Depeche Mode Ranked
I've been toying around with creating a "best of" subsection for ages, and it struck me that with the new site it was a perfect opportunity to kick it off. I'm beginning by ranking all of the Depeche Mode LPs from my least favorite to the cream of the crop. The list is obviously based on my personal opinion, but I think that what makes Depeche Mode so great is that every fan you talk to is going to have a different version of this list. Even my least favorite album is still a magical gem filled with brilliance...it just doesn't shine as bright as the other stars in the Depeche Mode galaxy.
As a side-note, I must mention that Depeche Mode is my favorite band, and has been since I was in the single digits of age. Arranging this list was a bit like having to rank my children from most favored to least, but somehow I managed! Hope you enjoy, and please, comment with how you'd rank these records!
It should get credit for truly standing out from the rest of their discography, but Depeche Mode at their most delicate didn't connect with me. That being said, the Flood remix of "Freelove" is inspired stuff.
Sounds of the Universe
This album suffers most from having to follow the brilliant Playing the Angel. It was such a letdown from the quality of that record that I can't help but hold it against it. "Fragile Tension" is however one of my very favorite Depeche Mode tracks."Corrupt" is pretty great too.
Though initially enamored with this record, it just didn't have the staying power of their other work. There are sparks of brilliance but it's not consistently good. "Where's the Revolution" and "Scum" were instant favorites but I don't find myself coming back to this record very often.
Speak & Spell
While containing iconic "Just Can't Get Enough," Speak & Spell plays more like a resume for Vince Clarke's future work rather than that of Depeche Mode. Dave's not found his voice yet and Alan's studio wizardry haven't arrived yet. Still a fun romp through their poppier days of playing matinee shows to teens.
A Broken Frame
The soundtrack of a band finding their way, A Broken Frame contains some stone cold Depeche Mode classics, but isn't cohesive at all. Some songs are overlong, others fall into the teen pop category, while others are progressive experiments. The roots of future Depeche Mode are starting to show here, but they've not settled on a sound yet.
Construction time Again
Here we have Depeche Mode tapping into their true potential. Dave's voice is almost there, Wilder is tinkering a bit, and Martin's songwriting is getting better. "Everything Counts" alone is enough to boost this one up the list, but again, consistency keeps this one from the upper tiers.
Delta Machine blew me away. It was an album that I wasn't expecting from a band that sounded like they were far from through. It was creative, pushed the boundaries of their songwriting, and had some of their best b-sides since Violator. Definitely their best since Playing the Angel.
Ultra was an album I never thought I'd get. With Dave experiencing near death overdoses and Alan leaving the band, Depeche Mode was over, right? Not only did they return stronger than ever, they did so without Wilder. It's a stripped down, leaner, and meaner Mode, and I absolutely adore this record.
Playing the Angel
The pinnacle of the modern era Depeche Mode, Playing the Angel is riveting from start to finish. It's a darkly majestic record that introduced us to Gahan as a songwriting force (a trend that has continued to this day). Everytime I listen to this record I have more and more respect for it.
Music for the Masses
If Violator was the album that made Depeche Mode international mega stars, Music for the Masses would be the coming out party. While their competitors were falling to the wayside as synth music was losing a battle to hair metal on MTV, Depeche Mode was selling out stadiums thanks to perfectly crafted, dark pop songs.
Songs of Faith and Devotion
This album completely absorbed my life when it came out. It was like a musical black mass coming through my speakers...one part dangerous and one part hypnotic synth hooks. It's an album wrapped up in tales of a tour of debauched excess, so much so that it almost killed their frontman and broke up the band. Rock n' roll, right?
This album changed how I listened to music. Violator was the first album that I ever owned that felt like an experience...something you did, rather than just listened to. It's a masterpiece of dark synthpop perfection and I cannot understate the way it changed the course of my musical life.
Some Great Reward
This is it. This is the album where pop idols became THE Depeche Mode we all know and love. This album is tight, cohesive, and brilliantly paced from start to finish. Gahan's voice has become a powerful instrument, Wilder has become a full fledged member, and Gore's songwriting has been honed to a fine point. I teeter with this as my favorite Depeche Mode album frequently.
The crowning achievement of a band realizing who they are, where their talents lie, and also gifted with an aesthetic to match their music by none other than Anton Corbijn. Depeche Mode launched themselves into MTV stardom thanks to his visual queues and that visual mixed with the stark, and equally dark sophistication of this album plant it here at the best of the best.