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Songs of Faith and Devotion is the 8th album by the British electronic music group Depeche Mode (who at the time comprised of Dave Gahan on lead vocals, Martin Gore on guitar, keyboards, bass, backing vocals, Andy Fletcher on keyboards, backing vocals & Alan Wilder on keyboards, drums, piano, programming and backing vocals & it was released by Mute Records on 22 March 1993.
Its best recorded position was in the Swiss Album Chart at #1 where it went triple platinum by selling in excess of 55,000 units however its best sales came from topping the US Billboard 200 also at #1 where it only achieved platinum status but sold in excess of 1,550,000 units. It was also #1 album in Austria, France, Germany & the UK.
All tracks were written by Martin Gore, all lead vocals performed by Dave Gahan unless otherwise stated.
So whats on Songs of Faith and Devotion then?
1. "I Feel You" - 4:35
This was the 1st single released off the album on February 15 1993 and its best recorded position was #1 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart. Man how I hate, hate, HATE with a passion the squealing introduction to this, I actually hate the intro to this track so much in fact its put me off writing the actual music part of this review for over 3 months.
I really do NOT like this track, not just because of the intro but because of the country & western feel. This isn't the dark synthy Depeche Mode I know & love. Its what I call "shitkicker music", the most polite way I can think of describing country music in general.
I guess here the band were trying a new genre, admittedly its a lot more of a rock song. The drums are good, the tune apart from its country influence is so-so and Dave sounds very good.
2. "Walking in My Shoes" - 5:35
This was the 2nd single released off the album on April 26 1993 & its best recorded position was #1 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart. Now this feels more like the Depeche Mode I know, love and am thoroughly miserable to! The lyrics are very clear that Martin Gore is saying he doesnt want to be judged yet it could have equally been applied to the drug fuelled mania Dave Gahan was living through or the nervous breakdown Andrew Fletcher was trying & failing to cope with.
Frankly in the lyrics to this song you can understand exactly why Alan Wilder decided he wanted to bail on the band, given the choice between leaving or self destruction then the option that means you live is always the better one. Musically this track is brilliant with e-bowed guitars and Martin Gores kick ass bassline, its very much a rock song but its wonderfully bleak in a Depeche Mode way. Try walking in my shoes, you stumble in my footsteps. Talk about a sublime lyric. Gore might have been spending most of his time drunk beyond belief but he was still producing stuff this good.
3. "Condemnation" - 3:20
This track was the 3rd single released off the album on September 13 1993 & its best recorded position was #3 in the Swedish Singles Chart. This is a prayer, an elegy for a nearly dying band whose members were trying to destroy themselves in differing ways. How can they defend their lifestyles & actions?
"I'll suffer with with pride", again Gore was writing this stuff whilst killing any working braincells that might have been creative. Its simply beyond belief that he was able to make lyrics so powerful. The tune is like a negro spiritual, a cracking little almost blues/gospel number.
4. "Mercy in You" - 4:17
A nice guitar with a rocky synth style but its right into bleak Depeche Mode territory, its a lot like The Policy Of Truth. When Dave sings the title its hard not to feel mercifull towards him, his sirenlike tones have taken you through those dark journies travelling to the darker places so you dont have to but its fine to go along for the ride. Frankly the tune to this has got to rank up amongst the best stuff the band have ever created.
5. "Judas" - 5:14
Stefan Hanningans uilleann pipes open this rather beautifully, its a stark contrast to the 2 previous songs as the plain clear voice of Martin Gore on lead vocals are downplayed. Its a lot like some of Massive Attacks best stuff off Blue Lines (their best album ever imho), the bassline is fairly heavy and drives the tune along but the vocals and pipes are so mellow its a musical oxymoron. I can see this becoming one of those "chill out" tracks, its ideal to just lay back and relax your mind to.
By the way, 4 minutes in dont be fooled into thinking you are listening to a new song with that VERY long pause that almost suckered me into thinking I was suddenly listening to a hidden track.
