Perhaps more than any of their contemporaries from the realm of synth pop, Depeche Mode understand the importance of the music video, not so much as a marketing tool—that’s obvious—but as a natural extension of their musical narratives. Depeche Mode songs are often rich in imagery and, even without visual accompaniment, strikingly evocative. Even so, try thinking of “Personal Jesus” without also thinking of the grainy stock, the Mojave vistas, or Gahan in a tasselled leather. While their close relationship with storied photographer turned video director and filmmaker Anton Corbijn helped create a distinct aesthetic, recent videos have seen them experimenting with the form, placing them as stars within their own short films. Here are our ten picks, in no particular order. And no, despite Martin Gore looking mighty fine in a wedding dress, “Suffer Well” did not make the cut. Sorry.
Directed by acclaimed video director Patrick Daughters (he also did the similarly unsettling video for Grizzly Bear‘s “Two Weeks”), Grammy award-nominated video is perhaps their most unsettling video to date. The hapless hostage is Liars‘ Julian Gross, trivia fans.
Hole to Feed
A controversial inclusion, the “Hole To Feed” video was poorly received by Depeche Mode fans when it was released in 2008. Directed by writer and comedian Eric Wareheim, it features a line-up of disinterested scenester casualties and some particularly heavy petting instead of the actual band. While refreshing for some, it was a case of artistic license taken too far, according to others.
Enjoy the Silence
Favoring rich, saturated colors as opposed to the stark black and white the director is known for, Anton Corbijn’s “Enjoy the Silence” video is one of the band’s most famous. Juxtaposed with the sublime Swiss landscapes are a number of classic band shots, showing Gahan et al in leather biker jackets. Icon status granted.
Another Anton Corbijn classic, this time from 1989. The scorched vistas and ranch setting was the perfect visual match for a song that couches sex as religion and features slide guitar.
It’s No Good
“It’s No Good” returned to the grizzled Americana that became their go-to aesthetic for their dustbowl stadium stage in their career. For the video the band recruited Corbijn once more, this time to reimagine the band as a down on their luck Vegas act on the toilet circuit.
People Are People
This early single was accompanied by a video directed by their early collaborator Clive Richardson. Vaguely political, it splices footage of the band larking about on HMS Belfast with wartime documentary footage. Brits of a certain age are more likely to have an entirely different visual memory of the song however, it was used as a theme for kids’ show It’ll Never Work.
Music video director Uwe Flade is the master of capturing the immediacy of a band on stage, performing into the camera, in unusual settings (see his green-filtered video for Franz Ferdinand‘s “Michael”). The CGI may look a little heavy-handed, but there’s something curiously mesmerizing in the earnestness of the direction.
Just Can’t Get Enough
Taken from their debut Speak & Spell and again directed by Clive Richardson, this video also features Vince Clark before he left to form Yazoo. It’s remarkable that even through the thick, over-perfumed fug of early ’80s new romanticism, the video hints at a nascent DM aesthetic that they would come to refine and own: leather, aviators, a kind of unforced masculinity—the band are surrounded a bevvy of hairsprayed girls and guys in leather caps and harnesses.
Policy of Truth
See? Aviators, leather and a bunch of furtive kissing in doorways. Another Corbijn-directed video, if you hadn’t guessed from the stylistic clues.
Phallic symbolism! Latex elbow-length gloves! Underwear models! Anton Corbijn took the S&M imagery implicit within the song’s lyrics (sample: “Pain, will you return it?”) and ran with it in this Super-8 shot romp around Paris.
So… What are yours?
Published February 24, 2013.