Depeche Mode Memento Mori album review

Album Review: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

Fans of 80s music certainly picked the right genre at least in terms of following their favorite bands out of the era through a near lifetime of music.

So many of them who made it big and enjoy radio play today remain active writing, recording and touring. Some bigger than others naturally, with Depeche Mode still carrying on after more than 40 years. They don’t tour extensively but when they do the crowds come out in droves. Quietly, they release an album here and there but like other musicians from the past that made it big on hit songs decades ago, many of those who tuned in then probably have no idea of now.

As such, Depeche Mode released the 12-song, 50-minute Memento Mori today, their 15th album and first in six years, the band’s longest stretch between new releases. Memento Mori also starts a new era of sorts for the band as original member Andy Fletcher who played keyboards and bass died in May 2022. Fletcher did not contribute on the album though work had already begun. Singer Dave Gahan and keyboardist and guitarist Martin Gore carry-on as an official two-piece with of course some backing musicians.

Like so many other album releases in the last year or so, Depeche Mode drew inspiration from the pandemic to get the writing juices flowing, and coming on the heels of Fletcher’s death, don’t expect a cheerful or even quick-paced listen to Memento Mori. Not that Depeche Mode was ever much of a high-octane band. Lyrically deep, Depeche Mode also corresponds the music to the text. That, along with Gahan’s deep, almost drawl like vocals, adds a shroud of gloom to their craft a feature fully retained on Memento Mori.

Heavy on the keys and drum machine, Memento Mori captures quite a bit of the programming and tone that established their hits nearly four decades ago but the defining sound as it was then, and continues today, comes from Gahan’s vocals, a just as strong and a defining pitch when Depeche Mode first entered the charts.

The first half of the album opens with a string of convincing tracks starting with a trippy trip through the synthesizes on “My Cosmos Is Mine,” a deep dive into the 80s with some Jan Hammer sounding keys on “Wagging Tongue” and “Ghosts Again,” the first single released in early February, has to have some influence from New Order. Lots of similarities there.

The morose “Don’t Say You Love Me” shows Gahan in full command of his youthful vocal range and another throwback in what should rise to a fan favorite in “My Favourite Stranger.” Sorry to say but the Gore led “Soul With Me” Does. Not. Work. He’s not a bad singer, it’s just a bad song.

The back half of the album struggles to stay afloat from “Caroline’s Monkey,” – even if you recognize a familiar riff – “People Are Good,” and “Always Good” weighing it down with less than enthusiastic melodies. Nevertheless, the buoyancy added by the haunting “Before We Drown” – a must-hear live cut – and the final two tracks “Never Let Me Go” featuring a seminal amount of guitar which adds considerable depth while “Speak To Me,” in some ways with the overarching dreamy synths, bookends the album with the opening track.

Depeche Mode may no longer release music for the masses, but as the band enters its fifth decade, a new generation of moody kids just might find some new songs of faith and devotion to wallow in. And those who defined their high school years around the band have an added reason to relive that era albeit with fresh perspective.

Grade: B

Depeche Mode Memento Mori Songs:

  1. My Cosmos Is Mine
  2. Wagging Tongue
  3. Ghosts Again
  4. Don’t Say You Love Me
  5. My Favourite Stranger
  6. Soul With Me
  7. Caroline’s Monkey
  8. Before We Drown
  9. People Are Good
  10. Always Good
  11. Never Let Me Go
  12. Speak To Me

5 thoughts on “Album Review: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

  1. Being a now old fossil who’s even older than Gahan and Gore, I’ve been a long-time fan of Depeche Mode. I just gave this entire album a listen, and it’s a very good effort by them. Though it’s certainly not the strongest track on the album, I don’t think “Soul With Me” is a bad song. That said, had I heard it unannounced and out of the blue, I would never have guessed it was by D.M.

    1. it reminded me of Desire on last week’s U2 album. lol. came out if nowhere. Thanks for reading! BTW, for as long as they’ve been around they have some years left. I forget how young they were when they started.

  2. My sister loves this band. Kinda out of my wheelhouse so to speak but I admire them for still putting out new product and just not relying on past glories..
    Enjoyed the writeup Sir!

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