6. "In Your Room" - 6:26
This was the 4th single released off the album on January 10 1994 & its best recorded position was #2 in the Swedish Singles Chart. This would be the last single & video to feature Alan Wilder who left the band on his 36th birthday. And yes its Dave in perfect form alongside those wonderfully dark synth lines, his tone emotes like crazy.
Your favourite darkness? Isn't that pretty much every bleak image Martin Gore ever came up with? I think it is. The fact it then devolves into breakbeat drums (played brilliantly by Wilder) and Gores complimentary backing vocals create a wall of sound in the middle 8 so if you want the rocky Depeche Mode that still like a synth then this little gem is your weapon of choice.
I do love the way they ask "Will I always be here", questioning their own mortality at a time when they were trying their best to put an end to it. Those wah-wah guitars at the playout are practically the cries of their tormented souls.
7. "Get Right with Me" - 3:52
Another prayer like delivery by Dave, this almost seems like someone took a trip to Ravi Shankar as this feels a lot like the The Beatles did after their meeting with the great man. It does have an Indian flavour to it (I'm not sure if thats intentional) but it ends up becoming a Christian Spritual thanks to the contributions from Bazil Meade, Hildia Campbell and Samantha Smith on backing vocals. I could have done without the stupidly long playout though.
8. "Rush" - 4:37
Oh blimey, who died and decided to follow Nine Inch Nails. I almost thought for a moment the band had abandoned standard electronica & decided to pursue the path of Industrial music again. I'm guessing I have to blame Gore for this one, its very German. I hear Propaganda (the band!), Rammstein & Skinny Puppy amongst others in the underlying themes of the tune. Dave needs to know he will never be Trent Reznor (thank god) and shouldnt try either. This one will separate fan opinions I feel. I'm not sure if I like it or not.
9. "One Caress" - 3:32
A rather unexpected string intro conducted by Will Malone but a rather soft lead vocal from Martin Gore. The strings seem to follow the wonderful discordance that the bands synth lines are normally known for. I get the feeling Gore wanted to record this for something else and the record company company decided to include it on this album as it doesnt quite feel like it fits despite its excellent barren feelings. Oddly enough it works, even with the strings its stark.
10. "Higher Love" - 5:56
An almost Sergeant Pepper style opening (circa Within Without You) that devolves into Tangerine Dream then Dave starts to weave his vocal spells, the voodoo that he do to me and you ;-) Its certainly a fairly rocky synth feel, the layered vocal is a very nice effect (especially as he sings about "The Heart Of Infinity"), this is one of those tracks your going to either need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy or it'll drag you there whether you like it or not.
The soundscape certainly fills out in the middle 8, its the classic feel Tangerine Dream fans love them for and I have no issues with the Mode hijacking it for their own purposes here. I'm willing to be dragged along, after all Dave is telling us he is moved by a higher love and I certainly felt moved - willing passenger on the journey or not.
Summing up:- Its very sad that this was Alan Wilders last hurrah with Depeche Mode but most of the songs are very good. A couple are debatable if they are up to the usual standard & output of what the band are better known & loved for. No doubt they will find fans somewhere, almost certainly Germany.
Gahan was heavily into his drugs by this album, Gore was drinking unfeasible amounts, Fletch was suffering through a nervous breakdown & Wilder had had issues with alcohol himself so decided to remove himself from the self destructive enviroment. His creativity shines in the drums on this album.
(this review also appears on Ciao!)
Depeche Mode were one of the great musical success stories of 80s Britain. The line up of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Alan Wilder and Martin Fletcher pioneered electronic music at the start of the decade with such hits as Just Can't Get Enough and People Are People, before maturing into a more refined act with the albums Black Celebration and Music for the Masses. They reached a new peak whilst touring the latter, selling out stadiums in the US, resulting in the hugely successful road movie and accompanying soundtrack 101.
