Depeche Mode: Memento Mori review – a life-affirming farewell for Fletch
Andy Fletcher’s two surviving bandmates reflect on mortality on an album of warm, weird electro-pop
Andy Fletcher’s death could’ve ended Depeche Mode. In Fletch’s 42-year tenure, curtailed last May, the Basildon band never made a truly bad album, rarely stooped to covers or re-records. The music gently declined in quality over the decades, but their tours grew bigger and better. Their final album would’ve been 2017’s Spirit, a decent tilt at reinventing the grand claustrophobia of 1987 masterpiece Music for the Masses. A solid legacy. Instead, surviving bandmates Martin Gore and Dave Gahan have assembled Memento Mori, an elegant farewell for Fletch.
Gore’s say-what-you-see lyrics are always best on the essentials of life – sex and death – and Ghosts Again is the pair’s best single in aeons, a singalong meditation on mortality that’s concise and powerful. Both are in fine voice. Gore’s choirboy trills have never been richer than on Soul With Me, while Gahan ranges ever-restlessly from operatic to reptilian, the electro-pop Freddie Mercury. There’s warmth in the album’s fusion of industrial grind with delicate melody, and producer James Ford sparks a revivifying weirdness in songs such as My Cosmos Is Mine. For a record preoccupied by death, its big heart bursts with life.