Playing the Angel

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
While there are plenty of second-generation not to mention third-generation bands mining the synth-pop songbook for inspiration, precious few of the originators have survived to offer competition -- and even fewer actually make a good case for their continued endurance. Depeche Mode, however, are experiencing something of a renaissance, and on this -- the 11th studio disc of their quarter-century career -- the trio prove quite capable of partying like it's 1979. Although considerably more hook-oriented than the band's most recent offerings, Playing the Angel isn't merely a rehash of the glory days -- "The Sinner in Me," for instance, replaces the band's stark ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
While there are plenty of second-generation not to mention third-generation bands mining the synth-pop songbook for inspiration, precious few of the originators have survived to offer competition -- and even fewer actually make a good case for their continued endurance. Depeche Mode, however, are experiencing something of a renaissance, and on this -- the 11th studio disc of their quarter-century career -- the trio prove quite capable of partying like it's 1979. Although considerably more hook-oriented than the band's most recent offerings, Playing the Angel isn't merely a rehash of the glory days -- "The Sinner in Me," for instance, replaces the band's stark simplicity with a thicket of countermelodies worthy of classic Queen -- the sense of purpose remains. That purpose, an unmistakably British take on George Clinton's "free your mind and your ass will follow" adage, allows them to depress listeners with mordant thoughts before impressing upon them the need to get onto the dance floor. That's the net effect of the gothic doom mongering of "John the Revelator" the disc's heaviest interlude and "Nothing's Impossible." The latter tune is one of several written by frontman David Gahan -- who, as odd as it may seem, has always ceded those duties to Martin Gore. And while his sonic sensibilities aren't all that different from Gore's, Gahan offers a decidedly different lyrical voice -- evidenced in some tunes, most notably "Suffer Well," that address his years of heroin abuse and subsequent kicking of the habit. It's a subtle, but palpable change in the path of the good ship Depeche -- one that steers it into choppier waters that ultimately make the ride far more exciting.
All Music Guide - Andy Kellman
When Ultra was declared the best Depeche Mode album since Violator, those who said so must have forgotten about Songs of Faith and Devotion. When Exciter was declared the best Depeche Mode album since Violator, those who said so must have also forgotten about Songs of Faith and Devotion, in addition to having found a roundabout way of saying that it was merely better than Ultra. There's no doubt this time: Playing the Angel is both the band's best album since Violator and, more significantly, an album that is near Violator in stature. The biggest clue dropped by the band prior to its release was a quote from Dave Gahan, who said that being in Depeche Mode is better than it has been in 15 years. Some quick math reveals that Gahan was hinting at the Violator era, a time when the band's creativity and popularity peaked synchronously. It also turns out that this is a time as good as any other to be paying attention to the band. Playing the Angel lacks Songs of Faith and Devotion's end-to-end chest-beating, Ultra's grinding murk, and Exciter's desiccated patches. It takes the best qualities from those releases, combines them with a few subtle allusions to Violator -- tiptoeing the border that separates retread from reinvention -- and makes for a highly concentrated set of songs that all but demand to be heard in one uninterrupted shot. Gahan, still riding the confidence he gained as a songwriter from Paper Monsters, his 2003 solo debut, contributes three songs co-written with band associates Christian Eigner and Andrew Phillpott. Though none of them vie to be the album's centerpiece, it's apparent that the move wasn't a concession of desperation on anyone's part. The friendly competition seems to have kicked chief songwriter Martin Gore into high gear; he's in top form. Musically, a lot of analog gear was used, and it's apparent that the arrangements and extra sounds were less fussed over than they have been in the recent past. You get the sense that everything fell into place, as opposed to being forced or aimlessly manipulated. Despite the favoring of older gear, there's no other year in which any of the songs could've been made. Like the best Depeche Mode, almost everything on the album will make an initial wowing impact while remaining layered enough in subtle details to surprise and thrill with repeated listens. It is not the kind of album a 25-year-old band is supposed to make.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/6/2005
  • Label: Reprise / Wea
  • UPC: 093624934813
  • Catalog Number: 49348

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 A Pain That I'm Used To (4:11)
  2. 2 John the Revelator (3:42)
  3. 3 Suffer Well (3:49)
  4. 4 The Sinner in Me (4:56)
  5. 5 Precious (4:10)
  6. 6 Macro (4:03)
  7. 7 I Want It All (6:09)
  8. 8 Nothing's Impossible (4:21)
  9. 9 Introspectre (1:42)
  10. 10 Damaged People (3:29)
  11. 11 Lilian (4:49)
  12. 12 The Darkest Star (6:55)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Depeche Mode Primary Artist
Martin Gore Group Member
Dave McCracken Piano
Technical Credits
David Gahan Composer
Martin Gore Composer
Richard Morris Programming, Engineer
Anton Corbijn Art Direction, Cover Design
Ben Hillier Audio Production
Dave McCracken Programming
Andrew Phillpot Programming
Emily Lazar Mastering
Ben Hiller Producer, Engineer
Christian Eigner Programming
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Playing the Angel

    When I first heard the song Precious I knew I had to look into this album to find any other songs that sounded even better.Some were but not all. A good album no doubt.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Give it a chance!

