I remember once, almost ten years ago now, asking a group of synthpop fans why there weren't more female vocalists in the genre. After all, classic outfits like Book of Love (with vocalist Susam Ottaviano) did some great work back in the 80s and early 90s. Surely there's room for more here, and yet nearly nine times out of ten, a new synthpop group has a male vocalist.
One guy answered, flippantly, that it's because women don't sound enough like David Gahan. The more I think about this, though, the more I think that flippant or not, he's absolutely right. The long, long shadow that Depeche Mode casts over synthpop as a whole is hard to ignore. Some of the most successful groups of the late 80s, early 90s and even this decade are unabashedly Depeche Mode imitators, even: Red Flag, Cause and Effect, Camouflage, De/Vision and Mesh.
My own musical taste, personally, has also been indelibly stamped by my love affair with Depeche Mode's music as well. Unlike mainstream music listeners, I actually am a pre-Violator Depeche Mode fan, and while Violator, with the hits "Personal Jesus" and "Enjoy the Silence" is the biggest Depeche Mode ever got, I struggled with the CD for a long time, and still don't like it as much as Some Great Reward, Black Celebration or Music For the Masses---my own interpretation of Depeche Mode's greatest era. I've made my peace with post 80s Depeche Mode, and "Enjoy the Silence" is perhaps the most iconic DM song ever written to me (and I love the B-sides from the Violator era: "Sea of Sin" and "Dangerous" are as good as anything that actually appeared on the album, as far as I'm concerned) and was even quite impressed with their offering from a couple of years ago, Playing the Angel, which was a deliberate return to a pre-Exciter sound. Julie took me to go see the Angel concert tour, which was a long-time desire of mine. I'd seen a lot of guys in concert before, but somehow had always missed Depeche Mode, and since Depeche Mode were quite probably my favorite band ever, that was always kinda weird. Great show, by the way. We saw it in The Palace, so I remember we were joking about throwing drinks and chairs at Martin Gore since the concert wasn't too long after the big Detroit/Cleveland basketball game that had the infamous fight with the fans.
Anyway, I'm starting to ramble. The reason I bring up Depeche Mode now is that they just released a new album, Sounds of the Universe last week. Although I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet, I'm going to this week (I hope; busy schedule), load it up on my mp3 player and give it many, many listens as I drive to and from work as well as as I putter around the house. I will, no doubt, post a track by track review after I've had time to do so, here on the blog.