Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 6. Depeche Mode ‘Spirit’

“Not an album to listen to if you are remotely worried about the state of the world right now… The kind of album that is necessary for shining a light on our basest traits and for encouraging us to think differently all over again; in that sense, for the first time in a long time, Depeche Mode have judged this just right.”
– Clash

Honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to get excited about Depeche Mode‘s Spirit album. Partly it was because it was billed as being political, and I’m not an outwardly political person and nor do I especially gravitate toward albums with obvious political content. I was asked by Clash to write a piece explaining that Depeche Mode had always been political on some level, which seemed like utter nonsense until I started writing it. That piece can be found here; I won’t rehash it again but it’s a piece of mature analysis that I am particularly proud of.

‘Where’s The Revolution?’ did nothing for me when it was released, and I didn’t hold out much hope for the album. Being political had become trendy, with bands using music as a platform to make a political point, and I couldn’t get on board with it at all. But spending time with the album to write a review, also for Clash, unlocked something that I hadn’t especially expected to find.

My earliest drafts for the review were uniformly negative. I couldn’t reconcile lyrics about impoverished members of society with a band whose members variously live in Manhattan apartments and Californian mansions; it somehow seemed hypocritical on a very obvious level. But as I spent time time with Spirit I began to hear parallels with a very different album – Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – and a certain similarity of poise began to emerge, especially in Martin Gore‘s lyrics for ‘Fail’ at the very end of the album.

Spirit did much to allow me to reconcile issues that I didn’t even know I harboured toward Depeche Mode, a band that have been part of my life since my teens. Consequently, I’m convinced that when, in decades to come, writers like me are asked to assess Depeche Mode’s legacy, Spirit will stand out as the band’s surprising yet defining late period statement.

Listen to Spirithere.

My review for Clash can be found here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 9. RAC ‘Ego’

“Pop music really shouldn’t be this clever.”
Clash

There will be more on this topic later on in this countdown of my favourite albums of 2017, but these past few years have found me migrating back toward pop music, while at the same time maintaining a continual push toward music’s outer edges.

I reviewed producer and songwriter André Allen Anjos’s second album as RAC for Clash and found myself listening to it over, and over, and over for a decent chunk of the summer. In a world where countless producers co-opt guest vocalists to provide the vocals for songs they can’t sing themselves, Anjos stands out not through his black book – Rivers Cuomo from Weezer, Rostam from Vampire Weekend, St. Lucia – but his approach to a brand of smart pop that has a mature, enduring sensitivity as well as some very fine melodic credentials.

Listen to Ego here.

My full Clash review can be found here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Jono Podmore – Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory And Practice Of A Master Drummer (book, 2017)

Jaki Liebezeit, photo courtesy of Jono Podmore

Metamono‘s Jono Podmore (aka Kumo) has arguably done more than anyone else in recent years to keep the legacy of Can alive, whether in groups like Cyclopean with Can members Jaki Liebezeit and Irmin Schmidt, or remastering the Can back catalogue and sundry unreleased cuts with Holger Czukay and long-standing Can supporter Daniel Miller.

To those initiatives can be added a new book that Podmore has assembled with US music journalist John Payne, Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory & Practice Of A Master Drummer, which seeks to document the unique approach practiced by Can’s late drummer, who passed away in January of this year. The book is currently subject to a crowdfunding campaign via Unbound which can be found here.

I wrote a news piece for Clash which explains more about the book and which can be found here.

In the process of putting my news piece together I asked Podmore for his recollections of working with Liebezeit, and that insight can be found in the Clash piece. “While we were having dinner one night, I was putting on some music,” Podmore also recalled. “At one point I put on some Charles Mingus. Without looking up, Jaki said, with a mixture of confusion and disgust, ‘Jazz? Been there. Done that.’ With that in mind I asked him if there were any other drummers that interested him. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘808 and 909.'”

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

RAC – Ego (Counter Records, 2017)

“Pop music really shouldn’t be this clever.” — Clash review, July 2017

André Allen Anjos, aka RAC, is set to release his second album of smart pop songs with a revolving cast of singers later this week via Ninja Tune’s Counter subsidiary.

I reviewed the album for Clash. You can read my review here. Suffice to say that I don’t think I’ve heard a pop album by a modern act this good for a long, long time.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Toro y Moi – Boo Boo (Carpark Records album, 2017)

Boo Boo feels like what we might call a coming-of-age album, the theme of which is that, despite all our best endeavours, life isn’t always perfect.

I reviewed the very fine new Toro y Moi for Clash. My review can be found here

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Can – The Singles (Spoon / Mute compilation, 2017)

can_thesingles

Last week Spoon / Mute released The Singles, a collection of all of Can‘s singles and selected B-sides, which serves as a great entry point into the musical genius of this band.

I reviewed the compilation for Clash – read my thoughts here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (R&S / Apollo, 1992)

I wrote a Spotlight feature for Clash about Aphex Twin’s seminal Selected Ambient Works 85-92, a release which still mystifies me to this day, some 24 years after I first encountered it.
Around this time I was to be found mostly to be listening to a bit of dance music, Erasure, Depeche Mode, New Order and Pop Will Eat Itself. Clint Mansell from PWEI retweeted Clash‘s link to this at the weekend, which is a curiously circular honour for me.

My piece for Clash can be found here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash