Hey everyone! My name is Daphne Franklin; known as DJ Daph when I’m gracing the airwaves of WUSC FM. If you’ve listened in, chances are you’ve heard me play my favorite genre: new wave. Fun fact: a lot of new wave artists are Top 40 artists! Including my favorite band of all time: Depeche Mode.
How did I, a 2004 baby, end up with D-Mode as my favorite band? Look no further than my father and his music that he loaded onto the family Zune. That origin story is for another time, though. Today I’ll be going through my favorite Depeche Mode songs off each of their albums and exactly why I love them!
Speak and Spell (1981)
Depeche Mode’s first album is a rough one. It sounds like the band had just learned what a synthesizer was, and decided to make a synth-pop band “just because”. Well, that’s pretty much what happened. The album isn’t very musically intricate, but you can hear the beginnings of the Depeche Mode we all know and love. “Just Can’t Get Enough” is the clear winner of best song on the album, but when it comes to the other (oft forgotten) Speak & Spell songs, I would recommend “Boys Say Go”. Not because it’s particularly good- in fact, I think it’s quite laughable, but it’s such a fun little bop!
A Broken Frame (1982)
This album is a bit more refined than the last one. Vince Clarke had left the band, and the sound of this album is much darker than the pure synthpop of Speak & Spell. You can hear more variety between the songs, and the lyrics are more philosophical and personal, mostly due to Martin Gore taking over the majority of the songwriting that Clarke had previously done. My pick for this album is “The Sun and Rainfall”, a contemplative song with melancholic synths. I like this because it’s an obvious stepping stone towards their moodier stuff (hint: you’re going to see a theme of moodiness throughout this entire article). This album is definitely one that I don’t listen to enough, as it gets lost in the early albums of Depeche Mode.
Construction Time Again (1983)
Construction Time Again has some of my favorite pop-leaning Depeche Mode songs on it. The obvious choice for this album would be “Everything Counts”, but why would I ever choose the obvious choice? No; instead I’m going to break the rule I set earlier and choose not one, not two, but THREE songs off of this album to highlight.
The first song is “The Landscape is Changing”. If you’ve ever heard this song, you’d probably call me crazy. However, this was one of the first D-Mode songs I heard where they really played with the audio mixing, namely, the motifs in the song bouncing from ear to ear! 12 year-old DJ Daph was absolutely awed by the panning and went so far as to only buy that specific track off of the iTunes store for her iPod. Good times.
The second song I’m going to highlight is “Get the Balance Right!” The synth sound!! The main melody! It’s poppy but the lyrics are so FUN. It’s obvious how much their musicality has improved in this song. It’s an absolute earworm!
The third and final song I’m going to highlight off of Construction Time Again actually has two versions of the song: one in typical Depeche Mode style, and the other in a lounge style. To truly appreciate the song, you have to listen to both versions. The song is called “Love, In Itself”. The traditional Depeche Mode version contains the absolute worst synth solo I have EVER heard. It’s so bad I burst out laughing every single time I hear it. After putting yourself through that absurd synth solo, listen to the lounge version. It’s a breath of fresh air from all the synths you’ve heard so far, and the synths you’ll hear afterward. Dave Gahan’s vocals work very well with the lounge style, and it highlights (once again) how much D-Mode’s musicality has improved. Yet another earworm!
Some Great Reward (1984)
This album is what I would consider the start of Depeche Mode’s “Golden Age”. This is where they’ve found their sound, their lyrics, and their cohesiveness as a band. This is the second album with the core four: Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher, and Alan Wilder. This is also another hard choice. “Blasphemous Rumours” and “People Are People” are two Depeche Mode classics-- both songs I know all the lyrics to. I can’t break my own rule twice in a row, so I’m going to pick “Blasphemous Rumours” to highlight. Not everybody shares my opinion, but I enjoy Depeche Mode’s darker songs. Read through the lyrics to this song- it will change how you listen to it!
Catching Up With Depeche Mode (1985)
While this was a compilation album, D-Mode released a couple new songs on this album. One of them was “Shake the Disease”, a DJ Daph favorite! Melodically, this song speaks to me. It’s also one of the first Depeche Mode songs I consciously learned the lyrics to! It will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason :)
Black Celebration (1986)
This one is easy for me. “But Not Tonight” is one of the most gut-wrenching songs of hope that I’ve ever heard. One of my favorite pastimes is to sit outside when it’s raining and listen to this song. The melody sparks such a feeling of melancholy that’s almost in direct contrast with the lyrics. Not everything is awful! It’s worth it to be alive! Experience the world! Feel the rain! It’s so optimistic it makes me sad sometimes.
Music for the Masses (1987)
The first thing I’m going to say is that I adore the album cover of Music for the Masses. The second thing I”m going to say is that I love it when alternative artists make fun of the mainstream. The third thing I’m going to say is how difficult it is to choose a favorite from this album. My choice? “Route 66”. Technically, it was released as a B-side to “Behind the Wheel” (because of course, a driving song needs another driving song to accompany it), but it appears on the 2006 remaster of the album. It’s fantastically upbeat and grungy: the perfect pump-up song!
This is just the first part of three blog posts - Depeche Mode is still an active band, having released an album in 2023! Stay tuned for the next two posts, one of them covering the 1990s and 2000s albums and the other covering the 2010s and 2020s albums. Until then, listen to the master playlist of all my favorite Depeche Mode songs!
Link to the master playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1YvrZUboIHT840nymUDcbp?si=4e7c511feb754b76
Areas of expertise: Star Trek, podcasts, tomfoolery, and wizardry.