29 March 2023

Depeche Mode - Memento Mori


Depeche|ModeMemento | Mori

Yep, this is another review of the fifteenth studio album from Depeche Mode, Memento Mori, released 24 March 2023.  Anyone find it weird that their first tour date was a day before that album release?  How are people suppose to 'study' for the concert when they have not heard the album?

This is not a "first time reaction to" review.  Those are lame. The album has been out a few days, and I have listened to it a few times.  I have no formal training in music, so I will not get into technical stuff (too much).  For sure there are tons of reviews out there that are better and more informative than mine.  Critics seem to give this album positive reviews, while some long time fans are split and tend to lean towards the negative side.

I have been a fan of Depeche Mode for almost four decades, not that it means anything to anyone.  Heck, I have no idea who Caroline is...more on that later.  Here we go, track by track of Memento Mori

1. My Cosmos Is Mine - 7/10

Good intro for the album.  We hear a lot of distortion, some call that "over produced", which has been common with the band with their last few albums.   Dave Gahan sounds good, although it seems like there is a bit of auto tune being used here.  Martin Gore's parts seem out of place, and sort of ruins the mood.  There is a section of repetitive lyrics, which I am not a fan of.  "No more, no more, no more..."  Song would benefit from ending sooner, instead of dragging it out.  Repeating lyrics is just lazy writing and producing.

2. Wagging Tongue -  8/10

A little "Teenage Wasteland" keyboard like intro.  Would not hurt to turn down the keyboards a notch so it does not fight with the rest of the instruments and vocals.  This is a good track. Again, the copy/paste lyrics could have been trimmed down - "watch another angel die..."

3. Ghosts Again - 10/10

This song.  Each line.  Two beats.  Simple.  Easy to hear why this was chosen as the first single, by far the best track on this album.  Great track that got everyone excited for the new album.  Another great track with classic DM elements.  As the first single this track prepares us for a much darker, slower (tempo) album.

4. Don't Say You Love Me - 10/10

Love the lyrics of this one.  Music is done elegantly, and not overdone.  This is a strong track. 

5. My Favourtie Stranger - 7/10

Feels like a lot of callbacks to older DM.  Little too much distortion on the rifts for my taste. The one note repetitive keyboard can use some work to make it more interesting.  Overall a good track, with nothing special.  The vocals, again, seemed like they were put through some sort of auto tuning and/or digital manipulation.  The 'solo section' just sounds like a mess...like a bunch of kids turning every speaker and distortion to 11.

6. Soul With Me - 5/10

Usually not a fan of Martin tracks, except for the early ballads.  This is no different.  Lot of the elements, instruments, vocals, etc., just seems all over the place.  Chorus, again, is monotonous.  Take my soul, indeed.  I am sure people are going to love this track like they love "Home", but it is no "Somebody"

7. Caroline's Monkey - 8/10

This is...different, not your typical DM, but it works.  Like many of the tracks, the electronic synth noises seem out of place.  Still not sure who Caroline is, and why she has a monkey.  I am sure it has to do something with drugs and/or sex. 

8. Before We Drown - 8/10

Another strong track.  Lyrics are great, but unfortunately, are drowned by the music (instruments).  The backing track needs to be toned down a little to let the song float above the clutter.  

9. People Are Good - 8/10

Good beat on this one, more 'dancey' than the rest of the album.  The most upbeat song of the album.  Fairly good balance between the music and lyrics.  I can see this being used in a night club scene, like in Collateral or some John Wick movie...something where people are dancing while an assassin is killing bad guys to flashy lights and this track.  Still, too much distortion.

10. Always You - 6/10

The words are set to a beat of a ballad, but the music is set to a dance track.  Sounds like a dance remix.  The beat kind of ruins the song.  Also, say it with me...repetitive lyrics.  Surely you can replace "my love" with something else.  Maybe sing "There's always you" once, maybe twice.  Come up with something different or just end the song earlier.

11. Never Let Me Go - 5/10

Another track where the beat and music competes with each other and the words, with distortion and auto tune coming out on top...with repetitive lyrics.

12. Speak To Me - 8/10

Little Nat King Cole "When I Fall In Love" feel to this ballad. Since Dave (and others) have started writing tracks, their tracks been very good.  While different from typical DM, this track is great...until the producers go crazy with the distortion pedal at the end.  Otherwise, great track to close out the album, much like "Goodnight Lovers" was for "Exciter".

Conclusion - Overall score 7.5/10

This is a darker, slower tempo, distorted version of the Depeche Mode, with repeating lyrics.  "MmWaaahhh...dgzzz, dgzzz" - These have been the go to sounds for a few albums now.  While those ingredients work for some tracks, it should not be used on every track.  It definitely should be overtaking the track as there is way too much distortion and clutter ruining otherwise good/great songs. 

While there is a lot of copy/paste song writing on many of the tracks, the overall lyrics is well written.  As I have mentioned, some of these songs could work better buy trimming those monotonous areas, as well as toning down the electronic distortions and auto tune of  the voice.

Many of the song titles are confusing, as they call back to Depeche Mode classics like People are People, Never Let Me Down Again, Speak and Spell, It's No Good, etc.  Alternate track names would help allow these new tracks to stand out.  Well, I guess the distortion is the difference.

Looking forward to seeing Depeche Mode concert, again.. Until then, I will be studying and absorbing Memento Mori.

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