Long before pundits coined the phrases "synth-pop" and "electronica," Depeche Mode passionately embraced digital technology and leapt headlong into the musical future.
Now, 20 years after their historic emergence, the techno-pop pioneers have delivered yet another masterwork. Released in March 2001, Exciter powerfully reaffirms Depeche Mode's status as musical innovators. Foregoing the frenzied rhythms of modern electronica, the British trio has opted for an insinuating blend of shadowy melody, murmuring percussion and pyschosexual lyricism. With its perceptive insights into the thorny complexities of romance, Exciter marks a compelling new chapter for founding members David Gahan (vocals), Martin Gore (keyboards, guitar), and Andrew Fletcher (keyboards).
To date, a long list of publications, including Rolling Stone, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Billboard and US Weekly, have weighed-in with ecstatic reviews. USA Today described Exciter as "the earthiest and most futuristic song cycle the group has released yet, folding acoustic and electronic orchestration into gorgeous sonic landscapes." The U.K. publication Mojo called the disc "innovative, enigmatic and passionate...pop perfection," while L.A. Weekly put the album into historic perspective. To wit: "Exciter is the sound of a band at the height of its powers. Depeche Mode may have become an institution, complete with tribute albums and imitators..But they deserve respect for what they're doing, not for what they did first."
Exciter is the superbly crafted recording fans have come to expect from the band that helped make electronic music palatable for the masses. Hailing from the British town of Basildon, Depeche Mode surfaced in 1980 with a synth-saturated sound quite unlike the guitar-intensive recordings of the time. But following the release of their groundbreaking 1981 debut album Speak & Spell, founding member Vince Clarke departed to form Yaz and Erasure. Without missing a beat, keyboardist Martin Gore stepped to fore and assumed the songwriting helm.
Subsequent Depeche Mode recordings like A Broken Frame, Some Great Reward, Black Celebration, Music for the Masses and Violator were erotic dissertations on love, sexual politics and spirituality. By the late '80s, the unassuming band that challenged the guitar-rock heirachy was producing hit singles, including "Behind the Wheel," "Enjoy the Silence," "Policy of Truth," "Personal Jesus" and "I Feel You."
But while songs like "Behind the Wheel," "Strangelove" and "Master and Servant" explored the dark psychology of romance, Depeche Mode has never stooped to cynicism. "Blasphemous Rumours," "Personal Jesus" and "Higher Love" find Gore struggling to reconcile spirit and flesh. As Depeche Mode's new album suggests, Gore and his confederates have finally discovered the perfect musical balance.