Exciter is a bold move for Depeche Mode, who've finally extricated themselves from their six-year creative rut. What makes this disc so intriguing is its embracing of the latest electronic substrata within the context of Martin Gore's well-crafted pop tunes. Selecting Mark Bell as producer was a daring move for Depeche Mode. Bell, founder of British electronic institution LFO and overseer of Bjork's "Homogenic" and "Selmasongs", has imbued Gore's songs with electronic atmospheres that generate tension, nirvana(as in the condition) and libido-flexing. Vocalist Dave Gahan sounds remarkably soulful. Sure, he's no Marvin Gaye, but he's certainly not one of those Northern Soul wannabes who make tripe like "The Commitments" soundtrack and Simply Red sound nearly breathtaking. No, this mesh of man and macherinery is definitely not your parents' Depeche Mode.
"Dream On" opens Exciter with Gahan intoning, "Can you feel a little love?" as an accoustic guitar plays against a click-and-glitch loop. "What you take won't kill you, but careful what you're giving," Gahan warns, sounding like a tour guide to Hell. The pulsing electronics of "Shine" offer groove-based urgency without drum & bass beats. The gloriously ugly "Dead of Night" makes good on Marylin Manson's failed promise of extremity, linking electronic cacophony with a sinister Gahan vocal. "I Feel Loved" isn't a Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder homage, but a stomping dancefloor track custom-made for the generation of Ecstasy-gobbling youth who were conceived while Mode classics like "Some Great Reward" and "Black Celebration" were playing in the background. The album's closer, "Goodnight Lovers", is a shimmering farewell that must be in top rotation among the souls in Heaven. Can't say that about anything off Depeche Mode's last album, 1997's "Ultra".
Whether a new generation of fans will embrace Exciter remains to be seen. After all, we live in a world where the best music isn't on the radio, but on TV commercials. Depeche Mode might have grown old in public, but unlike most of their emulators out there, these three gentlemen understand that calanders only move in one direction.
Times - Dream On
One band who could never be mistaken for anyone else are Depeche Mode. Who would have thought that 20 years on from the fluffy electro pop of their debut, 'Dreaming Of Me', we would be celebrating the release of a new single? And, given their, er, difficult past decade (heroin addiction, nervous breakdowns, on-tour antics that make 'This Is Spinal Tap' look like 'Spiceworld'), "celebrate" is the right word. Especially when the comeback single is this good.
Taken from their new album, 'Exciter', 'Dream On' is representative of their more reflective, organic direction. The electronic squiggles are still evident, but they are more fluid and subtle and take a back seat to Martin Gore's simple acoustic blues riff. The voice of Dave Gahan sounds better than ever, too.
The transformation from the hoarse groan of 'Ultra', their last album, to this gorgeous croon is remarkable. Just wait for the album, though; it's a classic."
They are, of course, indestructible, and not just because singer Dave Gahan survived a hefty smack habit. Depeche Mode seem bullet-proof because even an album as distinctly below par as their last one, 1997's Ultra, resulted in worldwide sales of over four million. The sheer momentum of a 20-year, 50 million album-selling career has enabled the Basildon trio to pull through the kind of creative troughs and work-related stress that would break lesser outfits. In this respect, they are - like it or not - the closest wussy synth-rock will ever get to a Rolling Stones. And in the face of such blue-chip stability only one question remains: are Depeche Mode any good anymore?
Not really. At best, Exciter is superficially attractive: an exercise in good taste that mixes contemporary droning with shuffling drums and guitar. It's a pleasant enough wrapping, provided by producer Mark Bell (Bjoerk), that slips easily around Dave Gahan's recharged vocals and swaggering ballads such as The Sweetest Condition.
In fact Gahan, whose ill health hampered the making of Ultra, has rarely sound more potent. This time its Martin Gore who's out of puff. No amount of fashionable tweaking can hide the flimsiness of his offerings: I Am You and Breathe are sliver-thin, while I Feel Loved is a clumsy lunge towards the techno sounds originally inspired by the band. Elsewhere The Dead Of Night feebly thanks an entire generation of US Goth rockers for their support by twinning nonsense about "zombie rooms" and "twilight parasites" with an anodyne, Marilyn Manson-style mechanical grind. At which point anyone who believed Depeche Mode were a more sophisticated and subtle venture than their gloom-by-numbers imitators will begin to feel very disappointed indeed.
Present-day Depeche Mode are an enervating experience. Exciter might be measured and cool but it's also devoid of genuine drama and appealing melody: once the band's greatest strengths. Not that any of this this will hurt them though: the Depeche Mode juggernaut is sure to rumble on regardless.
