Monday, September 09, 2013

Consequential Lyrics #3: Depeche Mode

There are a great many Depeche Mode songs that I love, but I have always been impressed with the lyrics of Shake the Disease. The chorus is ironic and beautiful and brilliant because it perfectly articulates how difficult it is to articulate: you know how hard it is for me to shake the disease that takes hold of my tongue in situations like these? I really love that about the words of Martin Gore. Not only does he express intensely private sentiments, he acknowledges how difficult it is to do so. He knows it's hard to make sense of the head and the heart. He's well-acquainted with the terror that comes with vulnerability.

It's only since I've been asking friends to contribute to the fan episode of Consequential Lyrics that I've realised how difficult it is for some people to express their feelings. Perhaps it's a ridiculous point to make, but it's one that has struck me in the process of carrying out this project. I thought it would be easy to reel something off, after all, we're so naturally inclined to identify with pop lyricism. As friends, we constantly have conversations where we discuss the meanings behind the lyrics that sting us. Yet there seems to be this curious emotional reaction to the task of committing such meanings to record and it's not a reaction I entirely understand, but then again, this is something I do for fun.

It was only tonight when I was talking to one friend about the prospect of keeping a diary. She said: "I don't write because I fear what might come out." It was a beautiful moment of insight and one that really made me think about the nature of lyricism and personal identification. I loved Depeche Mode songs like Somebody and Shake the Disease because they managed to express what was to me, the inexpressible. Perhaps you could say that I saved myself the effort and the emotional discomfort of having to express what I really felt. Then again, I would argue that I merely enhanced my understanding of the situation by relating to these lyrics.

"Words are very unnecessary": Violator Art Prints

I won't deny the fact that my fascination with Depeche Mode at the age of 15 had much to do with that startling thematic coincidence that many of these songs were about an older man crushing on a 15-year-old girl. These lyrics included aspirational details like night-time drives and antagonistic flirtation. It was important that they came to be associated with their own sexy breed of Dark Romance™. Yet what was interesting about the re-investigation of these songs was that I realised that Depeche Mode was not just about darkness or romance (or drugs or S&M, for that matter). I see now that Martin Gore wrote most passionately about that desire to express and to connect.

I find it amusing that it should come back to that idea of expression, but I suppose I should have known all along. My favourite Depeche Mode lyric is contained in the song, Here is the House: With or without words, I'll confide everything... It's only seven words but it's an intensely gratifying sentiment, suggesting that regardless of your capacity or your willingness to express "the truth", what you actually mean will be apparent. That is a comfort to both the shy and the gregarious, for while I'm not particularly scared of saying something, I'm scared of not saying something correctly. I want to honour my feelings as accurately as possible and perhaps that why I align myself with Martin Gore as I do. It's one thing to articulate it, it's another thing to articulate it correctly.

Consequential Lyrics #3: Depeche Mode
See You
Here is the House
Shake the Disease
But Not Tonight
Never Let Me Down Again
Walking in my Shoes
Blasphemous Rumours

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