If fans thought Depeche Mode steered a little off course on their 1997 album, ‘Ultra,’ their 10th album, 2001’s ‘Exciter,’ proved that there was a lot more damage that could be done to the band’s dwindling reputation. Not to mention their sales figures. ‘Ultra’ was the follow-up to 1993’s ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion,’ the synth-pop pioneers’ only No. 1 album. But the four-year break between the records turned out to be hellish. The band not only lost a member, it also almost lost its singer to a crippling drug habit.
Between 1993’s ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion,’ Depeche Mode’s first No. 1 album, and ‘Ultra,’ their ninth record, the band lost multi-instrumentalist Alan Wilder, who’d had enough of the rock-star lifestyle, and nearly lost singer Dave Gahan to a drug habit that led to a suicide attempt in 1995. So, it was dark, despairing times for a group that banked on dark, despairing music. But ‘Ultra,’ which celebrates its 16th anniversary today, traffics in another kind of gloom.
Days after unleashing their new album 'Delta Machine' on the world, Depeche Mode return with a video for the disc's second single, 'Soothe My Soul.' Following the ballad-like first single 'Heaven' with a more upbeat number makes sense, and the clip, directed by Warren Fu (Daft Punk, The Killers), matches the tune's pace with a parade of prurient imagery that revels in its own shadowy, exotic presentation.
More than 30 years into their career, Depeche Mode still sound like Depeche Mode. Even through all the creative stumbles, personal setbacks and bigger, grander visions that have taken them to bigger, grander places, Depeche Mode never fail to sound like anyone but themselves. That goes a long way in explaining why the group has continued to make records and stay relatively relevant while most of its synth-pop contemporaries ingloriously faded away, just as they were expected to.
It took Depeche Mode a decade to make the world-dominating album they’d been aiming for since the first synth squiggles of their debut record bounced out of speakers. They stumbled at first, checking in with zippy synth-pop singles buried in crushingly boring LPs. Several albums -- and regrettable ‘80s haircuts -- later, they finally nailed down a formula that was part alt-rock bluster, part synth-goth excess and part clubland beats.