In my humble opinion, Dave Gahan is the greatest frontman of all time. If one wants to see proof of this fact, one needs only to watch Devotional, the concert film documenting the Songs of Faith & Devotion tour Depeche Mode embarked on in 1993. Gahan is absolutely electrifying in the film; I can’t help but think that if he told the audience on that tour to go home and kill their friends and family, the audience would have done so. He had the crowd rapt.
But in a very real sense, Dave Gahan is not the frontman of Depeche Mode. Martin Gore is the main songwriter, lyricist, and creative chief of the group. In fact, one could very readily argue that Depeche Mode’s golden era (roughly from 1986’s Black Celebration to the 1993 tour I mentioned earlier) was entirely Gore’s doing; after all, Dave Gahan was drugged out of his mind for most of this time and only contributed pre-written lead vocals to albums and tours, leaving most instrumentation and all backing vocals to Gore.
Furthermore, Gore has lead vocal duties on at least one song on every Depeche Mode album to date (with the exception of 1982’s A Broken Frame). Let’s face it: Martin Gore is Depeche Mode. Dave Gahan is just the face.
In celebration of Gore, here are the top 7 songs that are 100% him: written, performed, and fronted by the man himself.
It’d be hard to argue that Playing the Angel, the 2005 album this song appears on, is Depeche Mode’s best. While certainly a standout of their late-period work, the album gets pretty weak in the middle and end after a very strong beginning. But “Damaged People” is a terrific song, made all-the-better by Gore’s trademark baritone delivery drenched in audio effects. The album was written while Gore was going through a bitter divorce, and this song seems to be a documentation of his last gasp at trying to sustain that relationship.
The Things You Said
While lyrically and musically this song is simple and blunt, “The Things You Said” features one of Gore’s best vocal deliveries ever recorded. At once pained and angry while simultaneously being powerful and beautiful, his rhythmic enunciation of “How can a view become so twisted” and “I’ve never felt so disappointed” ring pure and true. If I were the person this song is about, I would steer clear of Gore for the rest of my life.
Gore makes no secret about his devotion to Christ and Christianity (which makes the sensual and sometimes even explicitly sexual imagery of his lyrics quite befuddling), but this song is one of the few where he really lets that flag fly. Dropping a bunch of Biblical names and references while preaching about sacrifice and holiness, it’s hard to know if Gore is talking specifically about Christ or about how he adheres to the teachings of Christ. Either way, the song is hauntingly beautiful.
If “Enjoy The Silence” is Depeche Mode’s anthem of intimacy, then “Somebody” is their anthem of loneliness. This quiet, piano-and-vocal track is essentially a laundry list of the things Gore looks for in a partner…and how surprised he is he hasn’t found that yet. As tongue-in-cheek as it is sincere, “Somebody” is the kind of song that pained teenagers pining for someone will always have in their music collection.
Every Depeche Mode fan knew this song would be somewhere on this list, as it’s one of the very few songs that has the trifecta of a) being sung by Gore, b) actually a radio hit, and c) played at pretty much every concert they’ve done since its release. But the reason that’s all the case is because it’s so damn good. The lush strings, the driving kick drum beat, and of course Gore’s incredibly hooky chorus vocal makes the song shine over much of their catalog. Not only is this one of the best Gore songs, it’s one of the best Depeche Mode songs in general.
I could write pages and pages on the beauty of this song. The strings, the lyrics, Gore’s vocal delivery, the sentiment…all utter perfection. But what I’m really listening for in the song is the final chorus, where the strings become overwhelmingly loud and Gore seems to be on the floor in tears as he pines for that “one caress” from his lover, so he can once again be “blessed”. The captivating gorgeousness of this song makes my heart swell.
Not only is this my number one Gore song, it is absolutely in my top five Depeche Mode songs in general. The bass line (actually a synth) gives this song a kind of demonic bounce that I don’t think I’ve ever heard another band emulate. And when Gore spits out, “I want the real thing, not tokens” I tend to close my eyes and think to myself, “Yes, Martin. Hell yes.” Is this song the world’s greatest love song or a song of such abhorrent obsession that the writer should be locked away? That’s for the listener to decide.
My favourite songs on every Depeche Mode album include at least one sung by Martin Gore. His voice isn’t as technically strong as Dave’s, but man, is it ever gorgeous. I love what you said about Martin Gore being Depeche Mode. So true!
I agree with this list, except I’d have A question of lust instead of Damaged People. Sweetest perfection is my fav Martin song, and Home and One Caress are Both amazing (it probably has to do with the strings). In terms of being played live though, I don’t think it could get any better than Home
A Question of Lust is probably my fav Martin song. That song hits my soul.. every time..