Rating: ** out of *****
Spin Magazine - Exciter
Is it a question of means? Is it a question of teens? Is it a question of not letting down the people counting the beans? What on earth could be keeping Depeche Mode together at this point? Twenty years on, they don't even sound like a band anymore. Exciter is basically a vehicle for Martin Gore's increasingly formulaic songs, featuring Behind the Music poster-boy David Gahan's robust if inexpressive vocals backed with sort of Depeche Mode- influenced electronics abetted by Bjork producer Mark Bell. "Dead of Night" is just "I Feel You" in Halloween zombie drag; "I Feel Loved" is Behind the Wheel" with a dash of Giorgio Mordoder; "Shine" is a bleached-out variation on "It's No Good." Only the tender percolation of "Freelove" a magnanimous offer of a no-strings-attached shag, ranks with Gore's best tunes (and continues his tradition of wheedling for booty). Gahan's voice is comforting to hear, but comfort is exactly the problem. This is the first album Depeche Mode's made since 1981's Speak & Spell that doesn't feel tense and bitter, and Gore isn't nearly as good at articulating mature contentment as he once was with adolescent torment. What's left is just a pleasant reminder of their older, better self.
RATING: 5 out of 10
After a decade wracked by overdoses, bust-ups and nervous breakdowns, the Mode's first all-new album since their drug-scarred 'Ultra' four years ago dips a toe in the water in the shape of this broody spaghetti western soundscape. It begins unplugged and naked with a finger-picking guitar, and Dave Gahan in breathy, sombre mood. One minute later, the elemental passions and stark electronics kick in, with dark allusions to parasites and body horror. This is a stripped-down Modeworld, shorn of Spinal Tap self-parody, and reconnected to their techno-pop roots by LFO/Björk producer Mark Bell. A functional first single from an expansive and adventurous album.
Going from the band with the bad dance
moves and leather lederhosen to one of the most namechecked and
influential artists of our times was a long and often painful
journey for Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan, Andrew Fletcher and Martin
Gore. But they weathered their personal storms and, with Exciter,
their first new material since 1997's rather lacklustre Ultra,
have come back with one of the best albums of their 20-year career
-- the album many, including the band, believed would never happen.
Instantly recognisable as Depeche
Mode thanks to their unique, often-imitated-rarely-bettered sense
of space, style, emotion and dynamics, the band have done what
they always do after an extended sabbatical -- moved with the
times by picking a producer capable of pushing their sound forward,
keeping their reputation as electro-innovators firmly intact. In
fact, it's producer Mark Bell (Bjork's Homogenic and Selmasongs)
who comes out backstage star of the show on Exciter, bouncing the
band's technological and organic aspects off each other without
dumbing either down.
Full of Gahan's trademark intimate,
dark introspection ("There's no time for hesitating/Pain is
ready, pain is waiting"), it still manages to come out full
of hope -- a result of Gahan having cleaned up his consumptive
rock & roll ways. Willing to look both forward and back --
reprising the stronger elements of their previous albums without
sounding tired, forging ahead without ignoring the past -- Exciter
introduces a refreshed Depeche Mode; a band once again deserving
of the praise heaped on them by the likes of Trent Reznor.
Electronic drums that at times
sound like heartbeats, tender acoustic guitars juxtaposed
perfectly with a technological base, and lyrics both gentle and
heartfelt set against sweeping backdrops and tender soundscapes
all go together to create a unified whole. Stepping from slower,
near-torch songs to the mid-tempo electro-pop they made their name
with, this is hopefully a new beginning for a mainstream act with
enduring underground appeal.
Rating: 3,5 out of 5
Depeche Mode gets back on track with Exciter, full of the dark synthesizer riffs and foreboding vocals that first made the group a modern rock phenomenon in the '80s. The songs are diverse: the understated "When the Body Speaks" sounds like U2 as interpreted by This Mortal Coil, while the grinding "Dead of Night" is reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. Two things hold the set together: Mark Bell's quirky, other-worldly production and Dave Gahan's still-haunting voice, which has never been more agile. Exciter isn't consistently satisfying, lacking the thematic coherence of 1986's Black Celebration or the melodic simplicity of 1990's Violator. But after a couple of less-than-stellar studio albums, fans who "Just Can't Get Enough" Depeche Mode will be happy to see the band taking a step in the right direction. Thanks to such standouts as the danceable "I Feel Loved" and the first single "Dream On," Exciter is the best Depeche Mode album in a
It seems impossible that anyone older (or at least more emotionally mature) than a 17-year-old has given a rat's ass about a new Depeche Mode album in more than 10 years. 1993's Songs of Faith and Devotion and 1997's Ultra were turgid, tuneless messes that shortchanged the catchy melodies and inventive arrangements that had previously masked the synth-pop pioneers' weaknesses: Dave Gahan's bombastic, off-key singing and Martin Gore's increasingly morose lyrics. By the mid- '90s, following Gahan's well-publicized suicide attempt and bouts with drug abuse, and the departure of keyboardist Alan Wilder, Depeche Mode's future-to say nothing of its relevance-was sorely in doubt. Yet in a reversal of fortune reminiscent of 1982's A Broken Frame (the band's first album after the departure of original principal songwriter Vince Clarke), Exciter rises to the seemingly insurmountable challenge of shoring up the group's waning strengths.
