The DEPECHE MODE album that many thought would never be made following the sudden passing of co-founder member Andy Fletcher is here. Entitled ‘Memento Mori’, a Latin phrase meaning “Remember That You Must Die!”, the 12 songs on this latest opus are naturally not cheerful affairs and that internal grief expectedly looms.

Fletch was considered by Devotees to be the glue that kept DEPECHE MODE together, the peacemaker between the diametrically opposed Martin Gore and Dave Gahan. Today, the remaining two have had to mix their own epoxy, but who is the resin and who is the hardener is debatable.

Gore of course is the shy songwriting talent who didn’t enjoy spending time crafting and embellishing his compositions in the studio despite a vast collection of synths, preferring to leave that role to others, be it Alan Wilder, Daniel Miller or Tim Simenon. Meanwhile Gahan is the one-time juvenile delinquent who got lucky but was never grateful of his good fortune, possessed of no real musical talent of his own and with a penchant for rock ‘n’ roll antics.

DEPECHE MODE’s albums since 2001 have been largely underwhelming, rather like their arena shows plonked into stadiums. ‘Exciter’ was anything but while ‘Playing The Angel’ in 2005 got a free pass for its “pain and suffering in various tempos”. ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ from 2009 was unbelievably drab with ‘Peace’ more likely to harm diplomatic relations while 2013’s ‘Delta Machine’ offered some spark in more immediate material such as ‘Soothe My Soul’ and ‘Broken’ although that could have been because of their similarities to respective past glories ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘A Question Of Time’.

The undoubted runt of the litter was 2017’s politically charged and lamentable ‘Spirit’. Devotees got excited about ‘So Much Love’ but that was because it was fast and hid the fact that as a song, it wasn’t much cop. The conclusion was that Side D on the double vinyl edition was the best part of the release.

On the subsequent ‘Global Spirit’ tour, Gahan and Gore really made it obvious that they couldn’t be bothered, from just running up and down the catwalk instead of performing on it, to not putting on a spectacle at the vast locations that the Devotees had gathered, the events being more fan rallies rather than concerts. RAMMSTEIN they were not and certainly in recent interviews, Gahan has expressed his disillusionment and usual ungratefulness during that period.

Returning after working on ‘Spirit’ to helm ‘Memento Mori’ is James Ford, the former member of SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO best known for producing posh boy farm folkies and Gahan faves MUMFORD & SONS, while engineer Marta Salogni (whose credits include Björk) acts co-producer and provides the final mix.

So, what of the music? To tell the truth, ‘Ghosts Again’ was a better opening salvo than many were expecting and is a standout. Scrutiny of its background though reveals that it was co-written by Gore with Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS, thus highlighting what many had suspected for years… that an external kick up the backside was needed as his own solo composing methods had gone stale. ‘Ghosts Again’ though sounded all so familiar and when a mash-up with NEW ORDER’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ appeared on YouTube, it became wholly clear why…

Traditionally over the past few tours, the opening song on a new DEPECHE MODE album is also the opening song of the show; ‘My Cosmos Is Mine’ certainly continues the tradition of dreary openers such as ‘Going Backwards’ and ‘In Chains’… and these numbers are meant to set the scene for what is supposed to be a live concert…

Since ‘Oh Well’, the superb bonus song from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’, there have been calls for Gore and Gahan to co-write again. Nevertheless, the funereal ‘Wagging Tongue’ is nowhere near of that standard despite the Kling Kling inspired patterns with the quality of vocal delivery questionable from both parties.

With a swung arthouse chill that wouldn’t be out of place on an IAMX record, ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ isn’t bad and is tellingly another Richard Butler co-write while on ‘Soul With Me’, Gore gets to articulate that four letter word again while doing swaying finger pincer movements.

Although there are less bluesy excursions on ‘Memento Mori’ than recent records and more attempts to bring metallic and electronic elements into the spectrum, the sound is not easy on the ears and muddied in many places. Of the better realised attempts, ‘People Are Good’ plays at being KRAFTWERK yet the chorus lets it down, along with the unwarranted distortion.

Despite borrowing a bassline from BLANCMANGE, ‘Caroline’s Monkey’ doesn’t really go anywhere although the Gahan co-write ‘Before We Drown’ fares slightly better. On the home stretch, ‘Never Let Me Go’ attempts to ape ‘John The Revelator’ while co-written with the two producers and The Drumhead, ‘Speak To Me’ is dreary as hell but it is an apt closer which the Devotees will love it as a climax to their collective misery.

‘Memento Mori’ is business as usual for DEPECHE MODE, with “business” being the operative word… better than ‘Spirit’, this will be considered a return to form by many Devotees. However for those who have already departed the camp, it is too little too late and not enticing enough to prompt a return, especially when there are other acts in the electronic world who are so much more worthy of attention now.

‘Memento Mori’ is released by Sony Music on 24th March 2023 in assorted formats

DEPECHE MODE play London Twickenham Stadium on 17th June 2023

‘Walking In Their Shoes: A DEPECHE MODE Fan’s Unofficial Guide To London’ by Simon Helm is available as an e-book from

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Anton Corbijn
21st March 2023