It´s really extremely hard to make just 7 tracks list, for example my absolute favourites are not included here – Jezebel, I Want You Now and Question Of Lust.
And I can´t agree that PTA gets weaker in the second half (I love that album from first moment to the last one).
He sings lead vocal on shouldn’t have done that
And Any Second Now from the same album
Really curious.. whren I listened to Martin’s solo album.. songs were just fine. In the other hand, Dave’s solo album (Paper Monsters) liked very much. It is in the tandem DepecheMode were Martin becomes HUGE!! I think, the arrangements are more detailed.. refine.. after all Depeche Mode sounds always AWESOME!! I agree with most of the titles described above, Martin has been so important in DM as long as they have experimented with styles and new sounds and textures.
a sweet storyteller in my life
I feel like Judas is a stand out! If the desert could have a sound, the end of Judas is it. He’s an amazing song writer and i wish he’d get more recognition for it. You captured each song perfectly in your description 🙂
Sometimes, Sweetest Perfection, I Want You Now, One Caress are in my top favorite DM songs. Sometimes is my #1 and I find that not many people like it, or maybe they just don’t know it. I don’t understand that!
I’ve been in love with the band since high school (I’m not much older than the band, ha!) and though it would Greatly embarrass me, it would make my day to have them catch me singing to one of their songs as I’m driving down the road. I got to see them in Dallas and that strengthened my adoration for the band. <3
Playing the Angel is my favorite Depeche Mode album of all time- It’s sooo underrated! Why is it so underrated? Simple: because you have to listen to some of those songs multiple times to really understand them.
You said the end of the album is lacking, but the last song, The Darkest Star, is actually my favorite Depeche Mode song of all time! Also, Damaged People is my favorite Martin-sung DM song.
I also really wish It Doesn’t Matter 1 & 2 (especially 2) were on this list.
“Depeche Mode’s golden era (roughly from 1986’s Black Celebration to the 1993 tour I mentioned earlier) was entirely Gore’s doing…”
Really? ENTIRELY Gore’s doing? You left out a crucial, HUGE factor, many would argue is the main thing which helped make those albums/years DM’s high point. Two words: Alan. Wilder.
Dave is an amazing singer & frontman, Martin’s song writing helps make DM what they are, but Alan’s production and arrangement IMO, is the trifecta that pulled it all together (DM doesn’t really need Fletch, let’s be honest here) and the missing ingredient that future albums since SOFAD just haven’t quite matched.
Dave Gahan is the voice of Depeche Mode and Martin L. Gore is the songwriter and back-up vocalist. But Dave is definitely the frontman. Martin writes songs specifically for Dave’s voice and this keeps the band current and moving forward. Martin’s songs sung by someone other than Dave wouldn’t give Martin the results he’s looking for. Even though Martin is the songwriter, Dave is the one rocking it out, energizing the crowd, and dancing up a storm. His voice during the 2009 tour (especially Berlin) was amazing. Dave didn’t just repeat songs from their albums, he transformed them into hard rock ‘n roll – he was as good, if not better than 99% of frontmen out there. Martin has a great voice too and is an extremely talented songwriter but Dave makes or breaks DM. Without his voice, looks, and energy the band would be nothing. Currently his voice is still amazing and Martin’s writing abilities are endless…songs like Heaven really showcase his voice.
It’s kind of unfair to focus on Dave’s drug problem which was more than 20 years ago. Perhaps you’re not aware Martin was an alcoholic who gave up drinking in 2006. He gave a CNN interview about his drinking and said he could only work 3 hours in the studio before having to go home. The point is Dave and Martin are mere mortals dealing with issues many musicians face. One isn’t better or worse than the other. They’re both extremely talented. And regardless of circumstances put out hit after hit.
Dude. The Bottom Line. And that’s the bottom line.
Seriously all these songs are great, but The Bottom alone is a muscle relaxant and a euphoric.
Home is my absolute favorite DM song.
I find your casual dissing of Gahan rather distasteful, especially since you got your information wrong. Dave got into drugs sometime between Violator and SoFaD.
Honestly, I think Dave and Martin’s voices compliment each other incredibly well.
I wish Martin would step up to the mic a bit more though.
Great list. Finally someone gives One Caress the credit it deserves. This song hit me like a freight train and carried me to Hell and Heaven and back again. My heart is like a prison of reinforced walls that scrape the sky and music like this is a sledgehammer.
Fantastic list, however… I would gladly trade you Damaged People for Blue Dress any day of the week. Such a brilliant, beautiful, arresting Gore-sung track.
Yeah damaged people for world full of nothing
His voice is special in my opinion, he is carismatic in a other way than Dave
he is obviously a more skilled singer than dave who tends to drop into monotony a lot. but people’s ears being used to something is a powerful drug.