Depeche Mode felt like they had the world in their hands in 1981. Following their spectacular arrival onto the scene with the incredible debut Speak & Spell, a record which contained the timeless ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, the band’s meteoric rise showed no signs of slowing down. However, one music critic who goes by the name of Stephen Morrissey was scathing, to say the least, and it’s safe to assume that the future Smiths leader was less than impressed with what he saw.
Morrissey had been writing about music for a number of years at this point, having had salacious digs at both the Sex Pistols and Ramones when they both performed in Manchester. Now, however, it was time for Depeche Mode to feel Moz’s soon to be famous wrath.
The show in question took place at Rafter’s in Manchester on August 5th, 1981, a date which was just a month prior to the release of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ and the hype around Depeche Mode was tangible, a factor which undoubtedly angered Morrissey who couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
He opens up his rant with a bizarre dig at Depeche Mode being “dull” which, in truth, would be one of the last words that come to mind when thinking about the pioneering group. “Depeche Mode may not be the most remarkably boring group ever to walk the face of the earth, but they’re certainly in the running. Their sophisticated nonsense succeeds only in emphasising just how hilariously unimaginative they really are” Morrissey vented in his review for Record Mirror.
“At once we recognise four coiffured Barry White’s (a nauseating version); ‘cain’t git enough of your lerve’ they profess too dull to be even boring.” Morrissey then viciously added, “They resurrect every murderously monotonous cliche known to modern man, and ‘New Life’ looms a nothing more than a bland jelly-baby. Still, the man from ‘Jackie’ was impressed knowing that, at least, these boys have nice hair. And the conveyor belt moves along.”
The conclusion of his review doesn’t get any more pleasant as Moz then decides to lay into their audience for appreciating the delicious sounds of Depeche Mode — which seemingly pissed him off even more than the band’s performance itself as he couldn’t fathom why everybody else was transfixed within the moment.
“Ludus, plainly wishing they were elsewhere, hammered out a passionate set to an audience possibly hand-picked for their tone-deafness. But Ludus like to wallow in other people’s depravities and therefore their music offers everything to everyone. Linder was born singing and has more imagination than Depeche Mode could ever hope for. Still, Depeche Mode get the Jackie spread. No justice!” he emphatically concluded.
If Morrissey didn’t have this vicious sceptical tongue then we would never have got the enjoy his witty lyricism with The Smiths which was utterly unique thanks to his pessimistic perspective of the world. However, more often than not his words come across as bitter like in this case where he seems jealous of the love Depeche Mode were receiving when his music was falling on deaf ears at this point.