Depeche Mode: Morose Rock In Large Amounts

------------------------------- Concert preview

Depeche Mode and Stabbing Westward, 8 p.m. Monday, KeyArena, Seattle; sold out. -------------------------------

A former writer at this newspaper once reported that Depeche Mode translates to "depressed mood." It doesn't (it's actually a French style magazine title meaning "fast fashion") but it fits, because the 1980s synth band's songs tend to dwell on suffering and pain, often expressed via a thumping disco beat.

The British band's downer themes spilled into real life after its last tour five years ago, when one band member suffered a nervous breakdown and checked himself into a hospital, another suffered seizures brought on by drugs and alcohol and was hospitalized, and, worse of all, lead singer David Gahan attempted suicide by slashing a wrist, then overdosed on heroin in a Hollywood hotel room and almost died. One band member subsequently quit, and two others got divorced.

Those tragedies, and the rise of grunge, buried Depeche Mode for years. But now, with electronica back in fashion and the resuscitation of Goth, the band is back, and so is its audience.

Expect a capacity crowd all dressed in black Monday night at KeyArena as Depeche Mode's highly successful comeback tour hits town. Machinelike synthesizer sounds and Gahan's melodramatic arena-rock-meets-airport-lounge vocals will fill the hall. But all won't be gloomy because a big part of Depeche Mode's sound is geared

to the dance floor, especially the gay disco dance floor, so there will be a lot of bumping and grinding going on as well.

Prior to the tour, the band released a two-disc CD, "The Singles 86-98," as well as a home video with the same title containing music videos for each of the 21 songs, plus interviews with the band members, which also includes Martin Gore (who writes all the songs) and Andrew Fletcher (onstage, the band will be augmented by drummer Christian Eigner).

The album and videos show that, while the band's music is awfully thin at times and the lyrics are often much too dependent on simple rhymes, when Depeche Mode hits its stride the group comes up with tantalizing, evocative songs with stick-in-your-head hooks.

"Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm," Gahan sings in "Enjoy the Silence," a lyric that rumbles in your brain when you sit down to write about Depeche Mode. "Everything counts in large amounts," the band's most famous line, from "Everything Counts," comes to mind when you're in a hall like KeyArena and the whole place is coming unglued over Depeche Mode's morose rock.

In addition to ticket sales, further proof that Depeche Mode is back in fashion is the fact that it has become the subject of a tribute album, "For the Masses" on A&M Records, with such bands as Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, Meat Beat Manifesto, Dishwalla, Rammstein, Hooverphonic, the Deftones, Monster Magnet and Veruca Salt covering Gore's songs.

The last time the band played here, in 1993 at the then Seattle Center Coliseum, Gahan played rock star to the hilt, constantly dancing across the huge stage and often interacting with the adoring crowd. The then three other band members were planted behind their synthesizers, so Gahan's rock theatrics were necessary.

He now says his antics were the result of his drug-taking, so he may not be so animated this time. The group will perform on a minimalist, 1930s-inspired stage set designed by longtime band photographer and visual collaborator Anton Corbijn.

Opening is Stabbing Westward, an aggressive industrial pop band from Chicago.