“DEPECHE MODE may not be the most remarkably boring group ever to walk the face of the earth, but they’re certainly in the running. Their sophisticated nonsense succeeds only in emphasising just how hilariously unimaginative they really are.” – (Steven) Morrissey, in a review for The Record Mirror, 13 Feb 1982
The fact that Morrissey, before he was
the Morrissey, once wrote a review of a Depeche Mode concert in which he completely trashed the then-still-fledgling band is but a humorous footnote in the annals of Depeche Mode history, but it’s the sort of detail that makes Monument a delight. Not only does Monument mention Morrissey’s review, it includes a clipping. Something about the byline “By Steven Morrissey” makes it feel more real; it gives the reader the sense of seeing a bit of pre-history, that of both Depeche Mode and Morrissey.
Monument is as comprehensive a biography as one could expect for Depeche Mode. Thanks to the ridiculously large collection of Depeche Mode memorabilia that Dennis Burmeister has compiled and the ability of Sascha Lange to organize, contextualize, and pick out the important bits of that collection, Monument exists as a completist’s dream. It spends time with every era of Depeche Mode, treating every year of the band’s existence as important and necessary in their evolution to the band they have become. If it were merely a compilation of minutiae and memorabilia, it would be interesting and fascinating, as there is just so much to show, layout, and explain.
Monument into essential territory, however, is that Lange adds just the right amount of in-depth material to give even the most devoted fan a complete picture of the band. Surprisingly deep interviews with Daniel Miller (the head of Depeche Mode’s longtime label Mute Records) and Anne Haffmans (Mute’s German label manager) allow for an understanding of the symbiosis between band and label, while a quick interview with roadie Daryl Bamonte allows for an insider’s perspective, even if Bamonte doesn’t turn out to be particularly loquacious.
Again, though, the very fact that Bamonte’s contribution was included anyway helps
Monument as far as how it comes across to the reader. There’s the sense that Lange and Burmeister compiled every piece of information and item of memorabilia they could find and, rather than cull it for the most important bits, threw everything in the book more or less chronologically and let the reader decide what’s important. A promo record with selections from Music for the Masses produced for the United States Armed Forces radio station is given as much page real estate as the actual Music for the Masses album cover. All four variants of the relatively obscure Suffer Well CD single are pictured, including snapshots of the photo-printed CDs themselves. There’s a look at an exclusive German release of latest album Spirit, complete with a little pin with the Depeche Mode name in the Spirit font. Indeed, there’s so much information here that you get the sense that there was no editing. Every bit of information, every picture, every bit of memorabilia is included, no matter how mundane, and it only makes sense that that would also apply to the interviews.
Beyond the completism, however, Lange proves adept as a writer when he gets to stretch out a bit. Sure there’s plenty of information on release history, member changes, and tour details, but that’s all fairly rote encyclopedia-style stuff. Late in the book, however, there’s a section called “Behind the Wall”, a document describing the travails of being a music fan — and specifically, of course, a Depeche Mode fan — on the East side of the Berlin Wall. This look at the way the youth of East Germany got around the restrictions and taboos of the time to indulge their burgeoning fandom is fascinating, historically motivated yet full of the humor that hindsight can lend a bleak era. This is where we learn that Beethoven enjoyed a bump in popularity at one point due to Depeche Mode’s inclusion of the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata as a B-side, and where we learn that Daniel Myer — who would go on to help found IDM titan Haujobb — once bought a pair of “Dave Gahan-look-alike lederhosen.” For pure reading, this is the book’s strongest segment.
Perhaps you see a trend here: We get a look at Depeche Mode’s complicated relationship with the two sides of the Berlin Wall. There’s an interview with Depeche Mode’s German label manager. There are chart notes that consistently use German charts to make their points. All of this feeds into the only potential problem someone might have with
Monument: its perspective. Specifically, Lange is German, Monument started out as a German tribute to Depeche Mode originally released in 2013, and this expanded and translated edition retains the German-centric focus of the memorabilia and narratives found in the original, even as it chronicles the band right up through mid-2017.
Monument includes all the albums, all the singles, everything any Depeche Mode fan could imagine. It’s nitpicky to say there’s not enough focus on the US charts or say, on the Spanish exclusives. Still, Monument is as close to the ultimate comprehensive document of Depeche Mode’s career thus far.
Depeche Mode has been around long enough, they’ve seen enough, they’ve created enough that trying to document their entire career is a gargantuan task. It only makes sense that the results of attempting to undertake such a task would be housed in a gargantuan book. Monument is everything it aspires to be, an impressive achievement and a fine gift for the Depeche Mode fan in your life.