Music For The Masses by Depeche Mode
Released in September of 1987, the band was facing a growing popularity and a waiting fan base for the follow up to the break-through, Black Celebration, album. For the first time in their history they were entering the studio with a new producer, Dave Bascombe, and he had a few ideas. The main idea was the dial back the sampled sounds and just rely on keyboards and guitar (which songwriter, Martin Gore, was becoming more comfortable playing live). The result was immediately a hit. And the band's fan base exploded making them instant stars (of course, they had one more level to attain on the next release but that's not until 1990).
The album reached #35 on the US charts and spawned 3 videos that ran in continuous rotation on MTV. It's a great album and needs to be a part of any 80's music lovers collection.
Lets take a look at the songs:
1. Never Let Me Down Again - Rumored to be about drug use, this opening track is best experienced live (I'll cover it in another blog post, trust me). It makes the entire crowd just soar away with the music.
2. The Things You Said - Moody and sad, just like the subject matter. There's nothing worse than the end of a relationship. Its ugly and awful but it makes a good dance track.
3. Strangelove - The first single certainly set the tone for the album. Not as direct as Master & Servant but maybe its even deeper lyrically. It should be noted: he doesn't say the word Pain after he says he won't say it again.
4. Sacred - Martin giving us his views on his songwriting. It's one thing to write what's in your heart, quite another to share it with the entire world.
5. Little 15 - It's kind of a companion piece to Question Of Time with its suggestion of a romance between a younger girl and an older man. The music sounds ominous in a way that suggests that none of this is right or appropriate.
6. Behind The Wheel - Building momentum like a car heading down the road, this was the dance hit of the album. Still, even with the car motif, this is a song about surrendering control in a relationship. Sometimes you have to trust the other person to not crash you both into a ditch. Please enjoy the video.
7. I Want You Know - It doesn't take long to figure out what's going on in this song.
8. To Have And To Hold - The end of the previous song fades into the beginning of this dark and dreary number, suggesting that what we heard in the previous song may not have been so wonderful.
9. Nothing - This may be the best bridge between past Depeche Mode songs and what was to come on future songs. Equal parts Some Great Reward and Violator, this proves that even an album track was not just a throw-away
10. Pimpf - An instrumental track, this was the song that opened the live show each night of the tour that supported this album. It builds into an almost authoritarian march, you can almost see the cold-war era Soviet soldiers marching past.
Additionally, the band issued a few bonus tracks:
Route 66 - A cover of the 1950's classic. With the car motif throughout the album, this seems like a natural. Interestingly enough, its the only cover the band has ever released.
Pleasure, Little Treasure - This was a B-side!? How was this not the lead single? Must be nice to have so many great songs you can banish something like this to a b-side.