980-81, later of Yazoo and Erasure) and keyboardist/arranger Alan Wilder (1982-1995).

  • Speak & Spell (1981)
  • A Broken Frame (1982)
  • Construction Time Again (1983)
  • Some Great Reward (1984)
  • Black Celebration (1986)
  • Music For The Masses (1987)
  • 101 (1989)
  • Violator (1990)
  • Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993)
  • Ultra (1997)
  • Exciter (2000)
  • Playing the Angel (2005)
  • Sounds of the Universe (2009)
Depeche Mode provides examples of the following tropes:
  • A Day in the Limelight: Martin usually sings lead on one song per album (occasionally that song even becomes the single - see "A Question of Lust" and "Home"), but on Black Celebration he sings about half the album.
  • Album Filler: People Are People is really just the titular hit single packaged with some B-sides and recycled stuff from the previous two albums. Especially bad because the single would later come out on both the next album AND the singles collection released immediately after that, screwing over all the American fans who had dropped the cash to buy the "album".
  • Album Title Drop: Construction Time Again is from the second line in "Pipeline", and Some Great Reward comes from the end of "Lie To Me". Also Playing the Angel is a line from "The Darkest Star".
  • Audience Participation Song: "Everything Counts" is their longest-standing.
  • Author Appeal: There sure are a lot of dominant women and BDSM overtones in the lyrics and videos.
  • Author Tract: "The Landscape Is Changing" is Alan Wilder being an environmentalist.
  • Auto Erotica: "Behind the Wheel" is sort of about cars, but it's more about having a dominant partner. The video has a Biker Babe, ironically.
  • Broken Ace: Gahan and Fletch. This was most true in the early '90's when Gahan's drug problem culminated in him nearly dying of an overdose, and Fletch's continuing problems with clinical depression resulted in a full-fledged nervous breakdown. They both seem better-adjusted and happier these days.
  • Butt Monkey: Fletch.
  • Creator Breakdown: "Precious" is about Martin's divorce; "Clean" is inspired by one of Dave's many rehab visits, and "Barrel of a Gun" is inspired by Dave's attempted suicide. And nearly everything on Songs of Faith and Devotion was the result of tensions between the band members nearing breaking point.
    • Conversely, "Home" is often interpreted as Martin writing/singing from Dave's perspective after getting sober.
  • Darker and Edgier: Their first album, written almost entirely by Vince Clarke, was full of happy, bouncy pop love songs he would continue to be known for. Fast forward four years later and the band is writing songs about bondage, corruption, and God having a sick sense of humour.
  • Darkwave: Straddling the intersection between this, New Wave, and Synth Pop by today's standards, but they were one of the earliest bands to dabble in this genre.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The band's primary photographer and video director, Anton Corbijn, loves this trope. All 5 of 1987's videos were monochrome.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The band's first hit single, Just Can't Get Enough is in stark contrast with their later hits, but they always have to play it. And there's also the extremely upbeat and synth-tastic The Meaning Of Love from their second album which is totally in contrast with their later dark sound.
  • Eighties Hair: In the 80s, the whole band, but Martin's blond "halfro" (which he still has, toned down a little) has to be seen to be believed.
    • Dave's dye job in the mid '80s in probably the second-worst.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: A massive number of their videos feature the band hitting stuff with hammers in time to the drum beat.
    • Not just the videos: From "Construction Time Again" (ESPECIALLY for "Pipeline") through "Black Celebration," much of the sounds on those albums are samples of things being hit or dropped, as well as heavily manipulated voice samples.
    • The beat to "Personal Jesus" was created by jumping on their instrument cases. Then there's the infamous breathing breakdown...
  • Garfunkel: According to Fletch himself, he doesn't really do anything and is still there just because he's friends with Dave and Martin.
    • Believed to be a factor in Alan Wilder quitting the band. Wilder did the arranging, the re-mixing/arranging for live shows, the most live keyboard playing, and some backing vocals. On top of not getting the credit he should have (to casual fans, he was essentially the handsomer background keyboard player), he was being paid only slightly more (since he did write a few songs) than Fletch. To this day, Fletch still has animosity towards Wilder for something and claimed that he refused to make another album with him after the volatile "Songs of Faith and Devotion" sessions. Gahan (Always a supporter) and Wilder are still friends and Gore has acknowledged that Wilder was under-appreciated, but Fletch always seems to do verbal gymnastics to avoid praising him.
    • When the band was on hiatus (feared by some to be permanently) after the Exciter Tour, Gahan, promoting his first solo album, constantly took shots at Fletch. In the past, it was in good humor, like the jokes about getting him a fax machine so he has something to do onstage, but Gahan was relentless during this period.
  • Green Aesop: "The Landscape Is Changing"
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Gahan, Gore, and Fletcher had shades of this in their younger days. (It may have been a factor in why Alan Wilder left the band in 1995.) However, they all seem much calmer and more stable now.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: "When the Body Speaks", "Somebody"
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: The whole band, and many of the ladies in their music videos. Alan Wilder does look damn fine in a good bike jacket.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Fletch is mostly a Type 2. Alan might count as well.
