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DEPECHE MODE - PLAYING THE ANGEL - EMI MUSIC
Record Rating: ****

Depeche Mode - Playing The Angel - EMI Music Depeche Mode shouldn't be here. The quintessential electro-new wave band of the 1980ís began to unravel at the peak of their success. Alan Wilder quit the band, lead singer David Gahan was the subject of a failed suicide attempt, and Martin Gore had to deal with his own addictions.

Continuing on as a trio, they released Ultra in 1997, which had a hit with the single Itís No Good. The follow up, 2001ís Exciter was a mature pop record with grown up themes, but critics and the fans panned it, labelling the band a retro act. And that was the last anyone heard of them. Until now!

Playing The Angel is the groupís eleventh studio effort, and itís not the kind of album a twenty-five year old band is supposed to make. Their music hasnít sounded this dark and emotional since 1990ís Violator. The twelve tracks are full of the broken-hearted and religious themes that made them famous. First single Precious brings to mind their early hit Enjoy The Silence. Front man Gahan also tackles Goreís song-writing legacy by writing a few songs as well, a first for a Depeche Mode album. While his sensibilities are not that different from Gore's, his is decidedly a different lyrical voice. The track Suffer Well addresses his years of heroin abuse and kicking off the habit.

A particular highlight on this fantastic album is the tight bass line laid down on top of the synth-dominated grooves of John The Revelator. Unlike their synthpop peers of the early '80s Depeche Mode have never settled comfortably into a single niche. Half of the tracks here are tailor-made for the dance floor, the other half sound like U2ís Pop record. Whether you are a Depeche Mode fan or not, this is money well spent.

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