Archive for Depeche Mode

In praise (and memory) of the synth riff

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2013 by softsynth

Was just listening to Book of Love’s “Enchanted” which came up on the iPhone shuffle and was struck by how cool the riff is. Book of Love were great at the synth riff, and employed it regularly throughout their all-too-short career. Not surprising as they were so brazenly modelled on Depeche Mode, as DM were as of 1985 when BoL made their debut. The Mode were champions of the synth riff. Think of the moments – “Just Can’t Get Enough” (or for that matter, every single song from Speak & Spell), “Get the Balance Right”, “Everything Counts”, “Master and Servant”, “People are People”, “Shake the Disease”, and many many more – some classics, most pretty special in their own way, and that just in the band’s first five years.

They were far from alone, think of the defining sounds of early synth pop from the golden era – O.M.D.’s “Enola Gay”, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, aha’s “Take On Me”, Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance”, Gary Numan’s “Cars”, Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”, Yazoo’s “Don’t Go”…or “Situation”…or “Nobody’s Diary”…or you know, just any song from Yazoo. The list is far too long to write. One can reflect back to some of the finest moments of the genre and the riff was dominant. Some were particularly good at it – New Order did ’em great, few were better at it than Vince Clarke, Numan was terrific at it and of course Kraftwerk pioneered the trick. It was the stuff of iconic music moments.  Continue reading

Review: Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

Posted in Review with tags on March 27, 2013 by softsynth

Crafty bastards, lowering the bar like that and then producing an album not half as bad as many were starting to anticipate.

Signs were not good. A mediocre-at-best fallow period for the band that ran from the dispirited, and ironically-named Exciter to the dull and forgettable Sounds of the Universe, seemed to continue with the four minutes of anticlimax that was “Heaven” and chatter was everywhere that we were in store for another dud. Yet this long time fan of the band (going back to 1984) can report that this newest effort is…not as dire as was expected. Faint praise? Maybe. But given the recent state of affairs, it’s not  a little thing.

Perhaps the most influential electronic band of all time, DM wrote many of the rules the genre follows to this day. For decades they were the epitome of cool. Martin Gore was an unequaled songwriter, Dave Gahan, as smooth a frontman as they come, Andy Fletcher, a hand-clapper extraordinaire. The list of brilliant, unforgettable songs too long to fit in the bandwidth we can access. Yet recently we’ve seen tired production and weak songwriting and a stale attempt to be a “rawk band” with increasing helpings of guitar and an ever-growing drum kit front and centre at concerts. What they’ve managed to do on Delta Machine is dilute some of their more recent judgement lapses and excesses with some of what reminds us of what once made them so great.
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“Everything Counts guy” and his kids back with another DM cover

Posted in Observations with tags , on August 6, 2012 by softsynth

Loved DMK, (freakishly talented Columbian musician Dicken Schrader and his kids, Milah and Korben) and their take on Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts” which became something of an internet sensation. They’re back with another DM cover, this time “Black Celebration,” painfully reminding us of how tremendous these songs were and also how purely watchable it is to see people who are having fun performing.

Also? = This guy is an infinitely cooler Dad than this blogger.

Also also? = Digging the black eyeshadow on the kids. Love the committment…

Thoughts on Depeche Mode recording another album

Posted in Commentary with tags , on June 16, 2012 by softsynth

We have written many words on the subject of Depeche Mode here. Time for a few more.

We haven’t really talked much about the implications of the impending 13th album from DM. We now face the prospect of another Depeche Mode album with as much weary trepidation as excitement. Probably more, truth be told. Again, for the uninitiated, this was the band that got your humble blogger into electronic music back in 1984/85. When asked until quite recently – favourite band? It was always Depeche Mode. And while it’s become cliché to whine about the effect of the departure of Alan Wilder from the band in the mid 90s it did truly damage the band and there has been a clear case of the law of diminishing returns in recent albums. Those recent albums have become careless, and for all the rarity of their appearances (on average every four years) they seemed tossed off. The songwriting, long their bread and butter, became stale. Their material began to feel ordinary. And ordinary was something one could never have applied to this band back in their day. Their last effort, Sounds of the Universe was one of their most forgettable to date, despite some glimmers of joy buried within the folds of its broader mediocrity.  Continue reading

Everyone else is posting the “Everything Counts” guy and his kids so figured we should too

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 12, 2012 by softsynth

So it’s been making the rounds since it was uploaded about a month ago but felt we had to share it as well. Columbian musician Dicken Schrader and his children performed their take on Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts” and even to someone as inherently cynical as this blogger, this is pretty god damned delightful.

Four things stand out for this blogger: a) This guy is crazy talented as a musician. Check out how well he multitasks without dropping a sweat. The never-had-it musician side of the person writing this is mad-jealous. b) Cute kids. Also, how cool is it to see two kids 7 or younger with a sense of musicality about them? The two mini-Softsynths have no sense of rhythm or musicianship whatsoever, despite our constant prodding. This is awfully cool to see. c) The aforementioned mini-Softsynths insist on our playing this at least twice a day. It strangely it doesn’t get old so much as it forces a smile on the rictus-grimace that usually adorns our cynical mug. Every damn time. And most significantly, d) Boy could Martin Gore pen a timeless tune. What happened there? When we hear this we just keep thinking, why can’t Depeche Mode make music like this anymore? Why does the well from which this genius tune sprung now produce only blandness? The previously referenced smile goes away at this thought as it does battle with conflicting thoughts of “Fragile Tension” or “Hole to Feed”.

Schrader, who has recorded clever children’s tunes akin to the brilliant SchoolHouse Rocks songs from the 70s and 80s in his native land has also taken on, “Strangelove” and “Shake the Disease”, continuing to remind DM how their music still has the potential to kick ass. Hope they’re watching this on repeat…

Watch: Dicken featuring Milah and Korben – Everything Counts

Alright 2012, whatcha got for us…?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by softsynth

So, 2011 is now on the way to the compost heap and we sweep the hearth clean in anticipation of what 2012 will bring. Lots of good stuff on the electronic music horizon, fortunately mostly slated for the early part of the year, which is a good thing as we’ll get to enjoy some good new music in advance of the looming apocalypse in the fall (or is it the spring? We get our apocoli confused).

Our list is topped by Assemblage 23’s Bruise (supposed to be out this fall, but we’ll take it whenever Mr. Shear wants to deliver it, so terrific was his last A23 album); and after hearing sensational advance tracks from Bunny Lake their The Sound Of Sehnsucht is also high on our anticipated list. But these two are far from alone. 2012 looks to be replete with potential awesomeness, to whit: Continue reading


Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by softsynth

When we look back at the history of electronic music, and more personally Softsynth’s own journey to embrace our shared genre, Daniel Miller’s record label played a larger, more significant role than any other entity. As a young lad in a small Canadian city in the pre-internet era there were only a few ways to discover new music. Mainstream radio was the big one and we’ve waxed on about how we discovered Depeche Mode in 1984 thanks to the then-ubiquitous “People Are People” which aired on MuchMusic, daily video shows like CBC’s Video Hits, and on radio programs like Dick Clark’s op 40 Countdown which aired on Halifax’s C-100.
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