Depeche Mode gets back on track with Exciter, full of the dark synthesizer riffs and foreboding vocals that first made the group a modern rock phenomenon in the '80s.

Depeche Mode gets back on track with Exciter, full of the dark synthesizer riffs and foreboding vocals that first made the group a modern rock phenomenon in the '80s. The songs are diverse: the understated "When the Body Speaks" sounds like U2 as interpreted by This Mortal Coil, while the grinding "Dead of Night" is reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. Two things hold the set together: Mark Bell's quirky, other-worldly production and Dave Gahan's still-haunting voice, which has never been more agile. Exciter isn't consistently satisfying, lacking the thematic coherence of 1986's Black Celebration or the melodic simplicity of 1990's Violator. But after a couple of less-than-stellar studio albums, fans who "Just Can't Get Enough" Depeche Mode will be happy to see the band taking a step in the right direction. Thanks to such standouts as the danceable "I Feel Loved" and the first single "Dream On," Exciter is the best Depeche Mode album in a decade.—WH