Speak and Spell wasn’t an album I had when it first came out. In fact I only purchased a CD copy a few years ago. As with most of my music history, I listened to the radio and followed singles. As a result, tracks like New Life, Just Can’t Get Enough and Dreaming of Me are my bread and butter. Depeche Mode or “depeche-ay” as they seem to have been called in their early days (according to TOTP) has always been one of my favourite bands. I grew up with the synth sound in my early teens and the music still seems as fresh today as it did then.
The tracks on Speak & Spell are certainly an eclectic mix. The intro to New Life was a call to the dance floor (not that I did that much dancing). But that almost siren-sounding intro was an instant trigger to get up and move – and still is. New life has lots of intricate changes, but remains a consistent theme all the way through.
Contrast that to Just Can’t Get Enough, a classic Vince Clark riff, which has everyone tapping the tune out every time they hear it. The hook is enduring enough that 35+ years later, it still sounds great, despite the tinny and totally synthetic sound of the synthesiser on which is was written. Although the track sounds simple, the overlays of each melody are incredibly well interwoven that they sound effortless, but clearly aren’t.
So much of this album seems like an experiment. What can we try? What works, what doesn’t? What musical variations can we create? I Sometimes Wish I was Dead, with that very odd twinkling sound. This wouldn’t have been a successful single, but is a great album track (and only 2 minutes long). Puppets reminds me a little of Computer Love by Kraftwerk, pioneers of the synthesiser sound.
I like this album more and more as I play it. It shows that great tunes will last the test of time.
Favourite Track: Just Can’t Get Enough
- New Life – 3:47
- I Sometimes Wish I was Dead – 2:18
- Puppets – 3:57
- Boys Say Go! – 3:08
- Nodisco – 4:16
- What’s Your Name? – 2:46
- Photographic – 4;43
- Tora! Tora! Tora! – 4:39
- Big Muff – 4:25
- Any Second Now (Voices) – 2:35
- Just Can’t Get Enough – 3:45
- Dreaming of Me – 4:02