ALBUM MUTE, REPRISE, PLAYGROUND RELEASE: MAY 14, 2001, MAY 15, 2001 (NORTH AMERICA) REVIEW: MAY 14, 2001
To say that the expectations on the new Depeche Mode album are colossal, must be the greatest understatement this year. And I can tell you this: Not everyone will be satisfied with what they hear on "Exciter". This is not an easy drama.
Depeche Mode usually claims, like most bands do before the release of a new album, that this time, they have done something completely original and different from their earlier works. And usually the fans discover, with mixed feelings of relief and disappointment, that it's really not so.
Well, this time it is. I would have to say, "Exciter" is rather different.
- We've always made weird pop, and I think this is another great example. We don't fit in anywhere, but then we never have, so there's no particular worry, Martin Gore says.
He shouldn't worry. After over twenty years and 40 million album copies, the two former Basildon church choir boys and the ex car thief, know perfectly well how to write alternative handcraft pop for the masses. And it's healthier and more relaxed than in a very long time.
"Exciter" has little in common with the previous album "Ultra". In comparison, the songs on "Ultra" sound strained and less spontaneous than any song on this album. On the other hand, I think "Exciter" has no monster hits like "Barrel of a Gun" or "It's No Good". But then again there are no puny songs either. The ups and downs are less perceptible and over all, "Exciter" is a better album to a great extent.
Mark Bell, who previously worked with Björk on "Homogenic" and "Selmasongs", has produced "Exciter". According to Martin Gore, he is responsible for creating the rather un-Depeche Mode-ish atmosphere.
Even though the album is somewhat different from the recent work, I get a feeling that the progress is leading back to the roots, just as much as it takes Depeche Mode to new heights. "I Am You" could smoothly fit old songs like "Something to Do" or "Blasphemous Rumours".
"Exciter" is an emotional album that brings some of the best sides out from Depeche Mode. "Exciter" is also a slow album. Not one of the 13 songs are truly danceable, maybe with the exception of the forthcoming single "I Feel Loved". The lyrics follow the traditional approach from Martin Gore and deals with relations in a vague, desperate and masochistic manner.
Of course, I would kill for another "A Question of Time" or "Enjoy the Silence", and I guess that is one of the few things I truly miss. But an album of this calibre does not really require that.