Some Great Reward

Depeche Mode

Sire/Mute, 1984

http://www.depechemode.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/08/2007

Some great reward indeed. 

In Depeche Mode’s case, their fourth album was the breakthrough in the U.S. that they had been looking for. In building on the industrial sound they had discovered on Construction Time Again, they managed to create one of the most perfect sounding synth-pop albums ever. All they needed was a little buff and polish by producers Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones, and before they knew it, Depeche Mode was ready for the mainstream.

Well, almost. Certainly, a song about S&M, “Master And Servant,” wasn’t going to fly in conservative Reagan America at the time, though it is where I started getting more interested in all things Depeche. This particular single proved there was more to this group after all.  nbtc__dv_250

You can see just how far the band had come since their anemic debut Dreaming Of Me. Fans have always liked Depeche Mode down and dirty, so “Master And Servant” fit the bill perfectly when it came to ballsy aggression.

The two other standout tracks on Some Great Reward are “People Are People” and “If You Want.” As their best single since 1980’s “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “People Are People” contained an infectious chorus that you just couldn’t get out of your head:  “People are people, why should it be?  You and I should get along so awfully.”  Nonsensical like a nursery rhyme, for sure, but giant hooks are essential ingredients to any successful pop song.  This one became Depeche Mode’s first Top 40 hit, something they wouldn’t do again until “Personal Jesus” in 1989. 

However, my choice for best song on Some Great Reward is “If You Want,” a song that should serve as proof that they should have never let bandmate Alan Wilder go.

The two songs tucked in the middle of the album don’t fare nearly as well as the others.  The melodramatic “Stories Of Old” is too dated and hokey sounding to be effective, and the laughable piano ballad “Somebody” doesn’t quite work because there is too much going on in the background (seagulls and waves, diners in a café, children playing on a playground…enough already). 

Martin Gore redeems himself with the Asian-influenced “It Doesn’t Matter,” where he sings with resonance over a backdrop of chimes and bells. Also, there is the gothic single “Blasphemous Rumours” that has forgotten timeless classic written all over it. Lead singer David Gahan has his moments to shine on this album as well, especially on “Lie To Me,” a mid-tempo number that one can still groove to. His fetching vocal seemed to be getting stronger with each successive album.

After drug problems and a near-death experience in the mid-90s, Gahan would recover, rebound and sound better than ever on 1997’s Ultra, which is yet another one of Depeche Mode’s impressive efforts, almost on par with this classic album.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sire/Mute, and is used for informational purposes only.