Following this they regrouped and plotted their next move carefully. The resulting album Violator took them to the next level. Free of the fickleness of the pop music crowd, the band were now being taken seriously by the more discerning music fan, and with that the more respected music magazines. Songs like Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence struck a chord with the new younger generation.
At this point, circa 1990/1991, the music landscape was overhauled by a new breed of guitar bands. The likes of Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder were the new darlings of the scene, and angsty rock music was the order of the day. Dave Gahan embraced these bands during the Violator tour, and plunged headlong into the lifestyle that accompanied it, ie heroin addiction.
The band, flush with the overwhelming acclaim from Violator went into the studio several months after the tour ended to commence work on what was to become Songs of Faith and Devotion. Martin Gore was keen to impress more guitar work into their sound, whereas singer Dave Gahan had by this point transformed from awkward pop singer to rock star, his new tattoos and fashionably long hair completing the transformation.
What resulted from these drawn out, frustrating sessions was nothing short of remarkable, akin to U2s overhaul for their watershed effort Achtung Baby. Beefing up the sound and sacrificing layers of synth for crunching guitar and more rock orientated beats, SOFAD begged to be taken seriously in the new era.
First single I Feel You sets the tone, a dark repetitive guitar motif with an almost industrial rhythm, it feels like a suckerpunch after all those chart hits. The darkness continues with the magnificent Walking in My Shoes, a sneering anthem with Gahan goading you with the claim "you'd stumble in my footsteps". Condemnation, however, is DM gone gospel. Handclaps, female backing singers, and probably the best vocal of Gahan's career, its slow blues are a real highlight.
Gore delivers a neat guitar lick for Mercy in You, which raises the pace and lifts the dark clouds a little, while still retaining an edge. In Your Room then brings the positivity down with a vengeance. Gloomy synths surround Gahans vocal like a cloud of smoke, the atmosphere thick with tension, and its here you start to wonder about the narcotic influence in their performance.
Rush is the polar opposite, the beats per minute cranked up and the mood turning nasty, its here that their new rock sounds collide with their more traditional ethics to dizzying effect. It proved to translate well in their future live performances.
Concluding with Higher Love is a masterstroke, DM's evolution complete amongst its sophisticated rhythms and subtle hooks. After the nine tracks which preceed it, it feels like the ribbon around the gift.
With only Get Right With Me letting the side down a little (it's a little lightweight, lacking the depth to fit in with its heavier siblings), SOFAD is a truly mesmerizing album. The resulting lengthy tour physically broke the band, with Alan Wilder leaving and Dave Gahan's drug use becoming all consuming. This has left the album being looked on a little less favourably than its predecessor, and it's a shame as it's at least the equal of Violator. Personally I feel that if they hadn't gone through the emotional hell of making SOFAD it may well have spelled the end for them before they got the chance to grow. For this I'm thankful, and so should we all be. Top band, top album.
I've only recently started listening to a bit more of Depeche Mode (this was my first purchase a few years ago), and the more I hear older stuff by them, the more this album surprises me! DM's early history (I just can't get enough, People are people etc) was all very clean and poppy. This album however, is INCREDIBLY dark, and I love it! About this time, Dave Gahan was going a bit mad on the ol' drugs, to the point where it completely consumed his soul. This album exudes obsession, surrender, pain and love for every murky second. Screaming guitar feedback opens, almost making you jump out of your seat announces the start of 'I feel you' - the first song on the album. "You take me to/and lead me through/Babylon" Dave sings - drug reference no. 1. I'm not going to count the rest of them though. I'm not THAT sad! Anyway, there are some very poignant moments, such as 'Condemnation', a nice slow, almost gospel song, and later again with 'One caress' - a simply beautiful song, which may or may not be about drugs also. However, I prefer the more evil elements to this album. 'In your room' fills you with a mental image of being out of your mind on heroin, sitting on a couch held by this awesome force that is addiction. "In your room/where time stands still/ or moves at your will." There's plenty of guitars, drums, and DMs trademark synths throughout the album. They even use Uileann Pipes (the Irish version of bagpipes!) on one track, something I really like. If you are of a nervous disposition, stay well away! It WILL depress you. But if you want to glimpse the dark side of humanity - an obsession with self-destruction, then dive right on in. My personal highlight is 'Higher Love' - the album's closing number where Dave announces "I surrender, heart and soul/to the desire that consumes me whole." Now sleep well. (!)
