Album: Playing the Angel
Cost: $23.99 CDN
Found: HMV, 333 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, CANADA.
Depeche Mode are back on top form with yesterdays release of Delta Machine (check out a concert webcast from “Live on Letterman” of the new album here).
One of my favourite Depeche Mode albums is actually a much later one in the DM canon and also one a lot of DM fans would disagree with me on, but I argue that Playing the Angel is a solid album.
Released in 2005 it did meet with positive reviews and decent sales. I really got into the album during what seemed like a never ending winter in Eastern Europe. If ever there was a locale suited to listening to Depeche Mode in, I think Bratislava, Slovakia was made for it.
Bratislava reminds me very much of some Canadian cities in some regards, specifically with the life of the city during the winter months contrasted with how once Spring hits everyone and everything comes alive again. I was on an Erasmus placement at VŠMU – the Academy of Performing Arts Bratislava for several months, which started in the dead of winter.
The city seemed almost abandoned in those long, dark winter months and I spent a lot of my time in coffee shops reading, writing and on my lap top taking advantage of the cafes wi-fi. It was during those hours whiled away drinking some of the best mint tea I’ve ever had, that I listened to Playing the Angel ad nauseum.
It would seem I wasn’t the only one, everywhere I went it felt like the album was following be it billboard ads plastered throughout the city, constant radio play, Depeche Mode nights, and of course the lead up to the massive stadium show in Bratislava. I wound up having several chances to see Depeche Mode during their tour in support of Playing the Angel and missed them each and every time in what seemed like a comedy of errors. When they were in London I was in Bratislava, when they were in Bratislava I was back in London, when they were in Vienna I was…well you get the point.
I did however manage to go to a Slovak Depeche Mode night, which turned out to be nothing like I had expected. My experience in the past with Depeche Mode club nights have usually been very small venues, normally of the alternative, 80′s, goth variety with people doing their best plucking-cobwebs-out-of-thin-air dancing. This was not to be the case in Bratislava however.
After several snowbound weeks with the same routine of school, cafe, pub, then home, cabin fever was starting to set in for me. I came across flyers in one of the cafes for the Depeche Mode night and tried to convince my other UK classmates to go. No one was biting with the exception of my friend Joe who was pretty game for anything.
The night came and off we trotted to the club. When we got there I had to check twice as to whether it was the right place. The venue was huge. There was a lineup going around the block of people waiting to get in. And not an alternative/80s/goth type in sight either.
Once inside we saw the club was equally impressive with two floors with massive wall to wall screens with different projections of film footage from Depeche Mode concerts and music videos being played. The projections acted as a visual backdrop to the DJ who played literally nothing but Depeche Mode all night long.
It was interesting to see just how mainstream Depeche Mode are out of the normal circles I ran in back in the UK and North America. The club was almost entirely men that night, many dressed in white trousers, slicked back hair, and a variety of expensive smelling colognes wafted through the space. Joe and I danced into the wee hours with lovely smelling Eastern European men in what was a a very welcoming and calm space.
When it was all over, everyone dispersed and as we walked away from the club I remember looking back in wonderment at the venue, which from the outside resembled an enormous, industrial, concrete cube.
Playing the Angel saw me through a long and often lonely winter. I’m really loving Delta Machine and can’t wait to actually see Depeche Mode play live finally when they come to Toronto later this year.
I like to think that somewhere, in Eastern Europe another Depeche Mode night to the same scale is being prepared. White trousers pressed and hung in anticipation, cologne and hair gel on a dressing table waiting for the right time to be used again.