On the eve of the launch of Depeche Mode’s new album, I need to settle a debt to myself and write a post about Spirit their 14th studio album, released on March 17, back in 2017. The 12-track album was produced by James Ford, best known for his work with the Arctic Monkeys. As usual the artwork and photography for the album were created by long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn. The cover is a typically iconographic abstract representation of flags waving at some kind of rally for modern artists equal rights and the back cover looks like a still from a Matrix fan-film with the three band members wearing long black coats, black shades and boots. Dark and brooding as hell.

The album was recorded in Santa Barbara. The recording sessions began in April 2016 and continued until August of the same year. While Gore wrote all of the tracks on the album, the other band members all contributed to the recording and production of the album. Actually Peter Gordeno gets co-writer credit on track 06 “Cover Me” which was one of the singles taken from the album. Gordeno has worked with Depeche Mode since the 1990s and has performed with the band on tours and in the studio. He first worked with the band as a session musician on the Songs of Faith and Devotion tour in 1993, and became a full-time member of the band’s live lineup.

Spirit was clearly influenced by the political climate and social issues in 2016, with themes of revolution, hope, and despair present throughout the album. The first single released a few weeks ahead of the album, “Where’s The Revolution,” speaks quite clearly to the current state of politics and the need for change. In a word: Trump. It’s my favourite single off the album. The chorus is just massive.

When Spirit came out, I couldn’t help but compare it to the previous album Delta Machine and despite the boss debut single I felt the newer album didn’t compare well.

I preferred Delta Machine‘s slightly darker and more industrial tone. Delta Machine was produced by Ben Hillier and sounds more polished and experimental than Spirit. Some critics felt that Spirit failed to bring anything new to the table in terms of the band’s sound or approach. A few critics found the sound of the album to be too repetitive, with many tracks featuring similar rhythms and instrumentation.

The weakest tracks for me are “The Worst Crime”, “Eternal” and “Fail” (which both sound like a ponderous filler tracks from a Gore solo project), “Poison Heart” which is a powerfully thudding song but I just don’t enjoy much, and “Poorman” with it’s heavy-handed message about wealthy corporations, which feels a bit hypocritical to me given the combined earnings of the band and the price of their concert tickets.

However, there’s still interesting musical moments even in the weaker tracks and Spirit received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising the album’s political themes. The album debuted at number one in the UK, number five on the US Billboard 200 chart and number one in several European countries including Germany.

“Going Backwards” was released as the second single from the album on June 23, 2017; and “Cover Me” was released on October 6, 2017. Corbijn directed the music videos for “Where’s The Revolution” and “Cover Me”. Johan Renck directed “Going Backwards”. Renck is a Swedish director, musician, and composer, known for his work directing music videos for the likes of Madonna, David Bowie, and Kylie Minogue. Renck has also directed television shows such as Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Chernobyl.

“Cover Me” reminds me somewhat of “Waiting for the Night to Fall” from Violator and has a bit of a Bowie vibe for some reason – but maybe that’s just the video reminding me of Major Tom. Really not sure about Dave’s facial hair in the video. The bit at the end of the song when they run out of lyrics is perhaps the best bit, which is faint praise I know.

The second to last track “No More (This is the Last Time)” to my mind has James Ford’s sticky fingers all over it. I found myself wondering what it would sound like with Alex Turner singing the lyrics. Lyrics which seem like Gore telling Gahan that this is the last album they will make together. Thankfully that’s not the case and I am so looking to getting my grubby mitts on Memento Mori tomorrow.