Exciter by Depeche Mode
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One of Depeche Mode's greatest strengths is also their greatest weakness. The band comes up with some of pop music's most inventive lyrics, and at the same time, they always give the impression that they'll arbitrarily sing about anything, as long as it's depressing. But on Exciter
there's an autobiography in the lyrics that, for the first time, strikes a chord with skeptics and believers alike. Singer David Gahan's battle with addiction and its horrendous pitfalls took its toll in DM's 1990s releases; Songs of Faith and Devotion
failed to measure up to their groundbreaking albums of the '80s, and Ultra
found songwriter Martin Gore less inspired, and a hoarse Gahan incapable of delivering his signature clear and booming vocals. Mercifully, the band has exorcised the demons and produced an album that places them squarely back on track. The opener, "Dream On," is a close cousin to "Personal Jesus," combining earthy guitar with electrified, pulsating synths. The track's physical and metaphorical imagery poignantly relays the karmic revolution of living the fast life. The brilliant, mesmerizing monster of a tune, "The Dead of Night," swaggers with a giant, crushing industrial beat like a Nine Inch Nails
song dressed in glamorous drag, while the ballads "Shine" and "Freelove" are as beautiful as the classic "Somebody" (but entirely unburdened by saccharine sentimentality). Gore's keen ear for shimmering sonics and bellowing rhythm reinvigorates the Depeche Mode-branded synth-pop that's remained unique for the last 20 years. In all, Exciter
is a stunning return to form, and a triumph by every definition. --Beth Massa