Although many moments here favorably recall earlier DM classics like "Blasphemous Rumours," melodic hooks are, in general, de-emphasized in favor of Spartan sound beds-best exemplified by a pair of two-minute instrumentals, "Lovetheme" and "Easy Tiger"-that draw the listener closer. Rather than the umpteenth rehash of "Somebody," this album's obligatory Gore ballad, "Breathe," suggests an outtake from the Angelo Badalamenti songbook, offsetting his precious croon with weeping guitar licks that hint at the Southwest. "Goodnight Lovers" closes the album with soft, multitracked "oohs" and shimmering synthetic stardust; think "Leave in Silence," but minus the angst.
But the big surprise on Exciter-created under the guidance of Bjork cohort Mark Bell-is Gahan, who drops his aggravating mannerisms to turn in alarmingly sensitive performances. Hovering delicately over the line "I'm just an angel" on the quiet "When the Body Speaks" (the best song U2 didn't write for All That You Can't Leave Behind), the singer sounds as though he might evaporate into the ether at any second. And by leaning ever so slightly into the couplet "No hidden catch/ No strings attached" on "Freelove," he discreetly illuminates the catchiest moment of the entire six-minute song. While the lyrics rarely stray from discussing the various states of emotional bondage that have long preoccupied Gore, when handled with a gentler touch they take on an air closer to poetic simplicity than crass banality.
Exciter's only genuine clunker comes with "Dead of Night," an abrasive rocker that sounds like a rejected Nine Inch Nails demo, with Gahan tearing into bons mots like "We're the horniest boys/ with the corniest ploys" with histrionic zeal almost as embarrassing as the words he's bellowing. But the record's successes easily outweigh its small failures; at least four of these songs are as fine as the band's best, and most of the rest reasonably approximate former glories. Twenty years after its first album hit stores, Depeche Mode has finally achieved something its critics never thought possible: Subtlety.
By Kurt B. Reighley
NME - Exciter
This is the album Depeche Mode seemed destined never to make. Their last two were recorded in the teeth of Dave Gahan's near-fatal drug addiction, with band relations strained to snapping point and their electronic agenda buried under a mudslide of riffs, resentment and rehab.
But the U2 of synth-pop emerge from their blustery rock fixation renewed vitality here. Producer Mark Bell, of LFO and Björk repute, has coaxed a kind of electro-acoustic mix from the Mode which puts clear blue water between 'Exciter' and their most recent experiments in techno-grunge and Wagnerian trip-hop. The texture of tracks like 'Dream On' and 'Comatose' are high-tech yet organic, couching almost folkish guitar strumming in stomach-rumbling electronica.
From this solid base, Gore's songwriting is free to veer off into diverse and occasionally sublime directions. Hence the cheekily titled pop trifle 'I Feel Loved', a blast of shameless disco hedonism with a side order of existential ennui. More impressive is the cinematic 'Easy Tiger', which throbs and whirrs with a post-rock John Barry feel that wouldn't feel out of place on 'Kid A'. But the most hilarious diversion here is goth-metal stomper 'The Dead Of Night', a rampaging Godzilla of sci-fi glam-rock which sounds like a Panzer division invading a Marilyn Manson gig.
Gahan's voice has never sounded this rich, and expressive. His usual stern histrionics have been largely replaced by tenderness and restraint, most notably on the string-kissed Bono-esque reverie 'When The Body Speaks' - described by Gore as "the Righteous Brothers playing next door to a rave" - and the serenade 'Shine'. But better still is beatific closing number 'Goodnight Lovers', where Dave purrs and whispers over a gliding ambient lullaby to "all soul sisters and soul brothers". This is the one to soften even hardened Mode-haters, a gorgeous moment of sensual healing.
As ever, Gore's lyrics address love as suffocating sickness, addiction as pleasure, sexual longing as psychosis - although the clammy cold turkey references in tumbling doom-waltz 'The Sweetest Condition' pack a special resonance in the wake of Gahan's chemical travails.
