Will Depeche Mode ever achieve the acclaim and notoriety they deserve on home soil? When asked a similar question at the end the 80s, Martin Gore blamed an ageing music press fraternity. Perhaps the band were too far ahead of their time (and the kids TV appearances won’t have helped). Yet, 20 years later, they’re still largely forgotten in the UK, with vague memories of bubblegum pop reasserted by a vacuous girl group and disarmingly chanted across football terraces on Saturdays. Outside of our contemptuous musical sphere, however, the boys from Basildon are currently just about the biggest band in the world, playing to over five million people across 32 countries on their 2010 tour.
Set against the harsh, stark Essex backdrop, Spence adeptly documents the band’s formative years: the first five albums, the corresponding tours, interpersonal relationships and the time spent writing, recording and bashing stuff in Berlin wasteland. The gradual intertwining of young lives provides a rich canvas made colourful with absorbing tales from friends and family, while throughout we’re treated to lucrative assertions from peers, producers, roadies and, of course, Mute label boss Daniel Miller – or “dad”. Forming the bedrock of the book, these interviews illuminate the integral effort by the band to surround themselves with just the right people.
Spence’s work is eloquent and structured, curating an exceptional story of creativity, cooperation and expedition. And it’s a superb read, even if you do think Depeche Mode slightly naff.