  • Intercourse with You: many of their songs.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: The band name comes from the title of a French fashion magazine.
  • Loudness War: Playing the Angel actually maxes out in places. Their earlier records are much more subdued in volume.
    • Oh, who the hell are you kidding, Faith and Devotion is their last safe album. Starting with Ultra they've all been mastered like this. Ultra and Exciter at least have some semblance of dynamics though.
    • Sounds of the Universe appears to have put an end to this trend. While it's definitely mastered louder than their old stuff, the dynamic range is still quite intact. Even "Wrong" has a relatively conservative mix, considering the intentionally harsh sound of the song.
  • Love Martyr: Paying attention to the lyrics to "Martyr" is like reading the trope page.
  • Money Song: "Everything Counts"
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: They're sort of industrial-dance-pop-rock-electro-goth, if we're taking their oeuvre as a whole. As of Sounds of the Universe, they're leaning more towards industrial-electro-rock.
  • Nerd Glasses: Fletch, big time. He's gone through several over the years: 1990, circa 2000, and now [dead link]
  • New Sound Album: A lot of them.
    • A Broken Frame - first album without Vince, no Alan, comparatively moody.
    • Construction Time Again - Alan comes on board, Gareth Jones recruited as engineer. Lots of samples since label head/co-producer Daniel Miller dropped $40,000 on a Synclavier and Martin saw an Einstürzende Neubauten concert. Sets the tone for the next three albums, especially Black Celebration.
    • Black Celebration - full on Goth Rock with the industrial influences toned down.
    • Violator - Martin starts using guitars more often, the rest of the guys work in stronger dance beats, Mark "Flood" Ellis co-produces and François Kervorkian engineers. Closer to the dance-rock style of Alternative Rock that groups like new Order and Big audio Dynamite posses.
    • Songs of Faith and Devotion - straight-up Alternative Rock, with lots of guitars but enough synths, electronics and industrial rock influences to keep it distinctly Depeche Mode. This carries over onto Ultra.
    • Exciter - Mark Bell [1] co-produces, giving it a mellow sound with glitchy influences. Closest to "adult contemporary" DM as we'll ever get.
    • Playing the Angel - Ben Hillier replaces Mark Bell; the sound is largely the same as Exciter except with more anger and harshness.
    • Sounds of the Universe - Speak & Spell on drugs. See the entry on Retraux for more information.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead", which is actually a Silly Love Song.
    • "Enjoy The Silence" is a weird one: if you only know the much-played and much-compiled radio version, you would think it was a non-appearing title. The original version from Violator has the song fade out for a bit, and after a short silence Dave sings the title, followed by a synth-bell sound and a hidden interlude track.
    • Vince Clarke dropped a shitload of these on the first album alone (I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead, Ice Machine, Shout!, Any Second Now, Puppets), but Martin Gore in comparison is incredibly averse to the practice. The only true non-appearing song title he put out, out of eleven albums, was Blue Dress.
  • Notable Music Videos: "Personal Jesus", among many of their videos since 1987, have been directed by artist/photographer Anton Corbijn.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: First appeared in "Master and Servant", later becoming a staple of their lyrical style.
  • Obsession Song: "It's No Good"
  • Old Shame: Several - the "Speak and Spell" album, "People Are People" (Martin is now embarrassed by the simplicity of the lyrics despite the fact that it was a major worldwide hit), Martin's cross-dressing phase (he still has to field embarrassing question about this nearly 30 years later), the choreography in the "Master and Servant" video.
  • The Pete Best: Vince Clarke, their initial keyboardist/songwriter. When he departed after one album, many thought the band was doomed, which is not exactly how it played out.
  • Playing to The Fetishes: "Master and Servant"'s video was loaded with leather and chains.
    • YMMV if the woman in "In Your Room" who dresses up in various costumes seen in previous videos (including Dave's "I Feel You" suit) qualifies.
  • Redemption Equals Death: "Blasphemous Rumours", the story of a girl who fails a suicide attempt, then converts to Christianity only to be hit by a car and die.
  • Redemption in the Rain: "But Not Tonight"
  • Retraux: Sounds Of The Universe. Martin bought up a bunch of old analog synths on eBay, some of which had been used on the first two albums. The result pretty much sounds like Speak and Spell on PCP.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Vince and Alan tracks are usually towards the idealism end (Vince moreso), while Martin tracks are almost always firmly on the cynicism end.
  • The Smart Guy: Fletch and Alan
  • Strawman News Media / Ripped from the Headlines: "New Dress" presents the news media as shoving aside horrifying tragedies in favor of falling all over Princess Di's latest dress.
  • Surreal Music Video:
    • "Wrong". "Barrel of a Gun" is pretty whacked-out, too.
    • "Walking in My Shoes" gives us circus freaks and the bird lady. Whatever "Hole to Feed" is supposed to be.
  • What Is This Thing You Call Love?: "The Meaning of Love"
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Most of Vince's stuff on "Speak and Spell."
  1. you probably know him from LFO