Depeche Mode - Playing The AngelOne doesn’t listen to music by Depeche Mode to get happy.

That said, there’s something about Playing The Angel that almost makes me break out in a grin. Depeche Mode is back and in fine form on this album marking the band’s 25th anniversary. Unusually, there’s a mix of songs written by Martin Gore (who’s been the dominant songwriter for much of the band’s career) and lead singer David Gahan, but Gahan’s tunes aren’t filler material begrudgingly added to boost the songwriter’s ego. At least one of them, “Suffer Well”, is as good as many of the songs that most longtime fans now consider to be classics. To be fair, though, Gore turns out some of his best songs since Violator here, with the rollicking “John The Revelator”, “Precious” and the slow-boiling “Sinner In Me” standing out from the crowd. (It’s worth nothing, however, that “Macro” is quite possibly the weakest song Martin Gore has ever unleashed on a Depeche Mode album, combining an uninspired melody with jaw-droppingly trite lyrics – I wouldn’t make such a stink about one song normally, but it’s just so shocking since I’m used to his work being both more musical and more eloquent than this.)

rating: 3 out of 4The whole thing thunders along with a combination of modern rhythms and very analog synthesizers, and more assured vocals from David Gahan than I’ve heard in ages. The decision to lean so heavily on analog synths prevents a lot of the sound from being obviously dated, though there are enough modern elements that no one will be mistaking this album for Some Great Reward anytime soon. The distorted, crunchy guitar work is front and center on several songs – in fact, “Sinner In Me” doesn’t really properly kick in until the guitar appears. All in all, it adds up to a very satisfying listen and a fitting celebration of a quarter-century on the musical map for Depeche Mode.

Order this CD

  1. A Pain That I’m Used To (3:57)
  2. John The Revelator (3:41)
  3. Suffer Well (3:49)
  4. The Sinner In Me (4:55)
  5. Precious (4:10)
  6. Macro (4:02)
  7. I Want It All (6:09)
  8. Nothing’s Impossible (4:21)
  9. Introspectre (1:42)
  10. Damaged People (3:27)
  11. Lilian (4:44)
  12. The Darkest Star (6:38)

Released by: Mute
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 51:35