Album Review – Depeche Mode, Momento Mori

PF WilsonMiscellaneousLeave a Comment

This past spring, Depeche Mode has commenced its 2023 tour for its latest album, Momento Mori. The album was released in March to great reviews. After living with it for a bit, I’ve developed my opinion.

A little history

Who would have thought it? Four young English lads without a guitar (or drum kit for that matter) in sight become one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Along the way of course there’s drama.

After the first album, which spawned a top 20 and top 10 UK single, the band’s primary songwriter and acknowledged leader, Vince Clarke, quit the group. The remaining three soldiered on with Martin Gore taking over as chief songwriter. The result? Three more top 20 hits, including the #6 hit “See You,” the band’s highest charting single yet.

A fourth member, Alan Wilder joined in time for the third album, thus cementing the so-called classic line-up that would record six albums. The division of labor helped the band’s success, with Gore writing, Dave Gahan, the frontman, Alan Wilder, the architect of the band’s overall sound, and Andy Fletcher taking care of the band’s business affairs.

A new era

After 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion, Wilder left and was not replaced. It took four years for the band to release Ultra which demonstrated the band, while still electronic pioneers, had started moving in a new direction. In 2022, co-founder Fletcher passed away suddenly. Gore and Gahan decided to carry on as a duo, and so we arrive at the band’s fifteenth studio album, Momento Mori. Several of the songs on the album were co-written by Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, including the lead single, “Ghosts Again.”

The album opens with “My Cosmos is Mine,” a moody piece that was released as a promo single to follow up “Ghosts Again.” It certainly sets up the melancholy arc to follow. That’s followed by “Wagging Tongue,” written by Martin Gore and Dave Gahan. If you’re fond of the bands Violator era, this track is for you. It particularly gives “World in My Eyes” energy.

Three of the four tracks co-written with Richard Butler follow, starting with the single. “Don’t Say You Love Me” doesn’t particularly sound like the Psychedelic Furs. Indeed it’s much closer to DMs recent work. “My Favorite Stranger,” on the other hand,” does sound very furry. One can almost hear Butler’s voice over Gahan’s vocal. Even the title sounds like one you’d see on Furs album.

Traditionally, Martin Gore takes lead vocals on one or two tracks per Depeche Mode album, and Momento Mori’s entry is “Soul with Me.” Similar to other Gore-sung tracks, it presents a stripped down backing track with Gore singing longingly. After that, it’s another song co-written with Butler. “Caroline’s Monkey,” apparently describing a person’s struggle with addiction sounds neither like Depeche Mode or the Furs. Though its subject matter is quite serious, it’s kind of catchy and should be considered as a future single. That’s true of most of the back half of the album, with relatively peppy tunes like “People Are Good” and “Never Let Me Go” along with the subdued tones of “Always You” echo the band’s glory days.

Gahan and his writing partners, Peter Gordeno and Christian Eigner also get track in with “Before We Drown.” The album closes with a tune penned by the lead singer along with producer James Ford, Eigner, and Italian DJ/producer Marta Salogni. A slower affair, it gives the album a nice finish.

It’s a true return to form with the proper mix of melancholy, hope, and emotion, and one of the year’s best albums.

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PF WilsonAlbum Review – Depeche Mode, Momento Mori