Love song or prayer?

Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel album cover

I picked up the new Depeche Mode album, Playing the Angel, in the Tesco Extra music emporium yesterday. I’m listening to it again for the second time, and I have to say that it’s as good as any of the other DM albums I own.

It was during a school skiing trip to Aviemore in fifth year (1988?) that I was first turned on to Depeche Mode (typically, because a girl I fancied liked them!). We had a four or five hours minibus trip and someone had brought a stereo and a boxful of tapes (those were the days!). Amongst them was the Singles 1981-1985 album with such classics as Dreaming Of Me, People Are People, Master And Servant and Blasphemous Rumours.

I was a metalhead (still am) into the likes of Metallica, Slayer and avant-garde Swiss thrashmeisters Celtic Frost. By rights I shouldn’t like Depeche Mode’s delicate brand of new wave/new romantic synth rock. But I did, and the more I listened to it the more I liked it for what it was, and not just because of some unrequited attraction.

The latest album, Playing the Angel, manages to sound like classic Depeche Mode while remaining fresh and contemporary.

Most of the songs are slow and ponderous, although the opening track took me somewhat by surprise as I’d cranked my stereo up to 20, hit play and was blasted with what sounds like a bandsaw! It has a great bassline though, that I enjoyed playing along to on my acoustic bass.

The lyrics are very interesting though: thoughtful and searching — just the sort of thing that you might like to use during an evening of looking at where God is in modern music!

Take the following lyrics from the opening two tracks:

A Pain That I’m Used To

I’m not sure
What I’m looking for anymore
I just know
That I’m harder to console
I don’t see who I’m trying to be
Instead of me
But the key
Is a question of control

Can’t conceal what I feel
What I know is real
No mistaking the faking
I care
With a prayer in the air
I will leave it there
On a note full of hope
Not despair


John the Revelator

John the Revelator
Put him in the elevator
Take him up to the highest high
Take him up to the top
Where the mountains stop
Let him tell his book of lies

By claiming God
As his holy right
He’s stealing a God
From the Israelites
Stealing a God
From the Muslim too
There is only one God
Through and through

With song titles such as Suffer Well, The Sinner In Me, Precious (which opens with the lines “Precious and fragile things – Need special handling – My God what have we done to you”), Nothing’s Impossible, Damanged People, and The Darkest Star it feels at times like reading the Book of Psalms.

(From Damaged People)
We’re damanged people
Praying for something
That doesn’t come from somewhere deep inside us
Depraved souls
Trusting in the one thing
The one thing that this life has not denied us

When I feel the warmth of your very soul
I forget I’m cold
And crying
When your lips touch mine
And I lose control
I forget I’m old
And dying

Love song or prayer?

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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