Reviews

Depeche Mode “Memento Mori” Album Review

Memento Mori

Depeche Mode

  • Genre: Alternative
  • Date: 24 Mar, 2023
  • Content: Not-explicit
  • Region: NGA
  • Track(s): 12
  • ℗ 2023 Venusnote Ltd., under exclusive license to Columbia Records, a Division of Sony Music Entertainment

“Memento Mori,” which means “remember you must die” in Latin, is inspired by loss as much as by salvation and rebirth. There is a fresh energy to work and support here after the problematic recording sessions for their previous album, “Spirit” (2017), and the dynamic that saw Gore take on lead songwriting duties and Gahan occasionally feel creatively stifled.

Six weeks before the recording sessions for MM began, founding member and Gore’s closest friend Andy Fletcher passed away suddenly. This didn’t just affect the atmosphere of the sessions. It altered the group’s entire dynamic. The skeletal team that produced the album after Fletch’s death was a lean and effective one, including producer James Ford, co-producer Marta Salogni, and Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs.

Album Cover Art

Depeche Mode &Quot;Memento Mori&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, April 13, 2024

On the gloomy yet lovely album cover for their new album, Depeche honors dear late friends, especially bandmate Andy Fletcher, who died from a heart condition in 2022. They choose to pay homage to them with the use of a small bouquet beautiful adorned with angel wings made of cotton surrounding them.

Tracks and Features

Over a patchwork of shattered static and cryospheric sounds, the opening track “My Universe Is Mine” unfolds. Gahan excels in the character of the narrator who would prefer to be lied to than given more bad news while dressed to the nines in beautiful Scott Walker garb. However, its motivating question is a sign of grief itself. There is a whiff of The Wall’s politics here, especially when chants of “No war!” arrive.

This album is more focused on surviving than on succeeding, so it’s ironic that this somber triptych is as fresh and unrestricted as Depeche Mode have sounded this century. “People Are Good” and “Never Let Me Go” not only share the first half of their titles with two of the band’s most iconic hits, but also their anthemic ambitions. “People Are Good” is the confession of a recovering pessimist who realizes that perhaps he was correct in thinking that human nature pre-destines us to failure. It is ebullient, danceable, and profoundly depressing.

The fast-paced and cutting “Never Let Me Go” pivots around the frantic guitar hook that has long been the group’s go-to move. It highlights the convincing neurotic self-confidence Gahan puts on while pleading for love and acting as though he is already the embodiment of love. This is not the only place where Gore and Gahan collaborated.

Gahan was persuaded that rejoining the group was worthwhile by the work they had done on “Ghosts Again,” the album’s lead single and the first time Depeche Mode had come close to sounding like a real smash in many years. It is delightfully uncomplicated, with its bright keys and insistence on four people sitting on the floor providing Gahan room to do some carpe diem preaching away from the pandemonium.

The only real dud on the album is “Soul with Me,” which is more of a full-on slog than a mid-album fermata and features a languid waltz of shuffling rhythms, tremolo guitars, and simple end rhymes. Its sappy feeling of self-pity contrasts with Memento Mori, a record that somehow survived after Fletcher’s death in London.

For the final track, “Speak to Me,” that same croon makes a return. It’s a stunning example of Gahan-style melancholy that starts off sounding like some pious church hymn before ending in a hail of cursed noise. Gahan is concerned that he is not good enough for anyone but himself in this dedicated love ballad, which is constrained by self-loathing.

Tracklist

NO

TITLE

TIME

1 My Cosmos Is Mine 5:16
2 Wagging Tongue 3:24
3 Ghosts Again 3:58
4 Don’t Say You Love Me 3:48
5 My Favourite Stranger 3:57
6 Soul With Me 4:15
7 Caroline’s Monkey 4:16
8 Before We Drown 4:05
9 People Are Good 4:24
10 Always You 4:18
11 Never Let Me Go 4:03
12 Speak To Me 4:35

Album Theme

“Memento Mori,” the fifteenth album by Depeche Mode, is a coherent, concentrated compilation of extraordinarily powerful songs written in the wake of catastrophe on a grand scale and personal loss.

Production Credits

James Ellis Ford & Marta Salogni produced the album.

Stream

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