It makes no sense that Spirit should be so enjoyable.
It is an album which begins by saying “we have not evolved, we have no respect, we have lost control”, over mordant piano chords; which features a man whose voice would make the Beatitudes sound ominous; which closes with a song that (sung by the lighter of the two vocalists) asks “people how are we coping?/It’s futile to even start hoping” before stating baldly, “we’ve failed”.
Abandon hope all ye who enter? Well, yes, maybe. Martin Gore, he of the lighter voice, the principal songwriter who is responsible for the grimmest lyrical material, is part Cassandra and part we’ll-all-be-rooned Hanrahan.
To be fair, he’s got a point, but even ol’ Cassie did think something could be done if done quickly by Priam and sons; Marty G is not even offering that.
While Dave Gahan, he of the mordant tones and co-writer of four tracks, looks for love in even the darkest places – in the throb-and-tinkle You Move, co-written with Gore, he finds solace, post-love, in the sensual; in Cover Me, without Gore, he accepts “we could fade away” but declares “I’m not going now, not today” - his grabs of hope are no match for the weight of Gore’s across the record.
But there’s both a liberation in that - if it’s all going to hell in a handbasket acceptance is a relief – and some energy: let’s go boldly into the abyss, fuelled by musical dark matter.
And it is in giving in to the energy rather than the hole that you will enjoy Spirit, an album of synthesised pop and industrial electronica.
This is especially true if you get the deluxe version with extra tracks such as the Frenetic mix of Scum, where the neo-jungle rhythms cast back to early Tricky with a kind of narrow-eyed scepticism, or the Machine Mix of So Much Love, which is trance rendered as eyes closed abandonment.
But even in the standard 12-track version of Spirit, where dancing is not often assayed, strange joy is found.
There’s moments of wide-open-road freedom, such as the second half of Cover Me which hums like a high-performance vehicle with throttle easing out, and the big electronic pulse of So Much Love.
There’s the burbling synths of Poorman posed against Gahan’s disdain-dripping voice, the song an anti-empty capitalism tract created as if someone wondered what it might be like to have Vince Neil-era Depeche Mode stirred in with a band inspired by Gore-era Depeche Mode, such as Nine Inch Nails.
And the grandness of Where’s The Revolution (guitar and synths surging in the chorus) is as effective as the intimacy of The Worst Crime (a cracked heart, an even more cracked system).
Meanwhile, look over here, Gore’s essentially solo Eternal, is tender among the despair of dystopia: “I will protect you and surround you with my love,” he sings, like the father in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. That’s positive, isn’t it?
Hey, if Spirit is the soundtrack to an approaching apocalypse at least we’re going down in good company. And misery after all does love company.