Wagging Tongue

Yes, released on May 24, 2023

"Wagging Tongue" is the second track on Memento Mori.


You won't do well to silence me
With your words or wagging tongue
With your long tall tales of sorrow
Your song yet to be sung
I won't be offended
If I'm left across the great divide
Believe me, they will follow
Just to watch another angel die
Watch another angel die
You won't do well to darken me
With your secrets and your lies
With your piercing code of silence
Relax, enjoy the ride
I'll meet you by the river
Or maybe on the other side
You find it hard to swallow
When you watch another angel die
Watch another angel die
Another sun is rising
Another day has come
You can find me, I'll be waiting
Until the day is done
I won't be persuaded
Kiss your doubts goodbye
Everything seems hollow
When you watch another angel die
Watch another angel die
Watch another angel die
Watch another angel die
Watch another angel die
Watch another angel die

Dave's Take

"With this record, I had four songs...and so I sent a couple of those to Martin. One of them was 'Wagging Tongue.' And then he said, can I play around with it? And he then took the song and just sort of elevated it. He sent it back to me with that kind of arpeggiating synth line, Kraftwerk-esque kind of thing. And I was just like, wow, this is great."1

Dave also talks a little bit about the lyrics in this video starting at the 14:39 mark:

My Take

I love the tinkly synths that open this number, as it somewhat reminds me of the opening notes of "Any Second Now" from Speak and Spell. This is a classic Dave-and-Martin duet and the harmony is somewhat reminiscent of Paul McCartney and John Lennon singing together, especially during the chorus. In the lyrics, I find themes similar to "Condemnation" and "The Things You Said" where the singer feels like they are being (falsely) accused by another person; the accuser is particularly nefarious, employing gossip (i.e., a "wagging tongue") to spread "secrets" and "lies." The singer warns their accuser that their behavior is harmful to someone who is completely innocent which is how I interpret the "watch another angel die" part. A simple and catchy song with a very hum-able melody, this goes down for me as a favorite on the album!

Music Video

The video opens with a scene of a couple in their home having an eccentric heated exchange. A woman is sitting at a table, decorating a white, angel-wings art display — the same one that the Memento Mori album cover has. A man, presumably her boyfriend or husband, is standing in front of the sink behind her and filling it up with water. The woman then gets up and starts writing the words, "WE NEED TO TALK", on a chalkboard. The man sees it and then writes on another chalkboard in the same room the words, "CAN IT NOT BE WRITTEN?" He looks to the woman for her answer and she simply shakes her head in the negative and then she writes new words on her chalkboard which read, "IT NEEDS TO BE SPOKEN!" This exchange is interleaved with scenes of both the man and woman walking along a wooded path until they reach the shore of a lake or river where other people are lined up in front of it in pairs. At the front of the line, there is a pair of people bent over right at the water's edge with their heads dunked underwater and an older man standing behind them tapping them with a stick. When it is the original couple's turn, we see that they about to have their "talk" in a unique way. The man with the stick directs both of them towards the water and they proceed to walk right to the water's edge before kneeling down and submerging their heads underwater. We then see both of them from under the water exchanging spoken words in an argumentative manner. They come up for air every now and then and continue their argument underwater. A surreal slow-motion sequence ensues showing the couple with their heads underwater seeming to fire bullets out of their mouths. We then see the older man pull both of them out from the water and send them home. We can also see that the line of people has grown and it is the next pair of people's turn to go down into the water. At one point, we even see that Dave and Martin are one of the pairs through a reflection in the water.

The original couple arrive back at home, heads soaking wet, and they exchange a last meaningful glance at one another before going back to what they were doing before their argument — the woman decorating the art display and the man filling up the sink with water and proceeding to turn on the record player nearby. The video closes with the man submerging a speaker into the water-filled sink and also dunking his head underneath, and we hear the first notes of the Depeche Mode song, "Don't Say You Love Me", play.

My Take

This video was directed by The Sacred Egg with creative direction from Anton Corbijn. Both artists are famous for their low-budget and eccentric aesthetics, with The Sacred Egg being known for "creating arresting visual worlds"2 and Anton for placing regular folk in open but gloomy settings and twisting plot lines. In fact, the look and feel of this video is very reminiscent of older Corbijn-directed DM videos like "A Question of Time", "Never Let Me Down Again", and "Behind The Wheel", and not just because it's in black-and-white. Like those former videos where sweeping nature scenes like open desert roads, grassy fields, and farmland provide serene backdrops to humans caught in some struggle either internally or externally, this video has that, too.

The video starts off strange enough...a couple is having an argument with written words on a chalkboard before they take their argument outside in what looks to be an even stranger ritual — a couples' therapy session out in nature, if you will. The ritual consists of the couple hashing out their differences with their heads submerged underwater while an older man oversees them and plays referee to an extent. Apparently, the couple can hear and understand each other perfectly when underwater, as evidenced by a later scene in which the man listens to a DM song from a submerged speaker. We, the viewers, can't hear what is being said, but the severity of their argument is made clear by the surreal scene during the song's bridge where actual bullets are seen being fired out of both the man and woman's mouths, and then the almost-murderous looks exchanged with one another when they come up for air drives the point home. The older man who pulls them out of the water in an urgent manner also seems to indicate that the couple has gone too far in their spoken exchange. It is not clear what conclusion is reached by the end of the video but there is a lingering air of hurt, anger, and tension as the couple go back to what they were doing at the beginning. There is, perhaps, a hint of what is to come when the man submerges his head in the sink and the first few notes of "Don't Say You Love Me" play (which, remember, begins with the cutting lyrics, "You'll be the killer / I'll be the corpse").

Going back to the couple's "therapy sessions" in the water — there is actually a lot to unpack from those scenes. Other shots shown from the water scene seem to indicate that the water ritual isn't limited to just married or romantic couples. Friends and coworkers seem to line up in front of the water in droves, wanting to benefit from talking out their differences through this ritual. And even Dave and Martin are briefly seen approaching the water's edge which is a powerful image given what the two of them have said about each other as of late3 — in particular, Dave stating that with Andy Fletcher, whom "would always fight for Martin," gone, "forced" him and Martin "to find a way of communicating, becoming friends" in what used to be a "spiky" atmosphere between them.4

Whether anyone benefits from the water ritual and whether relationships and friendships are repaired from participating is not exactly clear, but it is portrayed in this video as a necessary measure. I also can't help but wonder if someone on the creative team was also inspired by another song on this album, "Before We Drown", what with all of the water motifs and such. Aside from that, it also seems to be an interesting nod to the Christian ritual of baptism which sometimes involves the complete submerging of the head underwater. I could go further and further down the rabbit hole of this symbology, but it would not add much more value to this discussion. The last thing that I wanted to say about this video is that they sure inserted an interesting twist at the end by beginning to play another DM song from this album, as it strongly seems to indicate the coming of a sequel music video, much like the ending of the "Never Let Me Down Again" video neatly played into the story of the "Behind The Wheel" video. That honestly has me very excited!


  1. "Depeche Mode co-founder David Gahan wants us to remember: 'Memento Mori'", NPR (March 24, 2023)
  2. "Biography", The Sacred Egg (accessed on June 3, 2023)
  3. "Depeche Mode: 'Do the best you can — you don't know if you're going to be doing it again'", NME (March 10, 2023)
  4. "Reconstruction Time Again", MOJO (April 2023)