06 October 2010

We Go Way Back: Depeche Mode & Me

Some bands are such a part of my consciousness that I almost can't remember a world without an awareness of their songs.  Oddly, the first time I heard Depeche Mode (in the summer of 1984) I enjoyed their single "People Are People", but I wasn't instantly drawn to digging up their other music.  A friend from school (whose older sister was a member of the hipper-than-thou teenage music cognoscenti) kept pushing their music on me... playing it when I was around and asking if I wanted some cassettes of their LPs.  For reasons I am still unclear on, I declined his offer a few times, but maintained that I liked their overall concept.  One afternoon, however, a dubbed cassette of their Black Celebration LP ended up in my school bag.  Upon loading it into my Sanyo dual cassette boombox, I was hooked.  Many trips to import record stores and many orders from mail-order record outfits followed.  I collected every piece of Depeche Mode on black wax or compact disc that I could find.  Throughout this journey into the electronic darkwave and other parts of what came to be known as the world of "alternative music", I realized that people who knew music knew Depeche Mode and respected the trail they were blazing, even if they weren't fans of their work.  Within a few years, their underground hip factor grew into mainstream success as they navigated broader airwaves and filled an increasing number of arenas and stadiums.  Through a 1990s commercial peak, some well-publicized implosions, resuscitations, trips to rehab and a full-on rebirth in the early 2000s, they never seemed to lose steam but only cultivate a more legendary, formidable status as a peerless live act with a solid, ever-growing catalogue of great songs. 

Last year, I had to give myself a reality check with the realization that it was 2009, I was 36 years old and I had YET ANOTHER brand new Depeche Mode album in my hands.  While many other bands that emerged in the 1980s had found themselves essentially rewriting all of their old songs (with the hands of a young, hip and hot producer twiddling the knobs to make it all just current enough) DM was cracking it all wide open with a set of songs that were fresh, new and electrifying.

Thanks, guys... You never let me down.