When Ultra was declared the best Depeche Mode album since Violator, those who said so must have forgotten about Songs of Faith and Devotion. When Exciter was declared the best Depeche Mode album since Violator, those who said so must have also forgotten about Songs of Faith and Devotion, in addition to having found a roundabout way of saying that it was merely better than Ultra. There's no doubt this time: Playing the Angel is both the band's best album since Violator and, more significantly, an album that is near Violator in stature.
The website Artist Direct.com suggests that people who buy Depeche Mode's 11th album might also like the "similar albums" Live in London by Duran Duran and We Are the Eighties by A Flock of Seagulls. The average Mode fan would probably rather eat glass than admit such poppy chinks of light into his grotto, but it does pose the irrefutable point that, for all their dallying with the dark side, there's a part of Depeche Mode that will be forever Basildon synth-chavs. It's 24 years since their debut LP, but there's a sense of the electronica trio still being on their guard against their boyhood selves popping up to scupper the black-goth-lord image they've diligently cultivated.