Music

Depeche Mode: Exciter

Tony Peregrin

Depeche Mode

Exciter

Label: Reprise
US Release Date: 2001-05-15
Amazon
iTunes

Don't let the title fool you: Depeche Mode's Exciter isn't exciting, so much as it is serenely pleasing. If you're looking for the epic, synth-pop sounds that powered Violator into a modern-day classic, well, to quote Depeche Mode's latest single, "Dream On".

Exciter hums with a quiet, restrained sound that will burrow it's way into the listener's heart while they're not looking. Don't stand there with your arms crossed waiting for your speakers to rock out to "Personal Jesus, Part II", because it's not gonna happen. Expect plenty of ballad-like offerings, such as "When the Body Speaks" or "Goodnight Lovers", songs that would wilt under the care of any other vocalist but Dave Gahan. In fact, Gahan's voice shines with a naked clarity that we just haven't heard in Depeche Mode's previous work. It thrives quite well on its own, outside the sonic machinations of the group, to create what one reviewer called "a kind of electro-accoustic" sound.

There are danceable moments on this album, especially on "I Feel Loved" and "Dream On", which pulsate and shimmer enough to appease Depeche Mode listeners. And yet, you can't help but feel these songs are slightly undercooked, as if they weren't left in the oven long enough to really burn. Depeche Mode are big fans of remixing their work, so I suspect the CD single versions of these and other selections will serve up just what we ordered.

Produced by Mark Bell, who worked on Björk's Homogenic and Selmasongs, Exciter is all about, finding/escaping/giving LOVE (four out of 13 songs on the album have the word "love" in the title). But when Depeche Mode crafts a song about a puffy, bloated subject like "love", they do so without sounding mundane or whiney (at least, on this album.) Witness the lyrics for "I Feel Loved": "It's the dark night of my soul / And temptation's taking hold / But through the pain and the suffering / Through the heartache and trembling / I feel loved."

Exciter's biggest mistake: "The Dead of Night". Not only are the lyrics laughable, "We're the horniest boys / With the corniest ploys / Who take the easiest girls / To our sleaziest worlds," but the track is an unsuccessful nod to glam-rock that is noisy and artificial. Imagine if Trent Reznor or Marilyn Manson decided to cut a Depeche Mode tune and you're about there.

There are precious few bands that can still record relevant and vital albums in their 20th year. Exciter has its flaws, but not enough to enjoy the silence.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image