Picks and Pans Review: Music for the Masses

updated 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Depeche Mode

They're back. The pop music chapter of Children of the Damned. Depeche Mode is made up of four interchangeable blond Britishers (Scarey!). All but the singer play synthesizer (Yikes!). Their music has the most frigid, sterile, airless sound since dental equipment (Aiiee!). This latest opus from Andrew Fletcher, Martin Gore, Alan Wilder and David Gahan is a stark example of a little bit of excellence trying to survive in a sea of mediocrity. There are two excellent, though disparate, songs on the album. Never Let Me Down, which opens the record, is the band's most lifelike effort to date, and a compelling dance number. There's undeniable allure in this groove. Conversely, Pimpf, which closes Side Two, is a classically orchestrated instrumental of majestic, if dour, cast. In between lies an arid wasteland of Depeche Mode's customary fare—music as dark and monotonous as a monastery full of chanting monks. Gahan's voice is remarkably vacuous, and that is not helped by his reliance on a tremolo effect that sounds like someone is holding him upside down and trying to shake out a few coins. Still, Gahan's treatment of Strangelove, a celebration of masochism, is a marvelous marriage of voice and material. For better or worse he sounds as if he knows what he's talking about. Listen to this twice, and you'll have a deeper understanding of masochists. Listen to it three times, and you'll be one. Music for the Masses would be okay if you could just keep the two end pieces. The rest lacks mass, or any, appeal. (Sire)

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