They formed Depeche Mode in 1980 as an English band from Basildon when the British new wave was getting underway. Original members Andy Fletcher, Vince Clarke, and Dave Gahan. Clarke departed early in the band’s history. Martin Gore stepped up as a songwriter for the group. The three put their skills together to develop their electronic sound that has spanned four decades. They released fourteen studio albums, which elicited varying degrees of popularity, depending on who you talk to. Here is a reckoning of the many reviews submitted by fans and critics alike with placement in order of favor from worst to best.
14. “A Broken Frame”
This album came out in 1982. The album received its share of criticism, but some fans found merit in the project. NBHAP rated it as a “cringe-worthy” album produced at a transitional phase of their development when there was a lot of change going on. Clarke’s departure left them without their prime songwriter, however, Gore’s entry filled the gap. All Music went a little easier on the group, pointing out the progress they were making in pulling their act together as they settled into their new configuration. We’ll keep it at number 14.
Ultra dropped in 1997, nearly twenty years into the band’s long and storied history. Jack Roll Reviews points out that the bandmates had their struggles with emotional issues, drugs, and alcohol. They came off a heavy tour schedule exhausted. They pulled it together to complete the album. The problem is, it didn’t quite have the tone of some of their previous works. Balance was an issue because they didn’t have it in their personal lives and it didn’t translate into a cohesive work for the tracks on the album. Had they been healthier at the time it might have been a different story. Life happens to us all, and “Ultra” is evidence that the group was not at Depeche Mode’s ultimate best.
12. “Speak and Spell”
“Speak and Spell” is an early Depeche Mode album that has exceptional historical value for the group and fans. Critics found it to lack direction, but it was their debut release. It features songs written by Vince Clarke, an early founding member who pulled out after the album dropped in 1981. Don’t expect this album to contain the essence of Depeche Mode after its maturity. The guys hadn’t been together that long. It takes a while to establish your hallmarks and signatures in sound and content. We’re putting it at number 12 because it was the first effort. It serves as an introduction of the group as a baseline to gauge forward-moving progress.
11. “Construction Time Again”
“Construction Time Again” dropped in 1983 while the band was still in a formative period. This album is one that the critics give a decent rating of 3.78, at least Electric Zombies did. We agree that it’s a stronger album than the previous entries on our list. The ten songs were sound and cohesive. Depeche Mode began to take shape as the group we have all come to know and love. NBHAP ranks it at number 10 and supports the band’s progressive move to better balance and direction, but we’re going to leave it at 11, which is a consensus when you average out the likes and dislikes. It’s agreed upon broadly that one of the best tracks on the album is “Everything Counts.”
This album placed at a low ranking shortly after its initial release in 2001. Although largely ignored, the Mid-career album had and continues to have mixed reviews. Although mostly well-received these days, because of fan sentiments that Gahan’s vocals were in fine form. The only song that drew a consensus for being misplaced, and called awful by some, was “The Dead of Night.” It didn’t fit with the more sedate tracks on the album. Upon reflection, and given their years in the industry, “Exciter” was not a bad album, and it deserves a little more credit than it received.”
9. “Sounds of the Universe”
The songwriting is not the strongest it’s been in some of the other albums. While this isn’t a bad album, most agree that it lacks real depth lyrically and content-wise. The synthesizers work for some, but other fans weren’t looking for a project that relies on technique. This album was all over the board with its reviews. It doesn’t hold the popularity or the long-term interest of listeners.
8. “Delta Machine”
“Delta Machine” came out in 2013 with a few tracks that received an overall high ranking from fans and critics alike. “Heaven” and “Should Be Higher” are consistently referred to as the best tracks on the album. The rest of it has mixed reviews. Some view it as a well-written collection with a Blues vibe. If you’re a fan of the genre, you probably move it up a notch or two, but there weren’t enough fans to step forward to elevate it from a middle spot on the rankings. Some purists feel like mixing genres is a form of disrespect to the essence of Depeche Mode.
Released in 2017, “Spirit” is a title that suits the tone of the group after being in the business for more than three decades. It showed no signs of aging, but the overall project came across with a more mature tone with well-written songs that get their political views across both lyrically and musically. Whether you agree or disagree with the words and sentiments, they pulled this album together nicely.
6. “Playing The Angel”
“Playing The Angel” came out in 2005. If you detected something different in the song quality you can thank Dav Gahan for that. The guitar and vocals are up to par with Gore throwing in with his “Precious.” the collection here features thoughtful lyrics about life and those we care about with glimpses into the personal lives of the band members. The album has a personal and modern vibe that appeals to a larger base of fans because they can relate to its sincerity.
5. “Music For The Masses”
“Music For The Masses” received mixed reviews. Fans either blasted it for being mediocre, but others found it to be a cohesive work of tracks that are complementary to one another. It’s important not to judge an album by its cover. The worst thing about this release from 1987 is the cover. They probably should have shelled out the cash for a good design team. The songs, on the other hand, are easy to listen to over and over again. “Pimpf” is a winner in the instrumental that reach out and touch you. We can all relate to “Never Let Me Down Again,” and the pop theme brushes up against alternative but not in a harsh manner. It’s like a fine wine with delicate citrus notes. It’s refreshing.
4. “Some Great Reward”
This album dropped in 1984. It was in my opinion one of their better albums with fewer songs than most albums, but then again, that left less room to include stinkers that wouldn’t have fit in with the other tracks. One of their stronger project, with “Lie To Me” and “People Are People” as well-written, enjoyable, and vocally pristine works. This may not be the majority opinion but there are enough of us who remember the cohesion and quality of the nine tracks on this album. There isn’t a bad song on the album. They kept it lean and tight.
3. “Songs of Faith and Devotion”
This album was released in 1993 during a time when the band was not at its best, but that’s what makes it such an exceptional production. It’s like a testimonial of life with “Get Right With Me” hitting every nerve. It’s a good mix of hardcore and raw emotion that is well orchestrated to include a unique balance that the group seemed to have trouble pulling off. Some argue it’s their best album, but we think there are two that are better.
2. “Black Celebration”
“Black Celebration” dropped in 1986. There is little argument that it is one of the finest works by Depeche Mode. It was one of their earliest releases but it came at a time when the band was beginning to find its niche. Whether you’re into the darker side of goth or not, that’s the image that stuck with this album and it became a part of their identity. “Stripped” became the most notable title on the album as agreed upon by critics and fans. There aren’t any tracks to pick on here, which makes it one of the best albums of all time for Depeche Mode.
Not everyone agrees that “Violator” is the best Depeche Mode album of all time, but the majority rules and it has emerged as the victor. This is the album that kicked off a successful tour for promotion, and it caught the attention of the world. It offers a mix of big hits including “Clean,” and “World In My Eyes,” and the epic “Enjoy The Silence.” “Policy of Truth” is another of its best tracks, but none of them are bad. The number one Depeche Mode album of all time is the 1990 release “Violator.”