More than forty years after their formation, Depeche Mode continues to create events with each album release. But this time, although present on all media fronts, the Basildon-born band is more discreet. It’s hardly a question of flying under the radar. The Dave Gahan-Martin Gore duo needed to get back in touch with reality and face their new life without Andy Fletcher, a founding member of the band who died suddenly in May 2022 when he was barely sixty years old and the three musicians were in the middle of recording their new album, Memento Mori. The evocative title (’remember that you’re going to die’) had already been thought of beforehand because of the many subjects dealt with in this album on which the band started working in the middle of a pandemic. Fletch’s death may have influenced the way the songs evolved, but it had nothing to do with the titles given to them, just as it did not influence the title of the album.
Although the line-up has changed somewhat over the four decades of the band’s existence, Andy Fletcher, who has always been faithful to the post, always admitted that he was the one who brought ideas and a few arrangements here and there, without ever investing himself in the composition as intensely and immersively as Martin Gore, with the lyrics being left to Gahan. The role of free electron “not very invested” according to one of his former comrades, Alan Wilder, which was to cause several tensions within the band before the departure of the same Wilder in 1995. Apart from a break he took from his bandmates during the 1994 Devotional Tour, Fletch has always been part of the adventure he initiated with Vince Clarke in 1980 (who quickly left Depeche Mode after the first album and started a new career afterwards with many other projects, including Erasure).
In the course of these intense years of activity, Depeche Mode have achieved much success. They have made the crowds dance with songs like Just Can’t Get Enough or People are People, hypnotised their public with a dark elegance thanks to Behind the Wheel and Shake the Disease, destroyed the charts with the unavoidable Enjoy the Silence or titillated their more sticky rock side with Walking in my Shoes and I Feel You. No Rammstein without Personal Jesus, no Nine Inch Nails without Black Celebration... Not to mention that Derrick May and Juan Atkins, who ruled the Detroit techno scene, integrated many of the band’s songs into their sets during the 80s.
Although the band has produced a number of hit singles, Depeche Mode has had a harder time convincing the media and some of its original fans as it enters the 21st century. Although the albums have many qualities, they sometimes struggle to deliver content that holds up over their entire length. Only Playing the Angel, released in 2005, will win all the votes. Paradoxically, this is the period during which the English band began to fill arenas and stadiums like never before, taking advantage of their heritage by arranging set lists around the great classics that made gave them their reputation. Against all odds, Depeche Mode continues to thrill the crowds. Better still, Memento Mori revives some of the vibrations that have contributed so much to making their music so unique, between darkness and melancholy, there is a real sense of melody carried by Gahan’s voice that underlines the compositional work done with Gore. Depeche Mode is still alive. For how much longer?