After months of near frenzied anticipation among the Depeche Mode fanbase, the band are back with the release of their new single Where's The Revolution. Go on any Depeche forum, Twitter, Facebook and more and you'll see thousands of different views on the song ranging from the "IT'S THE BEST THING EVER!!!!!" to "This is why Alan HAS to come back" and covering all points in between. Is it Depeche's BEST THING EVER? No, it isn't. What Where's The Revolution is however is a storming return by the band, marking a return to the politics of Construction Time Again and showing that there is a lot of life left in these old electro dogs yet.
Martin's lyrics haven't sounded as relevant in years. Gone are notions of universes, souls and knees and being down on them, with these themes replaced by a fire that hasn't been seen often enough in recent years. I mentioned Construction Time Again above and on my preview a couple of days ago and I think that's a genuinely relevant comparison. The naive socialism of that album sought to suggest that better times could be around the corner ("All that we need at the start/Universal revolution/That's all") but that naivety is no more in Where's The Revolution. Instead we find Martin writing about the fact we've all been had ("You've been kept down/You've been pushed round/You've been lied to/You've been fed truths.") before demanding that someone springs to life and starts the revolution. In the post Brexit times we're living in in Britain, the lyrics strike a particular chord following the manipulation of facts and truths that led to the catastrophic result of the 2016 referendum. Reference in particular to "patriotic junkies" in the song seems particularly apt when you consider what's happening in Government here now. Similarly, the current plight America finds itself with the Clown In Chief in charge seems to be present here. Ok, the song wasn't written last week, but lines such as "They manipulate and threaten/With terror as a weapon" seems incredibly accurate given what's happened in American in the last 7 days.
Seem to have a got a bit political there which I usually avoid in these reviews but, do you know what? The fact that my favourite songwriter of all time is back with a song with lyrics that strike a chord with me is a beautiful thing. Who'd have thought that it would be Depeche Mode of all the "big" bands speaking out for the masses after all these years? It's great to see.
Anyway, what of the actual music? Since James Ford was announced as producer, I've been really keen to hear how he's contributed. Musically, we're not a million miles away from Delta Machine with layers of bubbling and droning electronics flying all over the place here. The production seems to be much crisper however, with each sound distinct from the other, unlike places on Delta Machine where it became a bit muddled. The pace of the song is very close to The Sweetest Condition from Exciter and the slide guitar parts in that song are echoed here in Where's The Revolution's chorus. I first listened to the song on headphones and that allowed me to hear most of what was going on. If you're a bit uncertain about it having heard it on the Polish radio preview last night or on BBC6 Music this morning, stick on your headphones and give it a go.
After two rounds of verse/verse/chorus, the song takes an unexpected turn (3 minutes 6 seconds in) to a section with almost ambient textures behind it where we're told "The train is coming...So get on board" in an almost lullaby like way. That part seems to have irked some people this morning, but it all fits for me. If we're not having a revolution just now, one can't be far away, so Martin's suggesting we all get ready to join that. Again, it's more of an aggressive call to arms that we had in And Then all those years ago ("Let's take a map of the world/Tear it into pieces.") but that fits the song's theme.
So what does all the foregoing over analysis tell us? Well, firstly Depeche Mode are back and that's only ever a good thing. Where's The Revolution sees them return with a relevance they haven't had for a while and whilst it may not be a necessarily obvious lead single for an album, that's never been an issue before. Usually, that means there's even better to come on the record itself.
Is it THE BEST THING EVER? No, no it's not. But it's an intriguing track and a very, very good one. And when Depeche Mode are very, very good, they're better than most other bands you can think of. 37 years in, still fighting and still pushing themselves. Welcome back Depeche Mode. It may be that you've returned at just the right time.