Sunday, May 15, 2011

Essential Albums of the '80s: Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses (1987)

Violator (1990) is Depeche Mode's most successful and highly regarded album, but Music for the Masses, released just prior to that landmark set, is quite worthy too. Musically, it's pretty similar, finding Depeche Mode exploring the dark synth-pop sound they are best known for. The beginning of the album is particularly strong. Charging synth-pop opener "Never Let Me Down Again" is among the best singles the band ever produced, second only to "Enjoy the Silence." It's followed by the mellower, moodier "The Things You Said," which sounds like the kind of music the people in Blade Runner would listen to. "Strangelove" has a sharper beat, an obvious forerunner to "Personal Jesus." "Little 15" isn't an obvious highlight, but I like how it's foreboding melody drives to a richer instrumental climax during the bridge. Some of the songs in the second half are kind of strange, like "I Want You Now," which featuring wheezy, heavy breathing. Closing instrumental "Pimpf" is bold and dark, a bit over the top. But don't miss "Nothing," a driving synth-pop tune that probably could have been a single had they needed another one. Music for the Masses didn't generate any major hits, but as a solid entry in the DM catalog, it really should have.

Best: Never Let Me Down Again, The Things You Said, Strangelove, Nothing

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