This is one of my favourite albums of all time for a number of reasons. As a big Depeche Mode fan, I was glad when their 1990 album, Violator finally broke them through, and deservedly so, for it's a true aural epic with well-crafted songs that captured lead singer, David Gahan's velvety tones to a touch. It was also the first time the band worked with Flood, certainly one of the most under-rated British producers, who took the band's material to a more credible, mainstream level, and added an edge to their sound. So what great joy for me when they did it all over again three years later with Songs of Faith and Devotion - only this time, they managed to excel themselves further! Opening with I Feel You, the song the band chose as their come-back single, the track revealed a rockier side to the band. Their traditional instrument, the synth, was low on the mix, whilst live drums, Martin Gore's bluesy rock guitar riff and Dave's full on growl were raised to the forefront. The press laughed, but the fans lapped it up and if anything the song served as an eyeopener, if not a slightly misleading introduction to the album. One thing that's highly laudable about Songs of Faith and Devotion is the lyrics. Looking back through Depeche Mode's back catalogue, more album tracks than singles mind, songwriter Martin Gore's interest in religion and all that brings coupled with the dynamics people experience in relationships means the songs here are deliciously complex, littered with biblical references and sprinkled with enough soul-wrenching to make anyone that's had any contact with Christianity to stop and think. The fantastic album centrepiece, In Your Room, captures everything the band had been trying to do to date. Switching from cowardly fear to sexual aggression in the space of 6 minutes, we too cower in the midst of a domineering presence in a soundscape that's dark, dramatic and extremely menacing - a t
ruely fantastic listening experience. Walking in my Shoes is another gem, a true confession of a song thanks to the endearing lyrics and vocals. Condemnation's nod to gospel follows the same theme - guilt, justifying actions and redemption, whilst Judas, sung by Gore, can be read as a blatent attack on the demands of Christianity doctrine or a selfish lover - capturing the beauty of the album where songs can be interpreted either way and yet capture Gore's concerns perfectly. The album concludes with One Caress, again with Martin Gore on lead vocals, backed by a string orchestra whilst Higher Love leads you awe-inspired and soul-fed. I doubt that Depeche Mode will ever reach the dizzy heights they achieved with this album. The band's studio genius, Alan Wilder, quit following the gruelling tour Depeche Mode embarked on to promote the album, and a number of personal factors, mainly Martin Gore's drinking binges and David Gahan's heroin addiction, saw the band venture into darker places both during and following the making of the album. With everyone feeling happier now, I just hope that the remaining members of the band will take what they learnt from the Songs of Faith and Devotion period and apply to future material - they haven't done so so far but here's hoping...
Having achieved near perfection of darkness with Violator (1990), DM came up with SFAD. On first hearing one can imagine the thoughts that were passing through the minds of Martin, Dave, Fletch and Alan - "Chuck out those synths..!". Set against a backdrop of grunge and other trash metal acts that had been popular for the previous couple of years, the DM sound metamorphosed somewhere between the two and the result was quite reasonable. Unquestionably, the highlights on the album are Higher Love, I Feel You, In Your Room and Judas. Certain tracks such as Get Right With Me and Condemnation do not particularly fit in with the rest of the album's feel. Still, Dave manages to strain and growl his way through his vocals in a truly magnificent style. Dressed in 1993 for the part (long greasy hair, obligatory sacrificial tattoo) he, as usual, set the tone for the album and that album's tour. (See SFAD Live - also 1993). His voice on the album gives it the rockier feel especially on I Feel You and to some extent Rush. Comparing the two vocal performances to Policy of Truth or Personal Jesus is scary! Some harden DM fans at the time were truly appalled! However in hindsight I think this album did a great deal of good for DM. Dave finally (hopefully) dragged himself out of the pit of hopeless drug abuse and the band as a whole showed the public (sceptics and fans alike) that they could indeed produce a new brand of DMness. For this we should be all be truly thankful.
