Depeche Mode finally reached their mature style on their fourth album, Some Great Reward. Released in 1984, it is Depeche Mode's most industrial album, and it is considered by many to be one of the greatest electronic music albums of all time. Continuing from the aesthetic that propelled Everything Counts from 1983's Construction Time Again, the band manages to make rough, industrial noise an effective part of pop songs, although the effect is far from upbeat bubblegum. As would be their calling card for the rest of the 80s, Depeche Mode here adopts an obliquely ironic and dark (or at least grey) outlook, although not to the Gothic extreme found on Black Celebration.
- Something to Do (3:46)
The album begins with a strange burst of noise before the song bursts in with an insistent synth and drum riff. The verse is recited in near monotone, in the disinterested tone that David Gahan would perfect to a fine art, before the jumpy, rapid fire chorus intercedes. With a brief instrumental interlude it returns to the verse, and the cycle repeats a couple of times. A vaguely discordant interlude leads back to the verse-chorus cycle. An effective opener, showing the dark, stripped-down sound that suffuses the album. An abrupt ending leads directly into the next song.
- Lie to Me (5:03)
This song is slower and more consonant than the opener. The music consists of several interweaving melodic and rhythmic figures which interact to provide an interesting, percussive tapestry. Throughout it all, a consistent dance beat shines through the texture.
- People Are People (3:52)
Metallic clanks open this, the most famous song from this album. Unlike the previous two, it is a very vocal-centred song. This is not necessarily a strength, as Martin Gore's surprisingly naive lyrics are a little embarassing. Despite this, the song remains an irresistably catchy pop tune which was a major hit upon its release as a single.
- It Doesn't Matter (4:45)
Quiet and reflective, this song's ringing sythesisers and smootly delivered lyrics delight in transience while hoping for permanence. It is (deliberately) unclear whether the narrator's relationship with the subject is finished, adding to the depth of the lyrics. This song clearly shows that DM's synths and drum machines can sound calm as well as peppy.
- Stories of Old (3:15)
Eschewing the usual textured approach, this song concentrates itself on a central melody and drum beat, only occasionly punctuated with stretches of overlapping sonic elements.
- Somebody (4:27)
This soft, passionate ballad centres on a piano and Martin Gore's voice. The lyrics, the complete focus of this song, are the most optimistic and hopeful on the entire album, describing the author's ideal significant other. It succeeds in being intense in spite of itself.
- Master and Servant (4:12)
Probably the best dance song on the album, this song's rather overt BDSM themes prevent it from being the hit People Are People was. Industrial flourishes cannot hide the essential pop-techno basis of this song, its sparseness enhancing rather than diminishing the song's musicality. In a way, it has the feel of the entire album writ small.
- If You Want (4:41)
A long, dark, and brooding opening leads into another fast, dance beat song. The rest may be slightly fillerish, but even the filler on this album is surprisingly good and listenable.
- Blasphemous Rumours (6:21)
This epic closer is also a highlight, combining the slow, languid toned parts of the album with the fast dance parts. The verses are delivered in the slower style, with an abrupt change in speed and instrumentation for the chorus. The lyrics are DM at their most bitterly ironic, discussing the story of a teenage girl who attempts suicide, fails, finds meaning in her life, and is then fatally struck by a car.
If the dated electronic sounds and somewhat offputting style are not a deterrant, this album is an interesting and satisfying listen.
This writeup is copyright 2003 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.0/ .