They just can’t get enough

The much-publicized perils of recent years that jeopardized Depeche Mode’s survival and the well-being of its members, even, at times, overshadowing its music, seem to have been safely overcome. Two decades since their emergence, the enduring British electro-pop band Depeche Mode, whose personnel have settled for wife-and-children lives over the disorder of excess and chance, are reported to be holding strong as they head closer toward completing yet another world tour, which includes one night in Athens this Sunday. A spokesman at the event’s ticketing agency, Tickethouse, said yesterday that tickets for the show, to be held at the Olympic Stadium’s basketball arena, were still available for the stands. Tickets for the stadium’s arena section, however, have been sold out since April. The upcoming show comes 15 years after the group’s previous and only other visit here, as one of eight acts that appeared at the Rock in Athens festival. A forerunner to the country’s current festival activity, its bill featured some of the post-punk/new wave era’s most revered bands, including The Clash, The Stranglers, The Cure, and Culture Club, all in their prime. But unlike many of their peers, who either disbanded long ago or are struggling to remain intact and relevant amid the rapidly changing pop soundscape, Depeche Mode are not only holding together but still managing to sound fresh. The act’s preference for and insistence on synthesizers over guitars may have prompted listeners and critics to question its level of seriousness, but has helped keep the band relevant – for current pop standards – two decades on. Depeche Mode’s seemingly perpetual musical effervescence, however, has been anything but a smooth ride. A gloomier underside to the band was the drug and alcohol abuse running rampant within the group’s ranks for years before a suicide attempt by its frontman, Dave Gahan, served to disclose the act’s darker demons to the public in the mid-1990s. Other members, too, had been burdened with various bad habits, but it was not until the news of the singer’s suicide attempt that the band’s woes were brought to the fore. Retracing Depeche Mode’s evolving style over the years, does, however, indicate an increasingly bleaker perception of the music and lives of the act’s members. Originally a product of Britain’s New Romantic movement, Depeche Mode’s bouncy dance-pop material gradually developed into a darker, more dramatic sound that gave the British band an alternative tag. The group’s origins date back to 1976, four years before Depeche Mode made their debut as a recording act. Keyboardist Vince Clarke and Andrew Fletcher first teamed up to form a group called No Romance in China. It quickly dissolved and by 1979 Clarke had formed another duo, French Look, with a guitarist/keyboardist, Martin Gore. Fletcher joined soon after, while the act’s singer, Gahan, followed a year later when the embryonic act made one final name change to Depeche Mode, which means fast fashion in French. As its original purpose, the quartet embarked on presenting Clarke’s infectious tunes. A gradual buildup of loyal fans in London led to the band’s first appearance on record in 1980, when Depeche Mode contributed a track for a compilation album before signing to Mute Records to release their debut single, Dreaming of Me, in 1981. It failed to make an impact, as did the follow-up single, New Life. The group’s third single, Just Can’t Get Enough, however, became a Top 10 hit in the UK, while the debut album, Speak and Spell, also released in 1981, generated strong sales. But just as Depeche Mode were on the brink of major commercial success, the band’s main songwriter, Clarke, plunged the act’s future into doubt after abandoning it to form the highly successful Yazoo with singer Alison Moyet. Gore took over as the main songwriter and the remaining trio recruited keyboardist Alan Wilder to fill in the technological void created by Clarke’s departure. Despite the changes, the second album, 1982’s A Broken Frame, continued in similar vein to its predecessor. As a songwriter, Gore began displaying increased confidence and sophistication. The band’s fifth album, Some Great Reward, released in 1984, which achieved considerable commercial and critical success, signaled a slight turn toward a darker musical texture. The stylistic change continued in 1986’s Black Celebration, which, incidentally, further established the band as a major international act. Yet, despite overwhelming commercial success, Depeche Mode were still considered an underground cult phenomenon until 1990’s Violator album, which added to the band’s expanding fan base, courtesy of infectious hit singles such as Personal Jesus and Policy of Truth. But it was around this time, at the height of the group’s success, that Gahan’s woes and those of his bandmates began going overboard. Wilder quit the group in 1995 while Gahan entered a drug rehabilitation center to battle an addiction to heroin after his failed suicide attempt. Considering the bedlam, Depeche Mode’s most recent outing, this year’s commendable Exciter, the band’s 10th studio album, came as a slight miracle. To celebrate Depeche Mode’s return to form, as well as to the country, the band’s local fan club, Hysterika, will be staging parties both before and after Sunday night’s show. The rejoicing commences tomorrow night at Thessaloniki’s X-Club (1 Pindou, Ladadika district) and continues in Athens this Thursday at Club 22 (22 Vouliagmenis). The same club will host an After Show Party following Sunday night’s concert. 28/10 – Olympic Stadium’s basketball arena, 9.30 p.m. Tickets, 14,000 drachmas, available at Tickethouse at 42 Panepistimiou, Athens, tel (01) 360.8366; Silver Dollar, 19 Ethnikis Amynis, Thessaloniki, tel (031) 283.613.

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