You won't need to be a brain surgeon to work out that this is a live version of Songs of Faith and Devotion. This album didn't sell particularly well but nevertheless is actually rather good. Following the magnificent Violator album, this had to be good and sadly it wasn't what we all hoped for but the band went out on the road with a fantastic stage and they even took Anton Corbijn with them to oversee the visual side. The recording is very good and some of the songs are actually a bit different to how they were performed on the album. More than anything you could close your eyes and be there, the balance between crowd and the band is good and you can hear every little sound being played. I bought it and I wasn't disappointed but then again I am a big fan so this may not be for everyone. If you liked the studio version of this album then I would recommend that you give it a try.
Depeche Mode took a three year break after the success of the album 'Violator' and returned with quite a different sound. Right from the opening surge of industrial power that is 'I Feel You', you can sense there were new influences on Martin Gore's songwriting, whether it be the changes in his personal life or the changes within the group itself during a few turbulent years....there was even more turbulence to follow! 'Songs Of Faith and Devotion' is a collection of songs of various styles and I think there's something in there for everybody. The likes of 'Walking In My Shoes' and 'In Your Room' and 'Higher Love' are dark and thoughtful but still melodic. Martin Gore's songs are themed around sex and love, a common DM area and this time filled with more religious imagery than before. We also see DM turn to acoustic drums (courtesy of Alan Wilder and he drums well) and more prominent guitar, but they don't leave their roots and abandon electronica at all. From the gospel to electronica sound, and the orchestral strings to the celtic mysterious sounds on 'Judas' this album is for me, one of DM's masterpieces. It's emotional, thought provoking and uplifting in places, both lyrically and musically. You might find you get devoted to listening to this album over and over.
After releasing 'Violator' in 1990; Depeche Mode's most popular album to date, the band had reached a peak of perfection in their finely crafted, mature electro pop, that they had begun carving ever since their teeny-bopper days in the early 80's (*ahem* 'Just Can't Get Enough'...), and carved a partial path for more harder edged industrial acts such as Nine Inch Nails. Songwriter Martin Gore had made an unconscious decision to not make the follow-up to 'Violator' an electronic album, as he confessed that there was too much of that type of music around at the time, and he wanted to make something different. Something new he wanted to hear himself, and that direction was bordering on a gospel rock album. All 10 tracks on this album are still tinted with electronica work, but what's really noticable is that there's actually guitar and drums on this album, something that the band hadn't done extensively before. Also, there are gospel backing singers and an orchestra. 'I Feel You' is a stunning cowboy rock album opener, which almost gave Grunge a good kicking in the testicles, and vocalist Dave Gahan's performance on 'Condemnation' (which incidently was recorded in one Godly take), is mightily moving. 'In Your Room' is possibly the most spookiest and impressive song on here, thanks to (now-ex member; he left to pursue his Recoil project after the SOFAD tour) engineer Alan Wilder's efforts - who infact is responsible for turning nearly all of Mr Gore's songs into masterpiece interpretations, after Vince Clarke (of Erasure) left after the band's debut. Also notibly, electro-production whizz Flood also produces this album...while manager Andrew 'Fletch' Fletcher, shows us his one finger keyboard mastery on stage (which was an epic and dangerous tour to say the least). 'Walking In My Shoes', 'Judas', and 'Higher Love' are the other standout tr
acks on this album. Depeche Mode are one of the few bands who've been around for over 20 years who have consistently made better albums as they've progressed, and this is DM at their most rockiest, and possibly in tie with 'Violator'; their most best. This is recommended listening!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Feel You
2 Walking In My Shoes
4 Mercy In You
5 In Your Room
6 Get Right With Me
8 One Caress
9 Higher Love