If you've ever wondered what the elegy for the 21st century sounds like, Spirit comes pretty close. Following 2013's Delta Machine, Depeche Mode (Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher) return with their 14th studio album, and most politically charged material to date.
Spirit, the band's second release on Columbia Records, sees synth-pop's favourite princes of darkness return to form in a moving — and mournful — state of the union address. Principal songwriter and visionary Gore delves once more here into his reliable grab bag of DM touchstones, including grief, sex, longing, pain and religion, but adds to the mix a focus on the political, a heightened awareness of the present moment — including the quite literal call to action "Where's The Revolution?"
Gahan calls Spirit "powerful, both in its sound and its message," in a press release, and it's a crucial word here; produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, the record is among the more cohesive and consistent albums in Depeche Mode's extensive canon. Gahan's signature baritone vocals — darkly seductive and impossibly yearning — are in full force for much of the record, drawing our attention to such cheery lines as "We feel nothing inside / Because there's nothing inside."
That's not to say the whole album spells doom and gloom, though. "So Much Love" and "No More (This Is the Last Time)" provide palatable pop hits, while the lush canopy of "Cover Me" is bound to ring out across arenas worldwide.
As evinced by Gore on the album's final track, Spirit holds no answers or redemption: "Our souls are crooked / Our minds are messed up / Our consciences bankrupt / We're fucked." It's angry and bleak, a record that forces listeners to confront their reflection head-on. With their latest release, Depeche Mode prove they have both the musical depth and strength of conviction to outlast us all. (Columbia)