Depeche Mode: Songs of Faith and DevotionOriginally released in 1993, Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith and Devotion was unveiled to a stunned U.S. and U.K. audience. The band had undergone a transformation of truly gothic preportions. Gone were the short crew cuts, the sole use of synthesizers, and the Gap image. In its place were long and flowing Jesus-like hair, distorted guitars and full drum sections, and a look that some described as the heroine junky mode. Much to the surprise of die-hard fans, the album was a commercial success, spawning a full length live album, 5 top twenty Billboard hits, and a relentless 18 month tour which ended abruptly when keyboardist Alan Wilder quit the band after 16 years.
The content of Songs of Faith and Devotion came out of an era of confusion and redemption for the band, and namely from lead singer Dave Gahan’s fight with heroine and cocaine addiction. After spending 3 years in seclusion after the release of Violater in 1989, the band reuinited in early 1992 to begin recording a new album.
The tone of the album would be so overtly religious that some fans were initially turned off by the constant references to God, holiness, redemption, suffering, and the like. The most glaring example of Depeche Mode’s new-found religion is the song Walking in My Shoes. The song was written by Martin Gore in response to the public outrage regarding Dave Gahan’s new bad boy image, with his constant public misbehaviour, his new adoration for religious tattoos, and his striking new resemblance to Jesus. The lyrics tell a tale of a man who’s life has been turned upside down by trials and tribulations. Like Job before him, many of the problems that Dave Gahan had encountered were beyond his control. The creative tension between Martin Gore and Alan Wilder, the constant touring and public appearances, the death of his mother and father, and a long legal battle with Sire records had taken their toll on Dave’s psyche. Martin Gore was always the first to confront Dave, but in this case it was through music that he would best serve the purpose of bringing Dave back from the brink of despair.
The first verse of the song introduces us to the characters point of view, with an emphasis on things that are done to him, rather than what he has done to himselfI would tell you about the things they put me throughThe pain I’ve been subjected toBut the Lord himself would blushThe countless feasts laid at my feetForbidden fruits for me to eatBut I think your pulse would start to rushThe first three lines give the impression that his suffering is not because of God, but in spite of it. The second line has a connection with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam indeed had a feast laid at his feet, and the final line seems to imply that the character has more to tell us, but is afraid that we would not be able to understand, or possibly to believe, what he has to offer us. The second verse gives the impression that the character has been made a scapegoat, and is being made an example ofMorality would frown uponDecency look down uponThis scapegoat fates made of meBut I promise now, my judge and jurorsMy intentions couldn’t have been purerMy case is easy to see.
The first three lines talk of morality and decency, and this is important not only to identify the character as a good person, but also as one who is suffering through no fault of his own. The last three lines talk of intentions, which seems to relate quite literally to the relationship between Job and God. In the Bible, Job suffered so that God might make a point to Satan, and therefore his intentions could be seen as good.
While it should be noted that at no time does this character ever profess any type of religious preference, the choice of words leads one to believe that his experiences are of a holy nature. The constant religious references throughout the album give it a very dark and somber mood, but also leaves the work open to interpretation. Some would say that the album is that of doom and gloom, others would say it is probably one of the most uplifting pieces of music ever written. As with the bible, or any religious work, the frame of mind of the reader is key to the interpretation of its message. Religion
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