It’s No Good: the meaning of love according to Depeche Mode

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Martin Gore’s lyrics are often delicate and romantic, and it is no coincidence that one of the minor tracks of the late phase of Depeche Mode ended up in the list of the most romantic songs selected by us. Yet, by scrolling through the poetics within the Depeche discography, love is often painted in a less idealized manner, more adherent to materialistic vision, and frequently seen as something inevitable.

I’m going to take my time
I have all the time in the world
To make you mine

The inevitability of love. Imagine if you have the certainty that the object of your desires is destined to fall in love with you. Imagine the feeling of power that this certainty would give you, and how that would change your point of view. It would be like staying at the mouth of the river, waiting quietly for the arrival of your destiny. Whatever happens. It’s something very similar to omnipotence.

In the imagery of Depeche Mode, therefore, especially in cases like these, love is just a sign of inevitability, and the verses become a way of addressing the beloved, almost explaining what will happen. There had been other similar lyrics in the past, starting with A Question of Time. It’s like if you want to illustrate what she still doesn’t understand, as if the speaker is the teacher and who listens is a young pupil who still lacks experience.

I’ll be waiting patiently
Till you see the signs
And come running to my open arms
When will you realize
Do we have to wait ’till our worlds collide

Cut. Try now to identify yourself with the destination of these words and evaluate her instinctive reaction: refusal, sharp refusal. You would never agree to see your life as already addressed in a track that is fully marked, unable to exercise free will. If the master is omnipotent, the listener here is the image of impotence and the message of the song is somehow even aggressive. The refrain is simply the way Depeche Mode calms down the other, placing a mighty hand on her, closing every protest in the very beginning.

Don’t say you want me
Don’t say you need me
Don’t say you love me
It’s understood
Don’t say you’re happy
Out there without me
I know you can’t be
‘Cause it’s no good

In the video, aesthetically conceived by Anton Corbijn (who over the years will define the visual imagery linked to Depeche Mode better than anyone else), the band is represented as a second category group, who performs in poor locations, surrounded by easy women who flee away as soon as they realize there’s no more money. A paradoxical self-mockery, for a band that has always played a lot on elegance and visual fascination. 1997 was the year of Ultra, the return after the physical collapse of Dave Gahan, who almost died in the hospital for an overdose.

In It’s No Good video, Depeche Mode are not the true Depeche Mode. But they can well represent the image beyond a mirror that you do not want to cross.

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