I’m the old-school, post modern romantic who believes in lifting my very own present day relationships and turning into them into an unrealistic higher loves. Growing up a teenager in the ’80s and early ’90s, I loved myself some Depeche Mode. They along with New Order and The Cure and their just like heaven melodies gave me an hopeful impression that love could be like the lyrics in my favorite songs. Looking back, it’s not right to take a peace of art, book, movie or music and use that as a foundation for your own life, especially your love life. I was naïve, lovelorn and influenced by the music that became the soundtrack to my life.
Now that I am older, could it be that subconsciously that all of those beliefs that I thought were true in my younger days have affected me and my later years, relationship wise? I’ve always had this connection with music and love. Whenever I like and/or in love with someone my first reaction is to make them a mix CD. Here, all of the songs on this disc are how I feel about you and how I want our love to be. Thinking about it now, that’s a sweet and beautiful thing to do for someone but on the other hand there’s a lot of pressure on the receiver to live up to your expectations of love, in regards to the music on the mix.
Thanks to singers like Martin Gore I have had this habit of making the love of my life into angelic creations brought down from the heavens to bring each other love and eternal happiness. This is so unfair, and not just Martin’s fault; the majority of the music whether it be by Dylan, Cohen and singers like Buckley, that I have adored and listened to, since I was a niño pequeño, have all taken the subject of love and made them into a perfect melody of longing in five minutes or less, but an other wise unreachable goal.
And no Depeche Mode album truly reflects this more than Songs of Faith and Devotion. The album starts off with the screeching breaks that symbolize the singer stopping his life to serenade his lover as he sings— “You take me where/The kingdom comes/you take me to/and lead me through Babylon.” Now what a way to kick off an album, with that killer “Personal Jesus”-esque guitar riff and pounding heart like drum beat when you see your love walking down the street and then David Gahan’s vocal brings this all to life when he sings, “This is the morning of our love” on “I Feel You.”
“Walking in my Shoes” was always my older brother’s favorite Mode song. I can relate to this song now more that I am on my own again. To me it sounds like an older and wiser “Policy of Truth.” It has that same kind of rhythm but the Gahan’s vocal is more grown when he sings, “Now I’m not looking for absolution/ forgiveness for the things I do/ but before you come to any conclusions/ try walking in my shoes.” There’s an underlining theme in Faith and Devotion that appears in “Walking in my Shoes” about being judged about the reasons love fades and who’s to blame that you can also hear in the gospel-like choruses of “Condemnation.”
One of my favorite songs on the album, “Condemnation” starts with a holy drum beat that you would find in a Southern Church and finds singer Gahan singing some of his most heartfelt lyrics ever recorded on a Mode record as he sings, “If you see purity as immaturity/ well it’s no surprise/ if for kindness/ you substitute blindness/ please open your eyes.” Lyrics like this didn’t connect with the younger Mode fans but the older ones related with the idea of being judged by acting out on your emotions for love. Sometimes you get hurt for taking a risk for love and are blamed when it all falls apart. Some of us have been there and Gahan brings this agony to life with his amazing vocal performance on this standout track.
“The Mercy in You” is another one of my highlights because it not only has a good beat but you can feel the depth in the lyrics when Gahan sings, “When here in my mind/ I have been blind/ emotionally behind/ I have faith I will find/ the mercy in you.” The search for that intimate connection, beyond words, beyond touch and feel is what I believe Gore was writing about in this song. It’s another case for why this is Mode’s best album. Because it takes their trademark rhythms and adds and emotional subtext that was missing on most of their most popular records. It has the style and the substance to connect with their audience in an emotional and pleasurable way.
“Get Right with Me” is the stadium anthem of the album, and one of the most preacher-like amidst this album of religious imagery. It’s the funkiest song and has the most uplifting message of the album. “Friends, if you’ve lost your way/ you will find it again some day/ come down from your pedestals/ and open your mouths that’s all/ get right with me.” This is the perfect antidote to all of those moody Mode classics of yesteryear. When Gahan sings “Life is such a short thing that I cannot comprehend…” he doesn’t have all the answers and don’t look to him for to find your way. Basically this is a modern day gospel dance song that preaches to the devoted followers of the Church of Mode to have faith and not give up.
“Rush” is classic Mode and not one for me but is a fan favorite because of the electronic power in the backbeat. But to me this song is one of the weakest because it’s not in the level with the rest of the other songs. This is more a passionate plea with clichéd lyrics like “I come up to meet you/ up there somewhere/ when I rush to greet you/ my soul is bared.” that gets old after a few spins. The other weak song that’s the anti-thesis of “Rush” is “Higher Love.” Mode tries to hard on this track and all of the images about comparing heaven and love are over-reaching and they fall mightily, making this final cut a heartfelt disappointment.
I always think of love when I hear music like from Songs of Faith and Devotion. Just like Love, it may not be perfect but this my favorite Mode album because of the theme displayed as the title of the record. It was the most mature album they made at that moment in their career. It has this lively sound with an eternal message of love that’s beautiful and powerful in the same breath as you can hear in songs like “I Feel You” and “In Your Room.” What I take from this album when I hear it now is the idea of romance that the feelings and emotions of a song like “One Caress” are more memorable than the power pulsing beats of a song like “Rush.” It’s the intimate moments shared, thoughts, dreams and wishes, between two people is what we miss most when we’re alone. And songs like “Judas” echo these sentiments with lyrics like “open yourself to me…if you want my love.” Once that is lost or forgotten all that is left is silence that’s anything but enjoyable.
It’s tricky this amazing thing called love that we are strive and long for and Songs of Faith and Devotion reflects that in just about every song, it’s about the passions and problems that is all about modern romance. I do believe in Love, even more so now, after all that has happened to me. I believe that love is a magical thing and that connections between two people as wonderful as they feel are still a mystery to me. What I’ve learned is that love takes time, love needs to be nurtured, love is something that is shared and even the beauty in a five minute song can sometimes not do justice to love.
I will still continue make CD mixes with songs that celebrate amor because Love, Faith and devotion go hand I hand; you have to believe, let go and be willing to see your love for what it is an honest yet splendid emotion that deserves to be seen and experienced with tender and insightful eyes. It may not be all heaven and hell but sometimes it may feel that way—and in the end, whatever the result, whether it be love or loneliness you can look back and sing these lyrics—”I would do it all again/ lose my way and fall again/ just so I could call again/ on the mercy in you.” Then you will now that it was worth it to be faithful and devoted to one you’re with or the one you left behind.
Garbage – Garbage
Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing
Depeche Mode – Violator