Less than a year since the death of their beloved bandmate, co-founder and keyboardist Andy Fletcher, Depeche Mode have released their 15th studio album, “Memento Mori” (Latin for “remember that you [have to] die”). The songs were written and the album named before Andy died, but his loss is somehow felt throughout the record. The synth arrangements and simple melodies of the first tracks, the dystopian “My Cosmos is Mine” and “Wagging Tongues”, are reminiscent of the band’s early days. It’s hard not to think of “People Are People” when you listen to “People Are Good”. Although the early 80s weave in and out of the album, there is plenty of darkness and gothic, cinematic gloom and grandeur. However, this record has no pastiche and no parody – it is fresh, current, and vital. An early highlight is the melancholic “Ghosts Again”, which is one of several tracks co-written by Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs) [check out our interview with Martin Gore in the next issue for a deeper insight]. Despite the melancholy, it features a chorus that it filled with light, and there is an almost celestial sound that will be magical live, as Gore sings “We know we’ll be ghosts again”. Another highlight is the industrial, krautrock “‘My Favourite Stranger”, which contains some stunning sound textures. A weak point is the disjointed “Caroline’s Monkey”. The album closes with the intense, slow building “Speak to Me”, which is, ironically for an album containing so much death, evocative of the climax of The Beatles “A Day in the Life”. The album represents all eras of the band, but still sounds new. An expansive soundscape of moods and textures, it’s their best record since 2005’s “Playing the Angel”. Andy would be proud of his bandmates.
4.5/6 | Anne-Marie Forker
Release date: 24 March 2023