Depeche Mode Continues To Push Boundaries With “Ghosts Again”
The first single of the band’s upcoming album Memento Mori is a wonderful tribute to Andrew Fletcher’s legacy.
After the death of keyboardist Andrew Fletcher, David Gahan and Martin Gore had the challenge of making an album that sufficiently memorialised his legacy. “Ghosts Again” is the first single of the upcoming record Memento Mori, the second album that Depeche Mode has created with producer James Ford, following on from the 2017 release of Spirits.
After listening to the track for the first time, it is easy to see how “Ghosts Again” continues from its predecessor. While the melody is considerably less dark than Spirits’ lead single “Where’s the Revolution” – a slow, bluesy number with heavy synths – the production has a similarly gritty feel with fat basslines and tight drums that keep the track driving forwards. Furthermore, “Ghosts Again” proves to be a really special track in how it succeeds at summing up emotions.
In creating a tribute to Andrew Fletcher, the remaining band members had two challenges to overcome: The first one was finding the sweet spot between expressing what was needed and creating something restrained enough to have a broad appeal. The second one was how to convey the multitude of feelings that both band and fans had after Fletcher’s death. “Ghosts Again” makes the bold choice to move away from the dark, sombre, or emotional melodies that you might expect from a track dealing with this subject matter. Instead, the contrast between its topic and the melody helps it catalyse emotional release and instead becomes a philosophical yet ultimately accepting piece on life’s impermanence – and the importance of seizing its good times.
Beginning with a throbbing bassline, a gently rising chord progression gives way to a lilting vocal melody. None of it is particularly sorrowful, instead, its uplifting nature leads to a way of embracing mortality cheerfully. This works so well because of the way it allows Gore and Gahan to openly express these musings without restraint. Likewise, the video, which shows them cloaked in dark outfits playing chess against an urban backdrop, is a touching symbolisation of life’s byzantine twists and turns.
Lyrically, “Ghosts Again” doesn’t pretend to be about anything other than Fletcher – honest, and heartfelt, in the manner which helped Depeche Mode originally rise to fame. Many years on, they continue to hit the right places by expressing what listeners can’t in a simple yet poignant way. Despite the fact that he cites the years of the pandemic as some of his toughest, “Ghosts Again” is proof that Gore’s songwriting is as vibrant as ever.
Was there a ghost of Fletcher in the studio? The new track succeeds in its simplicity, breaking down big, existential feelings into little vignettes that make the listener able to fully explore and comprehend them – and Depeche Mode’s skill at this owes more than a little to Fletcher. Gahan and Gore state they considered heavily what he would have thought of the songs off Memento Mori. In an interview about the new album, Gahan recalled how Fletcher would have told him not to “over-fucking-complicate it”, signaling his place as one of the most steadfast members of the band. His advice has definitely paid off, giving the track the rare ability to sum up big topics with choice minimalism.
The track’s finest lyrical couplet comes at the end of the chorus – how “lovers, in the end, whisper we’ll be ghosts again“. Here, Gahan’s ability to hook the listener with romance and soul-soothing alongside his darker subject matter reaches a zenith. It’s a fitting track to kick off an album that is particularly focused on mortality. Yet by avoiding extremes, it hits harder, relatable both individually and through universal images.
So, what does “Ghosts Again” suggest for the upcoming album? Memento Mori is released on March 24, titled due to Gore’s realisation of just how many tracks about death the band had included. Yet “Ghosts Again” shows the way this preoccupation comes from somewhere very different than the gothic aesthetic of Depeche Mode’s earlier work. No longer are the band members touching on these topics as abstracts. ‘Ghosts Again’ is a mourning process for Fletcher through rousing melodies and a sunlit yet gloomy video. Yet like before, the characteristic sweetness and succinctness of Gore and Gahan’s writing continues to remind us just what the band brought to the world in the first place.
Featured Image by Anton Corbijn