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Wednesday, May 30, 2001


'Exciter': Depeche Mode

With a name like a dubious aphrodisiac jelly, "Exciter," the latest effort by the ever-boyish Depeche Mode, promises more of the "pervy" lyrics and electronic pop/rock that has seen it sell 50 million albums since the early '80s.

In that time, electronic music has been the great leveler among recording artists, allowing people of relatively limited musical ability to crash the party. Depeche Mode, however, show that skill and experience still count for a lot. After going through a rough patch with each other, Martin Gore, David Gahan and Andrew Fletcher have come through the tunnel and, with Bjork's producer, Mark Bell, at the helm, have emerged into the sunlight with an album that sounds fresher than anything they have produced for a decade. Part of the reason for this is its variety. "Breathe" could be a slow torch ballad sung by a young Marc Almond; while "When the Body Speaks," with its sparse resonant guitar and beautiful melody, sounds like something U2 should have done.

One of the triumphs of the album is "Dead of Night," which out-does Marilyn Manson with its heavy, swaggering feel and biting lyrics the Roppongi set might well take offense at: "We are the dead of night/We're in the zombie room/We're twilight's parasites/We're self-inflicted wounds." With stories of lost love, compulsion, addiction and denial hung on great melodic hooks, main songwriter Gore shows that he's still the Noel Coward of electro pop/rock, while Gahan's voice, as ever, gives things an interesting twist.

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