Depeche Mode had nearly finished their fourth full decade and 14 full-length before a Martin Gore-Dave Gahan co-writer finally made an album. That was “You Move,” a throbbing chunk of electro pop nestled near the middle of the 2017s. Spirit, a political quagmire of topical outrage. Amid that catchphrase, “You Move” was not an entirely auspicious debut, notable mostly for how it framed Gahan and Gore’s threadbare relationship. During those sessions, third member and interstitial glue, Andy Fletcher, had to be physically removed from the studio so that former more famous friends of his could vent freely. “If you give me something that you and I can play,” Gahan soon teased in their song together. “Let me ring your bell.”
Yet the couple’s second co-write seems less like an obligation or an exercise in marriage counseling than the dawn of a new dynamic. “Waging Tongue” arrives early in Memento MoriThe band’s most committed album in over two decades, Gore’s sunburst sequencers are the perfect complement to his golden gothic voice. It is an elliptical story of risk, alienation, and slow, unstable, improbable renewal. “I will not be persuaded,” they sing together near the end, Gore’s harmony as wavy as his totemic golden hair. “Kiss your doubts goodbye.”
the doubts that Memento Mori they would even exist were they huge. Just before the trio were to meet again at Gore’s Santa Barbara studio (and only after Gahan had overcome his ingrained reluctance to meet again), Fletcher died suddenly at his London home, with the main vessel of his heart. shattered. Fletcher, just 60, had been the band’s indispensable “vibe tech,” the oil inside his hot engine. Though he didn’t write or even perform, Fletcher served as a go-between for the often acrimonious pair that did, especially when Gahan began wanting to put his own songs on Depeche Mode’s Gore-penned albums. Without it, they wondered, could they function without falling apart? “We had to… In fact decide, are we going to finish?” Gore recently said MOJO. Or do we continue? They chose the latter, finding new ways to work together, if not discovering entirely new sounds.
This darkness and doubt, ever the perpetually renewed life blood of Depeche Mode, permeates Memento MoriThe best songs of The opener “My Cosmos Is Mine” unfolds over a mosaic of shattered static and cryospheric synths. Decked out in Scott Walker finery, Gahan assumes the role of the narrator he’d rather be lied to than deliver any more bad news. There is a breath of WallThe politics here, especially when chants of “No to war!” arrive, but his encouraging question is symptomatic of the pain itself: How much more can you take, mortal? “Don’t stare at my soul,” Gahan sings, as steady and charged as the snake he hopes to attack. “I swear it’s fine.”