Depeche Mode Credit: Sun-Times Media

Released this past March, Spirit was heralded by AllMusic as Depeche Mode’s finest album since 2005’s Playing the Angel. A textbook case of damning with faint praise, but maybe the best we can hope for from Depeche Mode is a pretty good LP, not an actually great one, every decade or so. True, the leaden spirit of Delta Machine (2013) or Sounds of the Universe (2009) doesn’t afflict Spirit, likely due to the absence of longtime producer Ben Hillier. The new man behind the boards, James Ford, retains the band’s campy goth elegance and tactile proto-microhouse production. Spirit doesn’t have a stop-you-in-your-tracks cut like “Precious” (from Playing the Angel) or mark a radical break in Depeche Mode’s sound, like 1993’s still-captivating Songs of Faith and Devotion. Nevertheless, this is the same band that made the arena-optimized anthems “Enjoy the Silence,” “Never Let Me Down Again,” and “Personal Jesus,” so if you need to endure some average songs from Spirit to see those tracks performed live, that’s a sacrifice worth making.   v

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