A musical journey into the past.
Dave Gahan and Martin Gore (Photo: GettyImages, Gina Wetzler/Getty Images)
14 years ago, and after many hardships, Depeche Mode finally arrived in Israel.
This happened after three years earlier their performance in Israel was canceled right on the eve of the event, due to the Second Lebanon War.
The disappointment was huge and the visit in 2009 was supposed to make up for it.
But fate almost caused this show to be canceled as well.
On the day of the performance at Ramat Gan Stadium, band member Andy Fletcher was informed that his father had passed away.
It is likely that most artists in this situation would cancel or postpone the show.
But the other two members of Depeche Mode, Martin Gore and Dave Gahan, decided that another cancellation would be unfair to the Israeli fans and that it should continue as usual.
In the end, this show is considered one of the worst seen in Israel.
Eight months ago, at the age of 60, Fletcher himself passed away, and in the shadow of his death Depeche Mode is releasing its new album this week, "Memento Mori" ("Remember you will die").
His death once again brought into the headlines Fletcher's being the most extraordinary band member there was.
Not only in Depeche Mode, but in all the bands in the world, ever.
Contrary to what members of bands usually do, Fletsch - as he was called by his friends - did not take part in creating music.
He was responsible for the finances, for organizing the tours, for the relations with the record companies, for resolving conflicts between the band members.
In other words, Fletcher was the manager of Depeche Mode.
A band member whose only role is management.
A new concept.
Even if it is possible to seriously ask what the band manager did on stage in the performances or in the photos of the band, the answers to this only rarely emerged.
Fletcher was just part of the show.
And when most of the music you put out is the result of production, if there's someone else on stage, it just adds volume.
Andrew Fletcher at a Depeche Mode concert in Tel Aviv, 2009 (Photo: Shay Oknin, Shay Oknin)
The announcement of the release of the album "Memento Mori" was made three months after Fletsch's death, at a press conference in Berlin.
Dave Gahan explained that it was an album they started working on during the corona lockdowns, which had a huge effect on his mood.
Although the pieces were written before Fletsch's death, it is very difficult, when listening to the songs, to separate the two.
Death affects the vibe of the album, in a preoccupation that continues throughout.
From the name of the album, through the sections, contents and sound of the entire work.
The first single, "Ghost Again", is probably the best example of this.
Starting from the name of the song, which informs that it deals with the presence of death in the world of life, to the song itself, a classic Depeche Mode work: on the one hand melancholy, on the other hand it has all kinds of uplifting elements that give you hope and a confusing euphoric feeling.
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"Ghost Again" was written by Martin Gore, who writes more or less all of Depeche Mode's songs, along with a surprise guest.
Gore brought in Richard Butler, formerly of Psychedelic Furs, to assist with the craft.
Butler did not receive the appreciation he deserved, and his band had only a few successes, the most notable of which was with the theme song of the cult movie "Pretty in Pink".
A contemporary of Gore and Gahan, Butler helps in "Memento Mori" in writing about a third of the songs, and the feeling is that through him Depeche Mode is trying to escape from the realization that it has turned from a band into a duo.
Together they are trying, musically, to go back to their heyday as a dark-new wave band - which they were from the mid-eighties to the early nineties.
That's why Butler, as a great writer of the genre, is the perfect casting for Job, and he helps to develop different melodies than Depeche Mode usually create.
There is a captivating sophistication in his writing.
Such an intervention by an outsider in Depeche Mode's work creates something new and refreshing.
Of course, the writing is also accompanied by a production that is faithful to the nostalgic spirit that the songs try to convey.
Sometimes, as in the minor digital "Wagging Tongue" section, or in "My Favorite Stranger" with the sweet melody and pompous hooks of the synthesizer, you can really imagine that Vince Clarke, the founder of the group who retired after the first album, has returned to the band.
Depeche Mode are a band that has zigzagged between many styles, and this album has a kind of glimpse into all the various phases of their career.
The dark section "My Cosmos is Mine", for example, which opens the album - sounds in the spirit of Depeche Mode's "Rocky" album, "Songs of Faith and Devotion", which was released exactly this week 30 years ago.
Later in the album, a mesmerizing piece like "Always You" could have easily fit into the era of their masterpiece "Violator", from 1990. Another piece that sounds like it belongs to that era is "Soul with Me", the sixth piece on the album, sung by Gore.
And as always when Gore takes the microphone from Dave Gahan, a different spirit comes to things.
"Soul with Me" is also a song that seems to deal with death, but it is accompanied by a bit tacky pop music, which is excellently produced and leaves the listener unsettled.
This occupation in the past, as far as Depeche Mode is concerned, is very self-aware.
On the one hand, they create things that communicate with the past, and on the other hand, they deal a lot with death, which happens at the end.
It's a disharmonious idea, the kind that Depeche Mode always liked to operate within: create something and then oppose it.
Just like their biggest hit, called "Enjoy the Silence" - while enjoying the silence is exactly the opposite of what happens as music listeners.
The fans of Depeche Mode are sick of these zig-zags, and in the various forums like to give every word that Martin Gore writes countless interpretations.
"Memento Mori" is expected to occupy them quite a bit, with many direct references throughout the album to different moments of their career.
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It's not like Depeche Mode is repeating itself.
They just bring their current interpretation to the same things.
The ninth section, for example, "People are Good", which sounds like a musical tribute to Kraftwerk, is probably the latest continuation of their big hit, "People are People" from 1984. At the beginning, Depeche Mode's opinion of humanity was negative: people are bad by their nature, they Hint
Today, however, they see people who are negative out of individual choice.
Also the contemporary revival of their hit from 1987, "Never Let Me Down Again", thanks to his appearance in the series "The Last of Us", receives a kind of continuation in "Memento Mori".
It happens just before the end of the album.
The song, with the similar name "Never Let Me Go", really connects musically to the piece made 36 years ago.
The angle of things is a little different, but the connecting thread is there.
It is likely that the cynics will ask why a new Depeche Mode album is needed, if his main occupation is in the past.
It doesn't really matter to Depeche Mode, whose target audience is the fans they have accumulated over the years - and there are a lot of them.
Their previous tour, which accompanied the failed 2017 album Spirit, was, unlike the album, a resounding success, grossing over $200 million, and was their highest-grossing tour of their career.
We can guess that the Memento Mori spin will be even more profitable.
How they will manage without the manager on stage is another story.