Lost Depeche Mode Documentary Is Now Online: Watch Our Hobby is Depeche Mode

Like bud­ding ten-year-old pale­on­tol­o­gists with their dinosaur guides, music nerds who came of age in the 80s and 90s might spend whole days read­ing about obscure one-off bands and indie, punk, and alter­na­tive giants from all over the Eng­lish-speak­ing world in Ira Rob­bins’ ency­clo­pe­dic Trouser Press Record Guide ref­er­ence books. Their crit­i­cal entries were notable espe­cial­ly for what they were not: fan trib­utes.

Just the oth­er day, for exam­ple, I was brows­ing through the Trouser Press Guide to ‘90s Rock and was star­tled to read that Depeche Mode’s 101, a live album I lis­tened to repeat­ed­ly in my moody mid­dle school years, offered “per­ma­nent evi­dence of the band’s—a pitch-impaired singer cru­ci­fied on racks of keyboards—concert inad­e­qua­cy.”

This, I protest­ed, is too much.

But, I admit, that album, played at full vol­ume in head­phones, once car­ried me as an ado­les­cent through a grim three-day trek across the coun­try, in a van with my frac­tious fam­i­ly, dri­ving the entire length of Arkansas in sub-zero late Decem­ber and spend­ing New Years’ Eve in a motel room in a des­o­late nowheresville out­side Pine Bluff, AR.

My sense that there might be a roman­ti­cal­ly gloomy, weird­ly seduc­tive world beyond the frost­ed win­dows of our shab­by Ford Club Wag­on is what I will always asso­ciate with the album, its musi­cal mer­its aside. (That and a seri­ous crush on some­one who real­ly loved Depeche Mode.) I can’t remem­ber if I’ve lis­tened to it since.

It’s true Depeche Mode got a lot of mileage out of a lim­it­ed range of skills and musi­cal ideas, but that seems to be no valid crit­i­cism in pop music. The best pop songs are those peo­ple expe­ri­ence as oper­at­ic state­ments of their own emo­tion­al lives. As we see in the open­ing scenes of the Depeche Mode doc­u­men­tary above, Our Hob­by is Depeche Mode, their most fer­vent Eng­lish fans believe that they too might be Depeche Mode.

U.S., Mex­i­can, and Russ­ian fans roman­ti­ciz­ing Basil­don, Depeche Mode’s home­town, as a placid Eng­lish vil­lage say more about their own long­ings than about the band’s sound. Depeche Mode may have looked like a New Wave boy band in the 80s, but that was also the decade in which they were at their nois­i­est and most exper­i­men­tal, “seam­less­ly blend­ing con­crète sounds—factory din, clank­ing chains and so forth—into the music,” writes Trouser Press.

The sound—says one Eng­lish fan of “Depeche” from its beginnings—“came from the bricks” of Basil­don, a grit­ty place with fre­quent fight­ing in the streets. The bulk of the dense­ly crowd­ed town’s con­crete blocks, and fac­to­ries sprang up after WWII, a work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ty cre­at­ed to house the Lon­don pop­u­la­tion dis­placed by the bomb­ings. What set Depeche Mode apart from their syn­th­pop peers and inspi­ra­tions (aside from Siouxsie Sioux and Damned-inspired fetish cos­play) was the indus­tri­al noise that pop­u­lat­ed their sac­cha­rine off-key bal­lads and naughty S&M tracks.

The sound of work­ing-class streets embed­ded in their music drew fans from Moscow—where singer Dave Gahan’s birth­day has become an unof­fi­cial hol­i­day. Their music is “tech­nol­o­gy, the sounds of life, of real­i­ty,” says one Mus­covite fan above. Depeche Mode bootlegs, which spread over the Sovi­et world, get par­tial cred­it for the fall of the Berlin Wall. Fans in Tehran risk severe pun­ish­ment from the Islam­ic author­i­ties for lis­ten­ing to illic­it copies of their albums.

They became gloomi­er, more navel-gaz­ing and “dis­mal,” our Trouser Press crit­ic writes, and the quirky sounds of Basil­don seemed to fade away, replaced by the cav­ernous reverb and goth-blues gui­tar riffs of their 90s apoth­e­o­sis. Their appeal to sen­si­tive and trou­bled kids every­where remained as pow­er­ful, if not more so. Our Hob­by is Depeche Mode doc­u­ments the band’s spread around the world in ded­i­cat­ed fan com­mu­ni­ties. Made in 2007, the film mys­te­ri­ous­ly dis­ap­peared and has only just resur­faced recent­ly, as Dan­ger­ous Minds reports. “No one’s quite sure what hap­pened there.”