Lyrical gloom aside, though, 'Exciter' sounds like a band not just revitalised but reassembled from scratch. Not many long-running groups could make an album this fresh and confident in their 20th year, never mind one which bridges timeless soulman crooning and underground techno. If we still need serious grown-up bands in these atomised, scrambled, pop-crazed times, then we still need Depeche Mode.
Today - Exciter
If the name Depeche Mode evokes visions of men in black peddling
synth-laden odes to doom and gloom, think again. Over the past
decade, the pre-eminent techno-goth outfit of the '80s has been
weaving warmer, more organic-sounding textures into its darkly
dreamy sound. Exciter, its first studio outing in four years, is
at once the earthiest and most futuristic song cycle the group has
released yet, folding acoustic and electronic orchestration into
gorgeous sonic landscapes. The graceful, pulsating Dream On may be
the finest single that songwriter Martin Gore has crafted since
1990's Enjoy the Silence. The delicately soulful Freelove and
Shine are lovelier still, showcasing Dave Gahan's most tender,
confident singing to date. Luckily, not all bands stop growing
when they reach the top of the charts.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Stone - Exciter
Depeche Mode should be horribly burnt out or split up by now: They lost their initial songwriter, Vince Clarke, after their 1981 debut; their principal musician, Alan Wilder, after their eighth album; and their sanity in 1995, when singer Dave Gahan became a heroin addict and attempted suicide. It's easy to forget that these Essex, England, unlikelies have been around as long as R.E.M., U2 and Duran Duran. But unlike those titan troupers, they never made an embarrassing album (live discs aside) and never became so huge that they overstayed their welcome. Even at the peak of their late-1980s teeny-bopper popularity, these quintessential synth-poppers somehow remained punk. Lingering in gorgeously melodic, genuine sadness, Gahan, Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher still have the knack for turning a lifelong bummer into one big black celebration.
But even old reliables have their ups and downs, and Depeche Mode's tenth studio album ranks miraculously high. Produced by Bjork collaborator Mark Bell, Exciter glimmers like a gentle ambient doodle with vocals: The beats are mostly minimal, closer to early Kraftwerk than to current electronica. But because Gore's songwriting is so focused and Gahan's vocal presence is so commanding, the softest songs leap to the foreground like a whisper from a lover.
Although they integrate guitars and orchestrations with greater finesse, the skeletal arrangements leave Gahan no harmonic place to hide, no singalong choruses to coast. Lips pressed against the mike, the rehabbed frontman turns in his most physically intimate, emotionally masterful performances on unearthly ballads like "When the Body Speaks." Yet he also proves himself capable of summoning bygone sleaze on the album's hilariously sullied, sole industrial jam, "The Dead of Night." And on one of Gore's vocal cameos, "Breathe," his wounded choirboy tenor sounds grandly operatic in the Scott Walker lounge-troubadour tradition.
Recent landmark albums by kindred spirits Radiohead and Moby may have rejuvenated their white machine soul, but the Modesters have never kowtowed to trends. Exciter isn't nearly as catchy as hit-packed discs like 1987's Music for the Masses. But from the breathless a cappella opening of "Dream On" to the closing strains of "Goodnight Lovers," Exciter maintains an otherworldly mood and purity of purpose that today's angst-ridden rockers would trade their Jeff Buckley CDs to attain. (RS 870 - June 7, 2001)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Of Sound - Exciter
Depeche Mode's first new album in four years is unlikely to alter your opinion of the band, be it positive or negative. Opening with the seductively sinister Goth-disco strains of "Dream On," the album winds its way through 13 songs that sound uncannily like … latter period Depeche Mode. Having long ago left behind its perky synth-pop roots in favor of more textured, atmospheric fare, the band seems to have settled comfortably into middle age (albeit a middle age that's still firmly in touch with its inner teen angst).
In spite of the name, there's nothing on Exciter that's tremendously exciting — nothing as rousing or titillating as DM classics like "Master and Servant" or "Personal Jesus"; nothing quite as direct and personal as black-clad tearjerkers like "Blasphemous Rumours" or "Somebody." Which isn't to say that the album is bad. It's just, well, it's just another Depeche Mode album — a solid near-hour's worth of moody, darkly insidious tunes about such time-honored topics as love, death, and pain … and love and death.
While it might not break new ground, Exciter does offer a handful of standout tracks that should fit in nicely on the next DM singles collection (let's face it — whether you like it or not, the band will probably be around for at least another decade or three). "Dream On" is Depeche Mode doing what it does best — turning death, addiction, and other such happy subjects into danceable fare. "When the Body Speaks" is a tender love song that brings to mind U2's "With or Without You," and "The Dead of Night" is a raunchy little romp; a dance hit for the suburban undead.
