Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward

Today (September 24th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Some Great Reward, the fourth studio album from Depeche Mode. It charted at number 34 in the Netherlands, number 32 in Italy, number 19 in Austria, number 7 in Sweden, number 5 in Switzerland and the UK, and number 3 in Germany. Here, in the US, it spent forty-two weeks on the Billboard Album chart in 1985 with a top position of number 51.

Side one starts with the erratic rhythms of “Something to Do”, which give the song a paranoid, anxious mood. It really gets the listener’s pulse racing.

After a quick high, “Lie to Me” pulls things back down with a slower but steady beat. Its exotic, primitive rhythmic sway makes me think of Kaa, the Indian python from Disney’s animated adaptation of the Jungle Book.

The first single was the social observational “People Are People”; it went to number 48 in France, number 44 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 25 in Australia, number 21 in Italy, number 15 in Canada and Sweden, number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 10 in the Netherlands and Norway, number 6 in Austria, number 4 in Switzerland and the UK, number 3 in Belgium, number 2 in Ireland and Poland, and number 1 in Germany. I remember this one fondly from campus parties and clubbing back during my sophomore year of college; it still remains a favorite of mine thirty years later.

Continuing the up-down pattern, “It Doesn’t Matter” pulls things back in. The vocals are soft and somber, forcing the listener to hang on every syllable. The cascading synths are almost hypnotic.

Rounding out the first half is “Stories of Old”. The various musical hooks give the song an exotic, faraway sound and bring to mind times and places that came before. It is one of those pieces that you will continue to pick out new nuances with each subsequent listen.

Side two begins with “Somebody”, the B-side to the third single. It had been reported in an interview for Details magazine that Martin Gore sang the vocals for this one in studio while in the nude. With a simple piano and a soul-bearing vocal, it comes across in a very raw and emotional way.

“Master and Servant”, the second single, reached number 89 in Australia, number 87 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 49 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 41 in the Netherlands, number 34 in France, number 33 in Italy, number 9 in the UK, number 8 in Switzerland, number 7 in Sweden, number 6 in Belgium and Ireland, and number 2 in Germany. The numbers are pretty amazing given the overtly sexual nature of the lyrics; they focus on bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism. The synths on this up-tempo dance track emulate the sounds of cracking whips.

The last song’s dark side was countered by lighter music. The same cannot be said the start of “If You Want”, which is heavy and foreboding. It does switch gears though, about a minute in, giving another multi-layered dance experience.

The third single “Blasphemous Rumours” closes out the album. It went to number 87 in Australia, number 68 in France, number 34 in the Netherlands, number 22 in Germany, number 19 in Switzerland, number 16 in the UK and number 8 in Ireland. The lyrics reflect upon troubled lives and imply that these could all be grand cosmic jokes.

My wife has always been very fond of the singles from Some Great Reward. Just like me, these songs take her back to the night life of the mid-80’s. I also found the deep tracks to be very appealing as well.

For more Depeche Mode album reviews, click here.

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