Depeche Mode: Barrel Of A Gun / Where’s The Revolution


On February 3, 1997, Depeche Mode released “Barrel Of A Gun,” the lead single from their upcoming album, Ultra. Twenty years later on February 3, 2017, Depeche Mode released “Where’s The Revolution,” the lead single from their upcoming album, Spirit. Both sound different from what the band had released previously – “Barrel Of A Gun” had a much harder edge than anything they’d released prior, ramping up the grunge influence rampant on their Songs Of Faith And Devotion album. “Where’s The Revolution” is different in another way, its subject matter taking a political tone seldom found in Depeche Mode’s lyrics.

I was a Depeche Mode fanatic well before 1997’s “Barrel Of A Gun” was released;  a decade earlier, I’d received 1986’s Black Celebration as a gift (in cassette form!) and had been enamored with the band since. When I first listened to “Barrel Of A Gun,” I wasn’t overly impressed. I didn’t care for the harder edges and it clearly wasn’t a dance track like so many of my favorites. Over time and with much repetition, I was able to recognize its value and worth within the canon.

Hearing “Where’s The Revolution” for the first time, I’ve had an extra twenty years to realize that I’m always going to love what they put out, but it might take time to get there. Musically, it’s not unlike their previous releases, Sounds Of The Universe and Delta Machine, but the call to revolution is definitely novel within their catalog. These guys aren’t known as protest singers. While the song feels almost topical given current events, it also has an immediate timelessness to it – at what point in our lifetimes has the world not felt ripe for revolt?

“Where’s The Revolution” is very now. Obviously, it was written by Brits well before the most recent US election, so I’m assuming it wasn’t written specifically with our current Commander In Chief in mind, but listening to it within the first two weeks of the new administration, it’s hard to imagine a song feeling more timely or pointed.

You’ve been kept down
You’ve been pushed ’round
You’ve been lied to
You’ve been fed truths
Who’s making your decisions
You or your religion
Your government, your countries
You patriotic junkies

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

Meanwhile, despite being written and released twenty years ago, “Barrel Of A Gun,” in hindsight, seems like it could be talking about the same person from the opening lyric:

Do you mean this horny creep
Set upon weary feet
Who looks in need of sleep
That doesn’t come
This twisted, tortured mess
This bed of sinfulness
Who’s longing for some rest
And feeling numb

Clearly this is just me projecting current circumstance on preexisting artwork, but it is said that art is for the audience to make of it what they will. The new single is music for the complacent masses, taking us (and the singer himself, presumably) to task for not being the change that we want to see in the world. The old single is an indictment against… it’s difficult to say definitively. It could be against those who would take us to task. It could be an indictment on those who perpetuate the evils of the world. It could even be an indictment on the world as a whole with the narrator of the song as the world’s antagonist.

Depeche Mode are in their fourth decade of making music and releasing new albums. Their musical styles change over time, as does the subject matter of their songs. But as someone who has listened to their music incessantly over the past thirty years, I can assert that there are common themes throughout all of their albums. Loss, death, hope, love – broad themes, to be sure, but Martin Gore has always had his unique take on them.

The last third of “Where’s The Revolution” goes into a bridge that is almost a chant:

The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
So get on board
Get on board
Get on board
Get on board

It’s unclear if this is meant to be further perpetuation of the type of groupthink that has gotten us where we are now – the instruction to “Get on board,” being synonymous in that case with “Fall in line” –  or if it’s the Revolution Train, coming to bring the changes that we need. I have a feeling it’s the latter since this song is ultimately one of hope, one that would be an arbiter of change if given the chance.

I remember when the internet first became widespread and all of a sudden everyone could talk to everyone. The more idealistic and hopeful among us thought that there was a possibility that this would change the world, that it might make clear how much more we all have in common with one another as opposed to how much we differ. It seems to be happening much more slowly than I’d hoped, but it does seem to be taking place bit by bit – maybe in a few generations our minds will catch up to our hearts. And on that topic of hope, I hope I’m right that there is a revolution underway, at least of minds and values. Because without that, right now it feels like we’re all the ones staring down the barrel of a gun.

One thought on “Depeche Mode: Barrel Of A Gun / Where’s The Revolution

  1. Pingback: Depeche Mode: Ultra | Hello, My Treacherous Friends

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