By 1984 the UK pop scene was about to become bigger, more challenging; new production techniques, bar raising producers using expertise to channel these, and risqué lyrics were all the rage. How would those punk fans with synths, Depeche Mode, respond? unsurprisingly with their finest album yet, the sexy, challenging, and new-sound ‘Some Great Reward’.
Forgoing much of the kids-at-christmas industrial playing around that dominated previous year’s intriguing though ‘single-lacking’ ‘Construction Time Again’ (a political commentary of an LP, though, that remains undervalued, especially by the bloke at the NME who, a few years ago, ridiculously ranked it as the group’s least best album; this an album that even today still sounds like nothing else around at the time, and certainly a brave left-hand turn), ‘Some Great Reward’ has plenty in it to revitalize any group from an industrial, if worthy, slumber.
People Are People (if lyrically a bit sixth form) became an immediate, big-hooked hit for the breakdance generation both sides of the atlantic, while Master And Servant has within it even more of-its-time pop sounds and, this time, a new sense of dancefloor friendly industrialism. Songwriter Martin Gore sings for the first time, being all lovelorn and earnest on the record’s slower, surprisingly tender tracks, It Doesent Matter, and Somebody.
But its the non singles that are arguably the more interesting here. The grubby up-to-no-good, career-in-the-way-of-commitment Stories of Old, for example, with its sea -shanty melody, or the technoy If You Want To, it’s unforeseen tempo change a minute in reminding me of the Smiths’ Miserable lie from earlier the same year. There’s also weird-pop carousel sounds on this track, giving it a sort of Punch And Judy feel.
What makes the LP even more worthy is the fact that the band decide to go from this fun, sparkling err mode as the penultimate track, before rounding things off with Blasphemous Rumours; the third single, and deepest, darkest, most lyrically challenging they’d hitherto appeared. An odd choice for a single, too, but then one must credit them for having the balls. Again, this another example where being signed to independent Mute helped. (Seeing as we’re coming up with Smiths track equivalents; I guess you could say this song was their ‘Meat Is Murder’).
‘Some Great Reward’ is where Depeche Mode rediscovered their zest. It was also a record that gave them a new form of artistic worth, and new taste for the live circuit. All the while the album keeps things always moving, looking for new sounds, ideas and means and ways to challenge the listener.