Playing The Angel - Depeche Mode

Generally favorable reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 22
  2. Negative: 0 out of 22
  1. 100
    Not only is Depeche Mode virtually indestructible, the pioneering British synth-pop group also keeps getting better.
  2. Every moment screams to be played a little bit louder and a little bit longer; because Playing the Angel is just that good.
  3. Like the best Depeche Mode, almost everything on the album will make an initial wowing impact while remaining layered enough in subtle details to surprise and thrill with repeated listens.
  4. Sounds so sure and committed that it could be the work of a new band. [Nov 2005, p.127]
  5. 86
    It's got all the allure of classic D-Mode, but there's that lingering hint of taking oneself a tad too seriously. [#17, p.97]
  6. It's taken ten years, but our beloved Mode has returned in fast fashion. [#11, p.106]
  7. 'Playing the Angel' is hardly the most essential Depeche Mode album ever, but it is Depeche Mode doing what they do best.
  8. 80
    Shows a good deal more focus than their last two studio efforts. [Nov 2005, p.104]
  9. 80
    A pleasant surprise: engaging, exciting, and a much better album than most bands can muster after 25 years together. [Nov 2005, p.106]
  10. 80
    [A] remarkable return to form. [Oct 2005, p.75]
  11. It's DM's ability to make you dance and look over your shoulder--sometimes simultaneously--that makes them relevant. [Dec 2005, p.212]
  12. Revels in dirty guitars and fuzzy distortion while maintaining Depeche Mode's familiar electronic sound. [22 Oct 2005]
  13. The album skillfully and confidently showcases all of Martin Gore’s songwriting strengths.
  14. Some may say it doesn't move Depeche Mode forward a great deal; I say I don't give a damn, it's a real treat and I'll have some more, please.
  15. There's an unexpected freshness to most of the songs. [16 Oct 2005]
  16. Their most self-assured and accessible release in over a decade. [28 Oct 2005, p.83]
  17. If you really are the sort of person who's been waiting with bated breath for a new Depeche Mode release, then don't worry: You'll love this. Dear everyone else: It's pretty okay.
  18. It may be grim round Depeche's way, but they don't let it get in the way of a good melody.
  19. Far from bad... but so much of it sounds like a museum piece, the glum-pop self-harmings of another time. [12 Nov 2005, p.45]
  20. The formula remains largely the same, although the group adds some production tricks, dialing down the perv factor and turning up some extra chirps and bloops they haven't used before.
  21. 40
    The second half drops off badly--the band seem to think that the tonic for a weak lyric is to slow the tempo to a crawl. [Nov 2005, p.130]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 196 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 4 out of 134
  1. Feb 9, 2013
    With hindsight being 20-20, and this review being written 7-1/2 years after the released of this album, I can write, without any hesitation, that Playing the Angel is my favorite Depeche Mode album and that is saying a lot because I am a completely devoted fan of the band since I first heard them in 1986. Playing the Angel is a different kind of Depeche Mode album and it would be unfair to try and compare it with any other album, except maybe Violator. This album is so good that it has been the staple of my musical diet since the day it was released. What sets this album apart from all others are two secret ingredients never before present in a Depeche Mode album. First is a unique and permeating throbbing that flows from song to song and ties them all together, and secondly David Gahan contributed songs to the album, and not just any songs, a couple of fantastic songs. Individually, nearly every song is excellent beginning with the explosive opening of A 'Pain That I'm Used To' right down to the last note of the last song 'Darkest Star'. This album is far greater though than the sum of its individually outstanding parts, and that is what sets this album apart. 'Suffer Well' is my personal favorite, and this song has replaced 'In Your Room' from 'Songs of Faith and Devotion' as my all-time favorite Depeche Mode song. I find it very ironic that 'Suffer Well' (written by David Gahan) has become my favorite DM song of all time because it is the first song written by anybody but Martin Gore in 25 years, and I have long considered Martin Gore to be among the greatest songwriters of all time. This album excels on all levels and there are six standout tracks that help give this album an unparalleled timelessness and longevity: John the Revelator, Suffer Well, Sinner in Me, Precious, Nothing's Impossible, and Darkest Star. Full Review »
  2. Apr 13, 2013
    An awesome comeback, after a few "meh" albums, Depeche creates kind of a Violator 2; a modern masterpiece, sure, its has flaws; but which album doesnt? Full Review »
  3. Nov 29, 2012
    While most recognize that DM began to ascend around Black Celebration and peaked somewhere between Violator and SoFaD, this is the blip in the flat line that makes you think there still may be some life left in them. Suffer Well, Nothing's Impossible, Precious...all brilliant. Even the b-sides from this album's singles rock. Get everything you can related to this album! Singles, Tour DVDs, remixes... Full Review »