Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"
Media vita in morte sumus
Death is inevitable.
It stalks each of us.
There is no escape.
It doesn’t hide in the shadows, it has no need for the cloak of the grim reaper, it stands beside us always, in the bright light of day, in the dark shadows of the night.
Last year I lost three people whom I loved dearly in the space of two weeks at the start of the year.
Male, female, young, old…expected and unexpected.
Each one left me reeling.
It took a long time to recover.
If I have to be honest with you, I am not sure if I have recovered.
I had lost people I loved before, but the suddenness of these deaths, the speed with which one followed the other, was something I could not have prepared myself for. The effects of the grief have lasted for so many, too many, days.
In May of last year Alan Fletcher died.
He had played some part in my life since 1981, when I was just 8 years old and heard “Just Can’t Get Enough” for the first time. Depeche Mode was the first band I ever loved, the first band I obsessed over. Before all the other bands I have loved, there was Depeche Mode. After all the other bands have, eventually, disappointed me, or left me, there has been Depeche Mode. The passing of Fletch was too awful. I didn’t know him, I never met him, I don’t know what sort of man he was, but I knew that he had been intimately involved in the music that had soundtracked all of the most significant moments in my life.
When I was eight I was baptised into the Mormon Church…”Just Can’t Get Enough”.
When I was twelve I was ordained into the Priesthood of that same Church…and then I heard “Blasphemous Rumours” and my first doubts about God bubbled up.
The year before I left for my mission, still a teenager, filled with fear and doubt…”Personal Jesus”.
I could go on…losing my virginity, getting married, getting divorced, getting married again, becoming a father, depression, chronic illness, through it all there has been something from Depeche Mode that has better captured the mood than almost anything else.
There are super fans, genuine obsessives, collectors, and fanatics who have paid closer attention, who know more than I could ever know, and who are better placed to discuss, dissect, debate, the intricacies and intimacies of this new collection of songs. They could place it in its correct spot in the rankings of Depeche Mode albums.
I cannot do any of that.
I am ill equipped.
My thoughts on “Memento Mori” are focused on me.
Same as it ever was.
I’m selfish like that.
I could say something glib about this being a “return to form”. But I don’t know what that even means. There is no “form” for me with Depeche Mode. They simply “are”. There are songs, albums, that I love…there are other songs/albums that just pass me by. But they all matter. I don’t think anyone who cares about this band is interested in “form”. They have existed, always, as something utterly unique. They have always pushed at the boundaries, and crossed the borders, that have sought to box them in, to define them. They have created a world, and a vision, that is theirs and theirs alone.
I could say something about how this song, or that song, sounds like this thing, or that other thing. But what would be the point? Depeche Mode are not a band who sound like other bands. Depeche Mode are the band that other bands want to sound like. They are originals of the species. The days of their being a product of anything other than their own ideas, their own desires, and their own wills, have long passed.
I will say that I am glad that this musical skull can sit on a shelf, that it can serve, always, as a reminder of death…of those I knew and loved, of those I never knew and loved all the same. It is a grand, epic, heavy, inspiring, moving, uplifting, tribute to a friend now gone, and a hymn to the wonder of a band, now a duo, who have more to say, more creative ways to say those things, than most any other.
In the midst of life we are in death, but we still have the Mode.