Playing the Angel

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Playing the Angel
Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel.png
Studio album by
Released13 October 2005 (2005-10-13)
RecordedJanuary–July 2005
Studio
GenreSynth-pop
Length52:16
LabelMute
ProducerBen Hillier
Depeche Mode chronology
Exciter
(2001)
Playing the Angel
(2005)
Sounds of the Universe
(2009)
Singles from Playing the Angel
  1. "Precious"
    Released: 3 October 2005
  2. "A Pain That I'm Used To"
    Released: 9 December 2005
  3. "Suffer Well"
    Released: 20 March 2006
  4. "John the Revelator" / "Lilian"
    Released: 4 June 2006

Playing the Angel is the eleventh studio album by English electronic music band Depeche Mode. It was first released on 13 October 2005 through Mute Records internationally, and through Sire Records and Reprise Records in the United States. It was supported by the Touring the Angel tour and the four singles "Precious", "A Pain That I'm Used To", "Suffer Well", and "John the Revelator" / "Lilian". The album reached number one in over 10 countries and entered the top 10 in the United Kingdom and United States.

Background and Composition[edit]

Playing the Angel is the first Depeche Mode album to feature lead singer Dave Gahan as co-writer.[1] He wrote the lyrics to "Suffer Well", "I Want It All" and "Nothing's Impossible", while Christian Eigner and Andrew Phillpott wrote the music. Gahan is the lead singer on all songs except for the instrumental "Introspectre", and Martin Gore-sung tracks "Macro" and "Damaged People". Gahan also sings backing vocals on "Macro", which was the first time he had sung backing vocals on a song sung by Gore. Tracks recorded during the Playing the Angel sessions that did not make the album include "Martyr", which was originally planned to be the lead single but was eventually deemed too poppy for the album and saved for The Best of Depeche Mode Volume 1. Other songs include "Free", which ended up on the "Precious" single and the Japanese version of Playing the Angel.

Lyrically, some of the themes that appears quite often is faith, sin, pain, and suffering. Gore said that the track "John The Revelator" talks about faith but claims that "It also denounces the belief in a god who punishes and damns". [2] Gahan explained that the origin of the track "Suffer Well" has to do with when a friend of his told him to "suffer well" (likely during his time as a substance abuser in the 1990s) and the line stuck with Gahan. [3] Another subject that Gore wrote about was his divorce from his wife. The track "Precious" was written about how Gore's children were coping with their parent's divorce. Gore stated that "The song ends with the verse 'I know you've learned to trust / keep faith in both of us'. All of our songs, even the most depressive ones, contain hope". [4] The title Playing the Angel is taken from a lyric in the closing song "The Darkest Star". It is the third Depeche Mode album to take its name from a lyric in one of its songs, the other two being Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward. The track "Macro" was found to have the band's most sophisticated lyrics.

Musically, the album has a much more raw and gritty sound than its predecessor. Gillian Telling of Rolling Stone described the album's sound as featuring "the band's classic blend of synth-pop beats, heavy guitar riffs and dark lyrics".[5] The album has been called a more organic record for using more analogue synths than digital ones. In addition, most of the soundscapes presented are harsher and groovier than the more mellow Exciter. Producer Ben Hillier said that the verses on opening track "A Pain That I'm Used To" were extremely difficult to get right and Gore believed that the intro was also extremely difficult. According to Hillier, the choruses came together very well. [6][7] Gore also told Keyboard Magazine that he had been listening to a lot of gospel music and that it directly inspired the track "John The Revelator" though the track strays far from it's inspiration. Hillier also recalled that the tracks "Suffer Well" and "The Sinner In Me" were massively changed from their original demos. [8] "Nothing's Impossible" was also massively changed from it's demo and was transformed into one of the heaviest and more distorted songs on the album. The demo version of "Nothing's Impossible" appears on the deluxe edition of Sounds of The Universe.

Release[edit]

In mid-July 2005, the unfinished video for "Precious" was leaked online. It is believed to have been leaked through the website of the production team that helped make the video.

The album was released as a Copy Controlled CD and a deluxe SACD/DVD version (CD/DVD version in the United States) which includes the album on hybrid multi-channel SACD as the main disc and a bonus DVD featuring an exclusive studio performance of "Clean" (from Violator), the video for "Precious", a photo gallery and a 5.1 mix of the album. There is also a documentary on the making of the album. All ten of the earlier Depeche Mode albums were re-released in similar format to Playing the Angel, a CD/SACD hybrid (in the US simply a remastered CD) with a DVD featuring a 5.1 mix of each album and a documentary, though Playing the Angel's documentary is far less extensive and also shorter than the classic ones. The album was also released on vinyl as double LP housed in gatefold sleeve.