It will be inter­est­ing to com­pare this redis­cov­ered doc­u­ment with a new Depeche Mode movie, Spir­its in the For­est, get­ting a the­atri­cal release Novem­ber 21st. Shot by Anton Cor­bi­jn, the film, as you can see from trail­er (above), also keeps its focus on the fans, mix­ing six sto­ries, writes Rolling Stone, “shot in each of their home­towns, with footage of the con­cert” in Berlin pro­mot­ing the band’s newest album Spir­it.

They may nev­er have been the great­est live band or most accom­plished of musi­cians, but Depeche Mode has always known how to work a crowd, and how to speak to the pri­vate long­ings of every indi­vid­ual fan. What more can one ask of inter­na­tion­al pop stars? Gahan says in a state­ment about the new con­cert film, a tra­di­tion that reached its apex with the 101 doc­u­men­tary com­pan­ion to the album, “It’s amaz­ing to see the very real ways that music has impact­ed the lives of our fans.” He’s talk­ing about an evi­dent con­nec­tion that spans gen­er­a­tions and cross­es many unlike­ly cul­tur­al, lin­guis­tic, and nation­al bound­aries.

Our Hob­by is Depeche Mode will be added to our col­lec­tion of Free Doc­u­men­taries.

The film by  Jere­my Deller & Nicholas Abra­hams is host­ed on Abra­hams’ Vimeo chan­nel.

via The Qui­etus

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Depeche Mode Releas­es a Goose­bump-Induc­ing Cov­er of David Bowie’s “Heroes”

The Cure Per­formed the Entire “Dis­in­te­gra­tion” Album on the 30th Anniver­sary of Its Release: Watch The Com­plete Con­cert Online

An Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry of Goth

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Thomas Bailey says:

    Thus is all well and good, but Christ how dis­mis­sive of an excit­ing and inno­v­a­tive band who were on the van­guard of an impor­tant musi­cal move­ment. If you only lis­tened to 101 when you were 14, 15 years old, and have the audac­i­ty to refer to them as untal­ent­ed then you’re sim­ply not a fan. Why on earth were you cho­sen to write this when it’s so chock full of back­hand­ed half-com­ple­ments dis­miss­ing not only the band but their fans as well? Christ, you’re a jerk.

  • Josh Jones says:

    Nah, I’m still a fan. I still lis­ten to Music for the Mass­es (a lot), Black Cel­e­bra­tion and Vio­la­tor. Still LOVE Speak and Spell (Vince Clarke era is still my favorite). I don’t think they’re great live, and I’ve seen them a few times. I have a lot of respect for their fans. Sor­ry that did­n’t come through, but it’s okay. I can be crit­i­cal of the band, too.

  • Richard T Kemsley says:

    OK I agree there lat­er work is very dark and gloomy and intro­duc­ing the drums live I believe was a mis­take.
    Depeche mode were ground break­ing in the 80 with con­struc­tion time again the first band to use a true sam­pler..
    DPMs ear­ly work from speak and spell to Black cel­e­bra­tion and with Alan wilder was there peak I’ve seen them many times Ham­burg 84 Wem­b­ley 89 Syd­ney 95 Tokyo etc.
    Live in Ham­burg was the best con­cert I have ever been too peri­od. Dav­es voice was fan­tas­tic in the ear­ly days but has become more coarse and gruff now.
    As for musi­cal tal­ent many of mod­ern day bands are repli­cat­ing there ear­ly synth sounds today
    Pos­si­ble the best synth band to come of the UK to break the USA mar­ket big time.
    You say they are not tal­ent­ed well more tal­ent­ed then Duran Duran or New Order or the Cure or even Human league.
    ear­ly DPM and the vince Clarke and the Allan wilder peri­od was their best time now they are just to dark and to acoustic.. Real­ly from Songs of faith and devo­tion they start­ed to go to the oth­er side. As for Basil­don in the 80‘s was a total shit hole no gar­den vil­lage more like coun­cil estates and old shop hous­es. Now it’s becom­ing a trendy area.
    But con­sid­er­ing you grew up in a back water like Arkansas I’m not sur­prised you though like this back then as you had noth­ing to com­pare it too as you had pos­si­bly nev­er left Amer­i­ca back then and all you had to go by was the red­necks that lived in your state.

  • David R. says:

    This arti­cle and you are not the most inter­est­ing Or tal­ent­ed.

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