The Birth of Eighties New Wave
It’s true! Depeche Mode have been successfully recording their music for over thirty years now. Somehow, it’s hard to believe that the skinny kids I saw on TV back in 1981 have become one of the most successful bands in popular music.
I am only a couple of years older than most of the members of Depeche Mode but, even though I was in my early twenties back then, I had the same excitement about their music that I had experienced with other groups a decade earlier. Their sound was on a par with the likes of Gary Numan and his Tubeway Army, but a lot of it was so much more accessible.
The band hit the big time
Their first stab at commercial success, Dreaming of Me, performed poorly on the British music charts, but the next release was the one that established Depeche Mode and brought them to public attention.
It was New Life that I remember hearing on the radio back in the day. It was a simple, electronic sound which had a hypnotic chorus and which brought the group to the BBC’s weekly music chart show, Top of the Pops. It was probably here that 1980s New Wave was born, in much the same way that Marc Bolan had inadvertently created glam rock on the show in 1971.
Synthpop at its best
Depeche Mode defined one branch of the sound of New Wave, with its use of synthesizers and grandiose electronic productions. Their visuals at this time looked to have developed both from the the punk revolution and the disco craze of the late 1970s: leather, arty t-shirts and more refined post-punk haircuts.
It was actually an exciting time for music. Disco had been declared ‘dead’, but for those of us who enjoyed the club scene, much of what Depeche Mode produced seemed to fill that void. Along with groups such as Soft Cell, New Order, Ultravox and The Human League, DM put the cool back into dance music.
About this compilation
Thankfully, this compilation album of some of the band’s greatest moments easily transports me back to the advent of DM as a potent sound, style and force in pop music. The early (and later) Eighties’ hit tracks are mostly here and the remastering has given them a new clarity and freshness.
It’s a pity, however, that the content bounces around the group’s chronology and development. One moment you’re in 1989, then back to 1981 and then returned to 1989. It’s a minor quibble, I guess. It should be all about the music and, for a first volume, this collection truly delivers the goods.
Hopefully, a second compilation will be hot on its heels! This one is also available at the UK Amazon Store.
Depeche Mode: New Life (on Video)
Here’s the moment when the band made its television debut in 1981 and garnered an army of fans which would follow its musical progress over the following three decades and beyond.
Intro image courtesy of UK Depeche Mode Amazon Store
Other Music Reviews by Rich
- ABC: Alphabet City: A Metropolis of Eighties Blue-Eyed Soul
- Kaiser Chiefs: Education, Education, Education & War: A Review
- Passenger: His 2014 Album: Whispers