The iTunes deluxe edition of the album has several bonuses, including another "bare" version of a Violator track, "Waiting for the Night", and the music video for "Precious". People who placed the album on pre-order were eligible to participate in a ticket pre-sale for most Touring the Angel concerts, the first time such an offer was made by iTunes and Ticketmaster.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic78/100[9]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[10]
Entertainment WeeklyB[11]
The Guardian3/5 stars[12]
The Independent4/5 stars[13]
Mojo4/5 stars[14]
NME5/10[15]
Pitchfork7.0/10[16]
Q4/5 stars[17]
Rolling Stone2.5/5 stars[18]
The Times4/5 stars[19]

Critical[edit]

Playing the Angel received positive reviews. E! Online and Entertainment Weekly gave the album high scores. Pitchfork gave the album a positive review, but criticized its lack of innovation. However, there are some negative reviews; Rolling Stone magazine rated the album two-and-a-half stars out of five, lower than the score received by Exciter.

The album was ranked number 20 on E! Online's Top 20 Albums of 2005 list and number 68 on WOXY's Top 97 Albums of 2005.

The Red Book version of the album is considered by numerous fans to be poorly mastered,[20][21] relying on heavy compression to intentionally and artificially boost the output, especially when compared with the vinyl version that was mastered differently.[citation needed]

Commercial[edit]

Playing the Angel debuted at number six on the UK Albums Chart, selling 32,505 copies in its first week.[22] In the United States, the album debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 98,000 copies.[23] Both peak chart positions are improvements on the band's previous album, Exciter, which charted at number nine and eight, respectively, although Exciter attained larger US first-week sales of 115,000 units.[23] Playing the Angel had sold 418,000 copies in the US as of November 2007.[24] By January 2007, the album had sold 1.6 million copies worldwide (excluding the US and Canada), according to EMI.[25]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Martin L. Gore, except where noted.

Standard edition
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."A Pain That I'm Used To" 4:11
2."John the Revelator" 3:42
3."Suffer Well"3:49
4."The Sinner in Me" 4:56
5."Precious" 4:10
6."Macro" 4:03
7."I Want It All"
  • Gahan
  • Eigner
  • Phillpott
6:09
8."Nothing's Impossible"
  • Gahan
  • Eigner
  • Phillpott
4:21
9."Introspectre" 1:42
10."Damaged People" 3:29
11."Lilian" 4:49
12."The Darkest Star" 6:55
Total length:52:16
Limited edition bonus DVD
No.TitleLength
1."Playing the Angel (In 5.1 and Stereo)"52:40
2."Making the Angel" (short film)8:25
3."Precious" (music video)4:04
4."Clean" (Bare)3:45
Total length:121:10
  • The bonus DVD also includes a photo gallery. The UMD release of the album contains the same material as the bonus DVD excluding the "5.1 and Stereo" mix of the album.
iTunes pre-order bonus track
No.TitleLength
13."Waiting for the Night" (Bare)4:19
Total length:56:35
Japanese edition bonus track
No.TitleLength
13."Free"5:13
Total length:57:24

Personnel[edit]

Credits for adapted from the liner notes of Playing the Angel.[26]

Depeche Mode[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Dave McCracken – programming (all tracks); piano (track 12; miscredited to track 7 in the booklet)
  • Richard Morris – programming
  • Christian Eigner – original programming (tracks 3, 7, 8)
  • Andrew Phillpott – original programming (tracks 3, 7, 8)

Technical[edit]

  • Ben Hillier – production, mixing, engineering
  • Steve Fitzmaurice – mixing
  • Richard Morris – engineering
  • Nick Sevilla – recording assistance
  • Arjun Agerwala – recording assistance
  • Rudyard Lee Cullers – recording assistance
  • Devin Workman – recording assistance, mixing assistance
  • Kt Rangnick – recording assistance, mixing assistance
  • Emily Lazar – mastering
  • Sarah Register – mastering assistance

Artwork[edit]

  • Anton Corbijn – art direction, photography, cover design
  • Four5one.com – design

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[71] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[72] Gold 50,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[73] Gold 20,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[74] Gold 16,777[74]
France (SNEP)[75] Platinum 200,000*
Germany (BVMI)[76] 2× Platinum 400,000^
Hungary (MAHASZ)[77] Platinum  
Italy
sales in 2005
168,000[78]
Mexico (AMPROFON)[43] Gold 50,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[79] Platinum 20,000*
Portugal (AFP)[80] Gold 10,000^
Russia (NFPF)[81] 3× Platinum 60,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[82] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[83] Gold 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[84] Gold 100,000^
United States 418,000[24]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[85] Platinum 1,000,000*
Worldwide 1,600,000[25]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]