Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Song #100 of 9999 - Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode

Song #100 of 9999

Title: Personal Jesus
Artist: Depeche Mode
Year: 1990
Album: Violator

Like a lot of music in the early 1990s, Depeche Mode sneaked by me. I was aware of them, but I didn't really understand the impact they were having or the success they were attaining. And I guess I kind of dismissed them a bit. (I was pretty heavily involved in analyzing the neo-Classical works of Stravinsky at the time, so.....that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)

What a delightful surprise "Personal Jesus" must have been to hardcore Depeche Mode fans! I can only imagine it spun their heads around a bit. The instrumental track evokes the barrenness of the desert (even without the literal images provided by the video) by maintaining a spare balance between guitar and drums. The guitar track, prominent like no other in previous works by the band, just kicks ass in so many ways from the riff itself to the perfect tone quality. The chord progression smacks of American blues music with a rhythmic feel falling uncomfortably between straight and swing. Finally, the expected synthesizers are there but in a well-situated supporting role.

By the time Dave Mahan starts singing, all is well again in Depeche Mode-land, with his purposely indifferent and emotionless voice delivering always intriguing lyrics. Its striking to hear this vocal style delivered atop a guitar track that relies so heavily on blues elements. A remarkable contrast that is truly unique and deserving of the attention it received. A great track.

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