Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Depeche Mode B-sides

I don't use the MUSIC tag all that much (because I have another blog that's more specifically all about music) but this post doesn't exactly fit with that blog, so I'm posting it here.  I've been a bit excited about Depeche Mode lately (which has nothing to do with the fact that a new album just got released yesterday and tour dates for later in the year are coming up.  Honestly!)  I'm kind of a "classic line-up" Depeche Mode fan, and wish that they could somehow do a reunion line-up with Alan Wilder back in the saddle, but I'm not holding my breath.  Although one never knows--Wilder's open departure letter obviously speaks to great personal dissatisfaction with the working relationships within the band--but he's done a few friendly get-togethers with them, and remixed a few of their newer tracks. 

The earliest album, led by Vince Clark's vision, is almost a completely different band altogether, and the second album was a strange bybrid of Martin Gore starting to do his own thing while also still trying to imitate Clark to some degree.  The albums after Wilder left have (almost) all been universally disappointing to me (although Playing the Angel was as good as Songs of Faith and Devotion or Violator--both albums that were good, but not my favorites.)  So of the six albums released under the "classic line-up" of the band, it's kind of the middle-set that I see as the best albums by the band, and indeed, amongst the best albums in modern music altogether--Some Great Reward, Black Celebration and Music for the Masses.

Depeche Mode, however, always had a fair bit of non-album singles, b-sides and other non-album tracks, many of which were stylistic variations on directions that their "mainstream" songs were doing at the same time.  I remember being particularly shocked when I heard "Set Me Free (Remotivate Me)" for example--as a lightweight, poppy song as the b-side to "Master and Servant" at the time of Some Great Reward where Depeche Mode arguably hit their lowest, darkest point ever with "Blasphemous Rumours"?  At other times, the b-sides and non-album singles were really good and fit well with the albums thematically that they were closest associated with chronologically, which made me wonder why they were missed (particularly in albums that had a short track-list.  Why didn't "Dangerous" and "Sea of Sin" appear on the 9-track Violator?  If they had, the album still would have been relatively shortish, and they would have been among the best tracks on the album.)  "Martyr" was recorded along with the rest of Playing the Angel and was almost included along with it; almost released as the first single from the album, even--then at the last minute, it didn't make it and got a release as a non-album single.  "Oh Well", the B-side from "Wrong" is among the very best of the songs from the Sounds of the Universe time-frame, and the fact that it didn't show up on the album is significantly to its detriment.

Then again, I was disappointed enough in SotU that I haven't listened to it in a long time.  I probably need to let it percolate and try again really badly.

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