Much like GeoCities was to the internet, these early videos are similarly chaotic, incoherent and nonsensical.
Precious (2005) Directed by Uwe Flade
This song and video are just smooth; set on a virtual reality set of the Titanic. Robotic birds fly overhead as the band is on the deck, singing the gorgeousness of this song. The whole effect is smart, pretty and finally as interesting as the song. Tops.
A Pain That I’m Used To (2005) Directed by Uwe Flade
The band sings on a stage in the middle of a racetrack; the band’s obsession with cars hasn’t yet died. The cars crash into each other in time with music; there is lighting here and there. The song finishes strong and muscular, although conceptually, the video is meh.
Suffer Well (2006) Directed by Anton Corbijn
We start with a black limo, of course, and Gahan gets out, adjusts his collar and takes off his wedding ring, easily breaking in to a jewelry store. Gahan’s enormous sideburns almost allow him to be blown over before walking into a tavern, where he steals a little liquor and dances alone under a disco ball. Gore and Fletcher show up in the window of a bridal shop; Gore sings backup while in the bride outfit and Fletch is the groom. It was all a dream.
John the Revelator (2006) Directed by Blue Leach
Another live video, this one takes place in a large arena; ghostly imagery is added to spruce up the live video. The song is too loud and obnoxious to hold attention. And the music isn’t synched with the video.
(Note about the director: Leach is comparatively a new video director, working with acts like Marilyn Manson, Snow Patrol, the Prodigy and Pet Shop Boys.)
Martyr (2006) Directed by Robert Chandler
This is like a mid-season episode with a mash-up feel to it. They take from all previous videos and synch up the words in each video to match the lyrics–a clever thing to do for YouTubers, but not for a band with a budget. But we get to see all the exciting Gore hairstyles and smashing of things from past videos.
(Note about the director: Chandler produces film and video games, as well as directs and writes TV documentaries.)
Wrong (2009) Directed by Patrick Daughters
This is the best video they’ve done: set in a car (surprise!) we slowly discover a man in the car wearing a mask. The video follows the car running downhill and backwards while the person in the driver’s seat is struggling to unbind himself. All of Depeche Mode’s videos come to a culmination here: there are several cars, there is confusion, a sense of no control and crashing. Perfect DM video.
(Note about the director: Daughters is an American director who has worked with many current bands, such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Feist, Muse and the Kings of Leon. He’s also directed a concert film for The Rapture and several commercials.)
Peace (2009) Directed by Jonas & Francois
We start with military people in Jeeps, trains and shitty little ‘80s cars. The hot, sweaty video follows a short-cropped woman through the streets of a Romanian town; There is a mafia overtone to this, as the tortured girl sports a large gash on her back struggles to keep the tears back in various scenes of her life (like next to the fryer).
(Note about the directors: Jonas & Francois are a French duo who directs music videos for the likes of Madonna, Muse and, most recently, Snoop Dogg.)
Hole to Feed (2009) Directed by Eric Wareheim
Club kids stand in for the band on a small stage. There is synchronized dance, braces, inflatable baby dolls with pacifiers and octopad drums. A man with a long tongue probes the mouth and face of a woman for far too long; this is rinsed and repeated among many other straight couples to an unnerving effect. The video devolves to less and less attractive couples participating in the awkward orgy; when the music stops, everyone goes about their business as if no making out ever happened.
(Note about the director: Wareheim is a musician as well as a video director. His videos include works with MGMT, Beach House, Ben Folds and Major Lazer.)
Fragile Tension (2009) Directed by Rob Chandler & Barney Steel
This video is a pixelated flow of the band members and live show images– movement sprays pixels all about on the tangent of the movements. The pixels flow from one swirling mass to a hi-rez body to another. While not a cohesive work, it is visually stimulating at worst, and very beautiful.
(Note about the directors: We already covered Chandler; Steel is a photographer.)
Personal Jesus 2011 (2011) Directed by Andrew Faber
A woman is being drug by a mob to meet her witch-trial ending. The version of the song is much more updated as a club hit, which loses the cowboy cheesy overtones; surprisingly, it is better than the original by a hefty degree. We watch the woman be tortured by her captors, and she eventually floats out of the river on her own without their help: she stares at her mob and smiles magnanimously. Geysers of water sprout up behind her, raining down on the mob: they are burned by the now-holy water. This is superior video and version of the song.
Heaven (2013) Directed by Timothy Saccenti
The band is set up on an old cathedral; the age of the band is starting to really show on the members’ faces. The imagery in the video is now consistent with the lyrics and the concept is not far-fetched nor awkward. Great song and great video.
(Note about the director: Timothy Saccenti is a visual artist who dabbles in photography, video and virtual reality. He’s worked with other bands, such as Franz Ferdinand, Zola Jesus and Macklemore; he’s also produced commercial work for companies like Nike and Adidas.)
Soothe My Soul (2013) Directed by Warren Fu
Close-ups of electronics and body parts (eyes, belly-button, legs) pop in and out of Gahan and Gore singing the lyrics and playing instruments. The video is claustrophobic, black-and-white and overtly sexual. The only way to soothe the soul is obviously through the flesh. Great song and great video.
(Note about the director: Fu has been directing videos since 2001 and has made videos for the Killers, Daft Punk, the Strokes and CHVRCHES.)
Should be Higher (2013) Directed by Anton Corbijn
This is simply a live video, but it includes a modern LED panel imagery behind the band. The song slinks behind the rapidly aging band, but the song is incredibly strong. There was spinning, but no cars nor smashing?