Depeche Mode, and this, their fourth album, cannot be overstated in the development of my musical taste or self. For a long time I had liked some bands, and had some albums, but didn’t really have any favorites that stuck with me. In 1985 that changed dramatically, and this is the album that helped springboard it.
My friend Gene introduced me to the band, and something about them grabbed hold of me hard. Before long I was totally into the group and listening to them constantly. I had a tape with this album on side one and their People Are People compilation on side two and I played both sides until I literally wore the tape out and it popped in my player.
I can’t say why this album succeeded where so many before had failed. I liked the music a lot, I thought the lyrics were interesting and deep (and still admire them), and the cover imagery, of the wedding couple in the factory, just blew me away. Dave Gahan’s deep vocals meant I could actually halfway competently sing along with it. It was probably the first album I ever really listened to, and definitely the first one that made me want to look beyond it to the rest of the band’s catalogue. I had a Depeche Mode t-shirt, posters (one combined the sickle-wielding woman from A Broken Frame with the hammer-holding guy from Construction Time Again and my mom was Concerned because the Communists want to destroy us all), and their back catalog.
Their first two albums I didn’t really go for; in fact, at the time, the less said about Speak and Spell the better. (Thanks to this I learned a valuable pop music lesson fast.) Construction Time Again I liked a bunch. But this one: it is all-killer, no filler. Every track is gold. Maybe the weakest is “If You Want” but even that one bridges “Master and Servant” and “Blasphemous Rumours” so well and I love it anyhow.
It was the soundtrack to 1985 to me, and this musical awakening accompanied other awakenings. For a long time it was so associated with memories that to listen to it during the fall months was an invitation to gut-kicks of painful nostalgia. Thankfully, that has passed, but it’s still difficult to separate the album itself from the memories that surround it, and I don’t listen to it as often.
I stuck with Depeche Mode through Exciter, which not only wasn’t very good, it was following a descending trend since Violator, the last of their albums I really enjoyed. I heard a bit of Playing the Angel after that and don’t remember much about it. I haven’t paid any attention since.
This album, however, is one of my top ten albums ever, and I’ll always love it. More to the point, though, the album opened me up to really getting into music and having it be something in my life that I took a part in, instead of just taking whatever I was offered by the radio or MTV. I was now hitting up record shops, paying attention to new artists, hunting down singles, and building a record collection. I hadn’t really done that before. Some Great Reward is 17-year-old Dave pressed into vinyl.