Incorporating The Music Fix
5th November 2005 19:00:00
Posted by Simon Rueben

Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward

For Depeche Mode, the first few months of 1984 were spent in Berlin, close to the wall dividing West from East, where they created their fourth studio album, “Some Great Reward”. For the new album, Martin Gore’s songwriting takes on a whole new level. A citizen of Berlin for the past year, the city seems to have corrupted him, and these new songs speak of sexual dominance, power games, selfishness, but at all times marked with a touch of innocence. Coupled with his stage image of a leather clad, doe-eyed tease, on this album it sounds like he is finally finding his true voice, as if he needed the city of Berlin to act as his muse.

Biographies say that the band found recording this album a happy time. They would often record until late, and in a city like Berlin could be sure to find bars and cafes still open in the early hours of the morning. Fletch got to indulge in his favourite snack, "Toast Hawaii", in the Hansa cafe every day. And Alan Wilder finally got the chance to flex his muscle and leave his mark on their recordings.

Again, this is a short album, just nine songs long (four of which found themselves as singles), and again it is a mixed bag. Wilder only contributes a single song, the unbelievably naff “If you Want”, which contains probably the worst lyric on any of their albums - “Exercise your basic right - we can build a building site”. Why would anyone want to build a building site exactly? The song itself is pretty bad, a mish-mosh of music going all over the place, and would be his last effort for the group. Any music he created after this would find a place on his solo "Recoil" projects. The song is tucked away at the end of side two, the perfect place for filler.

Side one however, gets off to a fantastic start, with “Something to Do” leaping in and grabbing you by the throat. You do have to wonder what Dave Gahan thought upon being handed the lyrics to sing, this tale of cross dressing and leather boots. This goes into “Lie to Me”, an excellent song, with a driven percussive beat and more interesting lyrics - “Come on and lay with me, come on and lie with me, tell me you love me, say I’m the only one”. Again “found sounds” form an important part of this song and the album - the LP even includes the sound of the air freshener in the toliet at Hansa. And then into the single, “People are People”, a likeable track, but giving Alan Wilder’s lyrics a run for their money with the chorus - “People are People so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully”.

The next track, “It Doesn’t Matter”, is probably one of the tenderest songs Martin Gore has ever sung. A fascinating song, the lyrics concern his thoughts about a love affair he has no confidence in, a relationship he feels will fail, but is to be enjoyed for the moment, whatever the future brings. His voice is strong and warm, the music rich, a real stand-out track. “Stories of Old” closes the first side, another piece of filler, with abysmal lyrics and annoying keyboard stabs.

Side two open with a real fan favourite, again sung by Gore. “Somebody” is a love ballad, sung against Wilder’s excellent piano arrangement to a background of a variety of noises - a train, a children’s playground, and an enchanting music box at the end. The song pulses with the sound of a hearbeat also added to the mix. For atmosphere, Martin Gore sang the song in the studio naked, stripped down and bare to capture the honesty and frailty of the song. The openness of the singer certainly comes across on this fragile track.

The next track is it’s polar opposite. “Master and Servant” starts with a bonkers chorus and then the sound of Daniel Miller, their record label boss, hissing and spitting in an attempt to inpersonate a whip, in a version slightly extended from the single release. It is a juddering, slightly schizophrenic song, clattering from place to place, which had an (unintentially I assume) hilarious video which is worth tracking down (as is the promo for “People are People”, which saw the band prowling a battleship hitting things with spanners).

Next is Alan Wilder’s track, and then to the epic closer, the brooding “Blasphemous Rumours”, an intelligent song let down by clumsy lyrics, where Gore explains his feelings towards the existence of God. In no-way though is the song blasphemous - Gore at no point expresses anything but his own personal views, he does not deny the existence of God, nor does he condemn Christianity. Instead, the song displays his own beliefs strictly from his own way of thinking, a song Christian groups marked out for its honesty and thought.

“Some Great Reward” has aged badly over the years. Its lack of songs is evident, especially as two of them are truly awful. However, it marks the end of a certain stage in the life of Depeche Mode, and again the evolution is clear. A chapter closes, evident also by the fact that their next release was a singles collection, clearing the way for their next studio album.
Track List
01 Something To Do (03:46)
02 Lie To Me (05:03)
03 People Are People (03:52)
04 It Doesn't Matter (04:45)
05 Stories Of Old (03:14)
06 Somebody (04:27)
07 Master And Servant (04:12)
08 If You Want (04:40)
09 Blasphemous Rumours (06:22)
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