Given the band's tumultuous recent history (departure of original member Alan Wilder; singer David Gahan's heroin addiction, overdose, and recovery) it's actually remarkable that Depeche Mode has delivered an album this solid. It's hard to listen to the chorus of "Shine" ("You've been hanging by a rope of mediocrity/ Strung out by your insecurity") without wondering if lyricist Martin Gore didn't write that for Gahan. He continues, "You can shine for me/ Somebody has to shine for me."
Indeed, that's Depeche Mode's secret and the reason for its remarkable appeal and staying power. Despite the gloomy overtones, the group members consistently find the beauty lurking beneath the pain — and end up shining. Either you understand that or you don't.
Rating: 69 out of 100
With their 10th studio album Exciter, Depeche Mode carry on where they left off four years ago with Ultra, and there they were carrying on where they left off following all the years previously.
This means another charged, emotional instalment in their transformation from thrilling pop group to incomparable art pop group.
Once, they made pop masterpieces, sort of weird straight, but to the point, even if the point pointed off into a dubious distance. Such innocence.
Then they went weighty, and pointed to a point beyond known distance where they somehow proved that pop music could actually be sheer joy and yet an attack on rationality.
Then they beat themselves up, to a big beat, the depths got deeper, they went all psycho, but it all seemed logical, and for a while you could describe their music as a kind of pyschological pop. Such guilt. Always, as they changed form and shape and style and angles and textures and image(s), songs twisted in a turmoil of syncopations, tentative identifications, displacements and echoes that I am quite happy to call metaphysical.
Depeche Mode kept being Depeche Mode even as they became something else, because the point of Depeche Mode was change, restlessness, curiosity and simple, complicated growth.
I can think of very few British groups who have actually grown like Depeche Mode have, who have aged as artists and performers with such questing power.
In fact, I can think of none who have sustained such artistic power, as oblique as it often is, for so long.
With Depeche Mode, business as usual means more change, and more anxious but alive movement towards an uncertain future beautifully embraced into the soul of the music.
EXCITER is a bonus to those who thought that maybe the pressures of creative change, fame, time and a madly fashionable world meant that Depeche's crazy journey into the night was over. Even the group might have thought it was coming to an end. This is still an album recording the journey into night, via America, the big time and Martin Gore's endless need to penetrate to the heart of the matter (life, death, pain, pleasure, love, hate, reality, unreality), but there's a hint that dawn is breaking. The sun's on the horizon. In fact, in many ways, in terms of the sound and confidence of the album, you might think that everything that has happened so far is, after all that, merely part one.
So part two begins with DREAM ON, which Depeche have decided to do, even though it can sometimes turn into a nightmare. We're instantly in their world, the steady, unsteady, spaced-out splicing of the acoustic and electronic, the cryptic croon of Dave Gahan sent back from the very edge of destiny, the flickering light and shadow, a melody that seems to have a point of view.
SHINE, SWEETEST CONDITION, WHEN THE BODY SPEAKS and THE DEAD OF NIGHT move Depeche further out into a world where nothing is as it seems, and we go along for the ride because there's no one like Depeche for making the sinister and the mysterious seem such a pleasure.
BREATHE shows how Gore folds intent, discontent, fear, appetite, nausea into the very fabric of his arrangements, and as always Gahan is the first to know how to make sense of Gore's agnostic obsessions. However far he might have fallen, Gahan has not let go of the torch. If anything, near death has increased the intensity of the flame.
Tim Simenon gave their last album a hard technical presence that suited some of the sound of the group, but new producer Mark Bell (BJORK) softens, expands and filters the sound to heighten the eery musicality without sacrificing anything of the ceremonial electronic swing: we get more of the loveliness that there is in Martin Gore's writing , and on a song like FREELOVE the possibility that things might drift off into melodrama is undercut by the way Bell layers the song with randomness and non specific noises off.
I AM YOU demonstrates the overall feeling of the album: it's as if the group are dreaming that they have woken up from a bad dream.
I FEEL LOVED is dream Depeche Mode: wounded glory turned into an ecstatic high.
GOODNIGHT LOVERS ends the album gently, with hushed hints of the gospel, devotional, lullaby states that there always were hidden somewhere in the music however industrial or synthetic it got.
Depeche Mode have moved movingly into the 21st century. They were kind of always
The Kings of dark entertainment now travel around the world and nearly kill themselves, so we might not get another album for a decade.
I know there's a lot to keep us busy, but let's not take this one for granted.