Mute - 2001 - 56 minutes

Despite everything, Depeche Mode is back. The band seem to have recovered from the departure of keyboardist and über-arranger Alan Wilder whose loss was most felt on 1997's lacklustre 'Ultra'. The release of a double singles album the following year sounded like the last gasp of a dying band, especially in the wake of Dave Gahan's much-publicised overdoses and extended recovery from drug addiction. But they've returned to the fray once again with 'Exciter', taking a new look at old preoccupations; bondage and addiction, obsession and sex.

Alive and kicking, despite all his attempts to sidle off this earth, Dave Gahan's voice sounds richer and more emotive than ever before, especially on tracks like the tender 'When The Body Speaks' and the sweet paean to "all soul sisters/And soul brothers" ('Goodnight Lovers'). They harken back to their industrial past with the Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails-stomp 'The Dead of Night' but the ballads are where the real strengths lie on this album; sex, Mode-style on 'Comatose' ("Slipping in/And sliding out") and 'Freelove', which sounds like a throwback to the days of faith and devotion. Not as ambitious as 'Music For The Masses', as coherent as 'Violator', or even as emotionally wracked as 'Songs of Faith', 'Exciter' may be uneven and patchy, but it is a grower.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: Dream On - Sweetest Condition - When The Body Speaks - Dead Of Night - Lovetheme (Instrumental) - Freelove - Comatose - I Feel Loved – Breathe Easy Tiger (Instrumental) - I Am You - Goodnight Lovers