Depeche Mode's video It's No Good - "(Self )Love Is Blindness"
BY Johnny Walker (Black)
It makes sense that Depeche Mode couldn't approach this, one of
the strongest songs on their excellent new album Ultra, too literally.
Set to the kind of pulsating, narcotic backing track that immediately
conjures up visions of depraved goings on behind closed doors and
drawn curtains, the Martin Gore-penned lyrics to "It's No Good" are a
fascinating look inside a deluded psyche, giving voice to the kind of
egomaniacal sentiments you might associate with someone whose sense of
reality has perhaps been altered by the repeated use of certain
chemical substances. As anyone familiar with the Depeche Mode
story knows, the band's two principles, Gore and singer Dave
Gahan, are no strangers to such states of being, with Gahan
especially taking it to the limit and then some as of late with a
speedball (mixture of heroin and coke) related flatline only months
before the recording of Ultra.
"It's No Good," then, is a paean to the Deluded Male Ego, as seen from
Henry VIII to Elvis, at its most seductively overblown: "Don't say you
want me / don't say you need me / don't say you love me / it's
understood" croons Gahan. "Don't say you're happy / out there without
me / I know you can't be. . . ." A state of mind that our beloved Mr.
G sounds on intimate terms with, but how do you portray the
megalomania of such proportions in a video without coming across as
about as nice a guy as The Marquis de Sade (and thereby alienating
many potential CD buyers in the process)? Well, to put it in
Anglophilic terms, you, "take the piss."
That's the other great thing about those legendary men who fly a
little to close to the sun--mocking the ultimate absurdity of such a
stance of deluded grandeur is so much fun. Kings, after all, be they
Royalty or Rock Star, turn out to be in the end just as vain and silly
as all the rest of us, perhaps even more so, and Depeche Mode in
thus video decide to have a little fun with the role of rock messiah
that they've lived out large on many an occasion. As the music brings
to mind something you'd hear in a strip club or sleazy bar, the boys
have conjured up "Hotel Ultra" as the background for a piece of comic
misadventure in which the song's hubristical sentiments are rendered
in satirical terms.
Gahan, who actually began his career in Depeche Mode looking
like a bit of a synth-pop version of Elvis, goes whole hog in this
video and delivers a humorous performance as a Presly-esque
lounge-lizard creep whose inflated image of himself doesn't exactly
correspond to the reality of his rather lowly station in life. Dressed
in an outrageous emerald and gold lame suit, his hair greased up into
an towering Presley pomp, Gahan leers lecherously at the bored,
junked-out looking female " goes background (non)singers" who
eventually walk out on him (perhaps an ironic comment on those
offensive old Robert Palmer videos from the 80s?). Mercilessly
deconstructing his own mythology, Gahan steals the show here as he
creates the inverse image of the Rock God he played to perfection on
the last Depeche Mode.
Gahan's character in "It's No Good" is every marginally talented, not
very good looking, essentially geeky kind of guy you've seen in a bar,
either preening absurdly on-stage or bugging attractive women for
dates and getting rebuffed, but who is nevertheless convinced by
virtue of his maleness alone of his unquestionable inherent worth.
This point is comically driven home near the video's conclusion when
Gahan, in a supreme moment of irony, accuses "his" deserting women of
being "losers." Yeah, right, as Bono should have sung,
"Self-love is blindness" (but then, Bono's too in love with
himself to ever sing a line like that).
This video, which overall is very "80's retro" in narrative structure
(fitting, coming from one of, if not the biggest rock band, to emerge
from that era) ultimately comes as a welcome bit of comic relief to
help offset the relentless darkness which has enveloped Depeche
Mode in the last few years. It's somehow inspiring to see Dave Gahan,
in spite of all that he's put himself through lately, able to look at
it all and laugh, and to humorously depict the absurdity in the rock
star mythology which swallowed him whole for a time. Gahan's story is
the pathos of the Elvis in Vegas, of Jim Morrison in Paris, the folly
of believing yourself to be a God when you are mere flesh and blood,
but then again, he's hardly the only guilty party in this area: We
have to remember who wrote the words here, for starters. The ability
to look at yourself and laugh is a valuable and rare one, a commodity
in all too short supply in the rock world of the 1990s (Eddie
Vedder, anyone?), so it's all the more refreshing to see Depeche More
here enjoying a good laugh at their own expense.