Last week I wrote about the Sony Legacy labelís remastered Kansas classics; this week the label gives the same treatment to Judas Priestís mid-career catalogue. New remastered editions of the bandís 1980-1984 albums British Steel, Point of Entry, Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith are now out, each with a previously unreleased studio track from the original LP recording sessions and a previously unreleased live version of one of the albumís tracks. These discs included some of the heavy metal bandís biggest breakthrough FM rock radio hits: "Liviní After Midnight," "Breakiní the Law," "Heading Out To The Highway," and "Youíve Got Another Thing Cominí" (their only U.S. Top 100 charting single).
Depeche Mode thrives on despair. And lead singer Dave Gahan went through plenty of that in the late Ď90s as he struggled with addictions that nearly drove the two-decade-old synthesizer act to dissolution.
But everythingís better now.
Gahan is sober and the band is a slightly diminished three-piece, with fellow founders Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher handling the instruments. While the band claims personal contentment, their songs still delve through the paths of despair and disillusionment. In the opening track, the pensive "Dream On," Gahan sings a lyric that could be autobiographical: "Paying debt to karma/you party for a living/what you take wonít kill you/but careful what youíre giving." Following that, in "Shine" he accuses: "Youíve been hanging from a rope of mediocrity/strung up by your insecurities." Both lyrics may apply to his own life of recent years, but theyíre downbeat truths that also can apply to all of our lives.
Exciter is a bit of a misnomer for this collection. While it may be exciting to fans that Depeche Mode is still in existence after nearly burning out in the Ď90s, this is a slow-moving, heavy on atmosphere and mood album that rarely encourages a great deal of foot tapping. The bass kicks into dancefloor gear on "I Feel Loved," but there really are no eye-opening singles lying in wait a la "People Are People," "Personal Jesus" or "Policy of Truth". With the exception of the shambling, vampire anthem "Dead of Night," most of Exciter works better under the working title "Yawner." This is moody stuff, but not particularly exciting Ö or new. The synthesizers sound old (albeit crisp and well recorded) and the melodies feel familiar.
"When The Body Speaks" includes some beautifully moody strings behind its throbbing synthesizer backgrounds and guitar strums, and "Freelove" includes a dreamy croon by Gahan over nervously oscillating synthesizers. But the Gore-sung "Breathe" strives to be dramatically inspiring and instead comes over as tedious. Itís the closing song, "Goodnight Lovers" that finds the band truly catching a wave. An old fashioned streetcorner barbershop quartet hymn with mild synthesizer backdrops, this is a sweet bit of mood ("when youíre born a lover/youíre born to suffer") that shows Depeche Mode still has some adventure left, even if itís quiet, backwards-looking adventure.
Overall, Exciter fails to break any real new ground or sound for the band. This is background music for a dreary day.