    At first I thought this was an OK album, but I decided to keep it in my car CD player and haven't been able to take it out! Love the album! :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    "Playing the Angel" is 21st Century Depeche Mode!

    15 years have passed since Violator, and a lot has happened in popular music since then. Musical trends, and musical tastes, have changed every hour on the hour in a drastic way, up to the point that “Precious”, the gorgeous and very danceable first single from “Playing the Angel”, has been lingering on Billboard’s top 25 Modern Rock Tracks Chart for quite a while. If my memory serves me well, chances were that rock fans hated Depeche Mode 15 years ago. And with good reasons. Besides being a pure Techno Pop album, Violator was an abysmal record, a classic example of a washed out, repeated ad nauseam formula. Given these circumstances, how could a group stand strong for 24 years as a recording unit?. The secret lies in delivering the goods, in taking risks and in reinventing the sound, a necessary evil since the original fan base of any band dwindles as it grows up. Besides delivering the goods, Depeche Mode started to take risks and reinvent their sound with 1993’s “Songs of Faith and Devotion”, their follow up to “Violator”, and the first in a series of mature, brilliant albums that broadened the group’s musical scope and asked of the listener to dance less and to listen more carefully. In this sense, “Playing The Angel” is a totally a post “Violator” record. Sure, the band members sound reinvigorated on this album and make music with the same vitality of kids half their age. On outstanding tracks like “John the Revelator”, “Suffer Well” and “Lilian”, they deliver their sturdiest and fastest dance rhythms in ages. But that’s about it. Guitars (an instrument frequently used since “Songs of Faith and Devotion”) are present in several “Playing The Angel” tunes, including the aforementioned “Precious”. Industrial rock elements (a novelty from 1997’s “Ultra”) are also abundant, particularly in “A Pain than I’m Used to”, the terrific opening track of “Playing The Angel”, and possibly the loudest Depeche Mode song to date. Ethereal melodies, sparse arrangements, slow tempos and lighter lyrics (the main elements that characterized 2001’s “Exciter”) are all present in “I Want it All”, a superb, beautiful ballad. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that these guys have been listening to fellow Brits Radiohead lately. The robot like vocals on “Nothing’s Impossible” (a deliciously sinister song) wouldn’t have been out of place on either “Kid A” or “Amnesiac”. So do the moody, dissonant melodies of “The Darkest Star”, the finest track on “Playing the Angel”. Quite simply, nothing in Depeche Mode’s previous repertoire sounds like it. It’s the grand finale for the group’s strongest effort to date, an album perfectly fit for the 21st century.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Muddled and disappointing

    It starts as sharp and poised electro-rock... but then things go off track. The songs are too long, and the dynamics flop awkwardly between loud and soft, fast and slow. This does not serve the typically ponderous, overwrought lyrics well. I wish DM would stop masquerading as a rock-'n'-roll band, and get back to what they do best: the taut, twisted synthpop that we last heard circa Violator.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    DM THE WAY THEY USED TO BE--WITH A TWIST!

    I've been a DM fan for 22 years. I have every studio album, Gore and Gahan's solo albums, I've seen them in concert 13 times in 3 different states. So when I say I almost didn't buy this album because EXCITER sounded like it came from some other group, please note that I'm down with 'Fast Fashion'! PLAYING THE ANGEL has recaptured the best of the old DM sound, while obviously coming from a new place of experience and maturity. Tempering Gore's exquisite and instantly identifiable songs with Gahan's revealing and raw lyrics has made for a brilliant, multi-faceted release! If you're a DM fan, you can't miss this one: If you're a club kid grooving on The Bravery and The Killers, get a leg up and get this cd now--its where those other bands got the idea in the first place!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Its Depeche Mode, to a point

    Its a puzzling of attitude, mood, and funk. You listen to the music. And you may find yourself waiting for the songs to take off, or do something more. But only two of them do. "Precious", and "Lilian" for me stood out. The rest seemed to have an experimentation of sounds going through them. That lends more to a fragmenting that takes away from the music. One word comes to mind after listening to this CD. Abstract.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    'Playing the angel' has to be one of Depeche Mode's best

    Absolutely superb CD! I've always been a fan of Depeche Mode, but was very disappointed with their last album (Exciter). This has some spunk to it and makes you want to dance! I just love this CD and continue to play it over and over. I enjoyed it right off the bat, but it grows on you more and more as you listen to it. 'Precious' is one of my favorite tracks from the CD, but altogether I can't find one song on this CD that I don't like. Great job my fellow guys from Basildon, Essex (that's England, you know)! I highly recommend this CD to any Depeche Mode fan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews