Tuesday, 7 January 2020


As you are no doubt aware, Violator turns 30 in March this year. To accompany Halo - The Story Behind Depeche Mode's Classic Album Violator, the book I am co-authoring with Kevin May which will be published this year, the blog will also be running a month long special looking at every aspect of Violator.

The One That I Prefer - Violator Turns 30 will run in March 2020 with a new post every day that month. It will feature excerpts from Halo, guest posts from Kevin, Glen Hammarstrom, Sean Salo, Panos Sialakas, Michael Rose, Michael Lyons, Amanda Stock and Niggels Uhlenbruch, a Dm Live Wiki special with Matthew Wolfe, a Pollicy Of Truth poll special with Shaun Coward (see Twitter here) and the usual nonsense from me. I hope you will all enjoy it as much as everyone seemed to enjoy A Month Long Period Of Rejoicing, the Black Celebration special in March 2016.

More news about this and Halo will follow soon. 

Thursday, 31 October 2019


Ahead of its release on 21 November, last night the Curzon Mayfair in London hosted a preview of the film followed by a Q&A with its director Anton Corbijn. Thanks to my Halo co-author Kevin May I was able to attend and I have to say that I really enjoyed the film. It's not a Depeche Mode concert film by any stretch of the imagination, in fact it's barely a Depeche Mode film at all. This is something very different for Depeche Mode.

As well as being there with the ultimate aim of writing this reveiw, I was also there on duty for Home because I was interviewing two of the fans who star in the film, Daniel Cassus and Cristian Flueraru. I had a very interesting chat with both of them which remains under wraps until it features on Home.

To the film then. If you are expecting to go along and see 90 minutes of live footage, you're going to be disappointed. The two Waldbuhne gigs in Berlin are the film's focal point certainly, but only in the sense that the fans' stories are told in the lead up to the gigs, with all six finally meeting up in Berlin. The gigs are more a backdrop than anything else. What we get instead is a very enjoyable and, in parts, moving film that highlights just how much of a role Depeche Mode play in people's lives. We all have our own similar stories about when we first fell in love with the band and how their music resonates throughout events in our lives, but if we tried to tell that tale ourselves, we'd quickly bore everyone around us - I can speak from personal experience there.

The film thankfully avoids that trap. The fans' stories are intriguingly told, interweaving as they approach Berlin where we see them all together enjoying the last two shows of the Global Spirit Tour. I enjoyed each story and the approach of letting the fans tell the tale rather than relying on the band's live performance is a bold move but one that works. The film is almost more of a documentary in places. I won't reveal any of the stories as you'll want to see them yourself. This isn't 101 part 2 either. It's much more personal. Contemplative rather than a month long bus party.

There is of course no Depeche Mode film without Depeche Mode and footage from both Waldbuhne gigs pops up throughout the film. As I mentioned above, this isn't a concert film and I was initially surprised at how little Depeche we saw. As the film progresses however, you notice that less and less. What footage there is serves as a reminder of how good those gigs were. There isn't actually a full song in the film - instead we have excerpts of songs, some longer than others. The live footage is shot in a very un Anton way too. We see the band in all their ragged glory, close up and personal and, for a DM/Anton film, unusally intimately. 

I was very surprised by the film, but pleasantly so. To try and tell the tale of how a band can dominate an individual's life is difficult as every fan has different reasons for loving that band, but Spirits In The Forest does that and does it very well indeed. I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing it again in a few weeeks' time.

After the film, Edith Bowman hosted a Q&A with Anton. He discussed the film generally, commenting that Depeche Mode's fans had a unique attachment to the band - "I work a lot with U2 and I don't see it happening there."  He confirmed that the concert would get a full physical release next year although, interestingly, only the Wednesday night show was filmed in full. Anton confirmed that they had "filmed a few things on the Monday" but not the whole gig. There was no suggestion of a release date however.

Away from Spirits In The Forest, he confirmed that his "substantial" Depeche Mode book will be out in a year or so.

Looks like 2020 will be a good year for Depeche Mode books.....

Tuesday, 15 October 2019


A few days ago, Depeche Mode's social media sprang into life with a picture of a black box featuring the letter M superimposed over it. Over the next three days, the letters O, D and, you guessed it, E appeared and, before we knew it, a new 18 cd box set was in the works. This not exactly tough to decipher social media campaign was accompanied by the greying out of album covers on streaming sites. All very odd and all quite out of the blue.

Today, the details of what Mode contains have been confirmed and, frankly, it is a baffling release designed, it appears, to please no-one at all. The official site says:

"MODE is a comprehensive collection of the band's work to date - comprised of all 14 studio albums plus additional non-album material -- from 2017's Spirit back to DM's debut album Speak & Spell. In line with DM's signature aesthetic, the numbered, limited-edition set is housed in an elegant and minimalist black cube, with each disc similarly enclosed in a black, heavyweight card wallet. The albums' original covers have been re-interpreted in uniform black-on-black designs exclusive to this box set, and four additional bonus discs provide a chronological collection of non-album singles, b-sides and bonus tracks. Accompanying the audio content is a 228 page, gilt-edged book containing all of Depeche Mode's lyrics, compiled together for the first time, highlighting their collective visceral power and impact."

This is a remarkable pile of nonsense. Firstly, the phrase "in line with DM's signature aesthetic" is the sort of bollocks you read in overpriced furniture shops, coffee bars or on moronic Instagram accounts. If Depeche Mode, or DM as the site for some reason calls them, have a "signature aesthetic" it's music. It's not box design. Christ.

Also, they mention that the album covers have been ""re-interpreted in uniform black-on-black designs." On what planet are ANY of the band's sleeves appropriate for "re-interpretation?" If I contradict myself momentarily, surely one could argue that part of the band's "signature aesthetic" is their iconic artwork? Making them all black is someone taking the piss basically.

My final act in relation to this quote is simply to point out the phrase "visceral power." I mean, really.

Back on the official site, it then goes on to say:

"Reflecting on the set's content and design, the band commented, "With everything together in this all-black design it feels like a modern reflection of who we are and where we've come from. The set couldn't be more Depeche Mode."

That is staggering. At least for the forthcoming Spirits In The Forest, they attributed quotes to Dave and Martin in the press kit. For this, either the band sat down together, reflected on the set's content and designed and said the same thing all at the same time or this quote is simply marketing gobbledigook that only highlights the half-arsed way this box thing has come into life.

"Yes Martin?"
"Fletch and I were just looking at the boxset"
"Reflecting on it's content and design were you Martin?"
"Very much Dave. The funniest thing happened you know. I said to Fletch, 'You know wuth everything together in this all-black design....."
"It feels like a modern reflection of who we are and where we've come from. The set couldn't be more Depeche Mode Martin?
" Good grief Dave! Exactly. We all said that thing at the same time!"
"Well Mart, it really couldn't be more Depeche Mode could it?
"No Dave, it couldn't."
"Time to write the new album Mart?" 
"Not yet Dave, no. Not at all."

And so on.

Anyway, to the music.

There is very, VERY little new here. Ignore the first 14 discs for a start. You have them already on cd, cassette, vinyl, mp3, German coloured vinyl, Uzbeki laser disc and so on. They're not remastered either or at least they're not newly remastered for this project.

Discs 15-18 feature "non-album singles, b-sides and bonus tracks" most of which are already available on the dazzling new CD format. There are positives however:

Disc 15, track 2 - Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead (Flexipop Version)
Disc 16, track 1 - Dressed In Black (Record Mirror Version)
Disc 17, track 2 - Death's Door (Soundtrack Version)
Disc 18, track 11 - "Heroes" (Highline Session Version)

The first two have not previously been released on CD and that version of Dressed In Black never officially released by the band so that's nice. The soundtrack version of Death's Door has also never been attached to a Depeche Mode release too. The only new thing here is "Heroes" which is a decent enough addition.

As someone who has collected more Depeche Mode things than are reasonable, those four tracks make me at least briefly consider buying this but they're not enough. Had it just been a B-sides and bonus tracks release, I'd have snapped it up. I'm not paying over £200 for four tracks however.

And that's the thing - who will buy this? It's obviously not aimed at hardcore collectors as there's nothing there to grab them. People who buy most Depeche releases have no need for it either other than to plug the hole it will create in their collection. Will casual fans shell out all that money just to have the albums in a box? I doubt it.

It's a perplexing release. Ok, the 12" reissue boxes haven't been to everyone's liking, but they represent a re-telling of the Depeche Mode remix story and at least have a purpose. This is either just a shoddy attempt to make money on the back of Spirits In The Forest, or it's just another way of trying to make money out of a fanbase who have already spent a lot of money on the things that are already in the box. If you compare it to the Sounds Of The Universe boxset, it comes off even less favourably; ok that boxset contained that album, but for £65 we got a cd full of demos which was a huge thrill. 

Whatever it is, unless Depeche Mode call a halt to their glorious career, this box set will quickly become out of date and incomplete when the next Depeche album comes out. That just adds to its general pointlessness.

What a very odd release.

Depeche Mode - Mode is released on 22 November

Friday, 27 September 2019


As you will no doubt have seen by now, Depeche Mode's new film Spirits In The Forest is being released in cinemas on 21 November for one night only, in conjunction with Sony Music Entertainment and Trafalgar Releasing. The film will be shown in 70 countries in more than 2,400 cinemas, from Adelaide to Zagreb and all points in between. If you are wondering if the film is being shown near you, head to the film's site www.spiritsintheforest.com and enter your location. I'm really surprised, pleasantly it must be said, at the sheer number of cinemas showing the film. For example, in Glasgow where I live, there are 5 cinemas in the city showing it and there are then another 11 towns and cities joining in from Kilmarnock to Inverness. This is the biggest Scottish Depeche Mode event since this blog's Global Spirit Tour Project or, more realistically, the band's Barrowlands show in March 2017.

DM fans worldwide are going to get a chance to see this as it appears to be showing everywhere. If you want to see the film in as much of a Depeche location as is possible for example, you could head to Cineworld in Basildon. Alternatively, you could go to Cinestar Berlin at the Sony Centre to watch it near Hansa or quite far from Waldbuhne, and, as the press release promises, cinemas in Adelaide and Zagreb are showing it too. 

Tickets for most cinemas went on-sale on 26 September so get hunting for them now. The first trailer was also released on the 26th and it reveals much more about what is to come:

There was a degree of cynicism about the release among the Depeche fanbase before the trailer was released but it seems that it has answered many of the questions that fans were asking. I was thrilled watching it, a combination of sheer joy seeing footage from those two wonderful gigs and delight at seeing friends like Dicken and Daniel appearing on a Depeche Mode release talking about what the band means to them. Alongside those two, Cristian, Liz, Carine and Indra will each talk about what the band means to them, interspersed with footage from those incredible concerts. 

This isn't going to be 101 part 2. Instead, the fans will explain the impact the band has had on them and, while those tales are firmly personal, we each have our own Depeche Mode story. It will be a real treat to see them talk us through theirs while we allow the film to help us relive ours.

When asked about the film, Dave said  "It's amazing to see the very real ways that music has impacted the lives of our fans." As I discovered during the Global Spirit Tour Project, a Depeche Mode tour is a hugely unifying event as it brings together fans from all over the world at venues all over the world. The two Waldbuhne gigs were special in every sense and to have a film where fans tell their Depeche story against the background of those incredible concerts is going to be a wonderful thing. 

Bring on November 21st.

Spirits In The Forest will have a global theatrical release on 21st November 2019.

Friday, 20 September 2019


On Wednesday this week, the internet rumour mill began muttering about the long awaited Global Spirit Tour film with a website called spiritsintheforest.com popping up alongside a couple of reports talking about the new Depeche film. Yesterday, those rumours were confirmed and so we now have a new Depeche Mode film to look forward to. Well, some of us  do anyway; as ever there are plenty of fans upset about something they've not yet seen.

The film promises to capture "the energy and spectacle of the band’s performance from the tour along with a deeper look into how their music and shows have been woven into the fabric of their fans’ lives."  As well as the band's two performances at the Waldbuhne, the film follows the adventures of six Depeche fans, all of whom were involved in the band's Facebook takeover. The press release says:

"Through the deeply emotional stories of six special Depeche Mode fans, the film shows not only how and why the band’s popularity and relevance has continued to grow over the course of their career, but provides a unique look into music’s incredible power to build communities, enable people to overcome adversity, and create connections across the boundaries of language, location, gender, age, and circumstance."

Curiously, the press release also says that the film is "expertly edited." You'd take that as being a given really wouldn't you? It would be odd if it claimed that the film was "poorly edited."

When I was in Berlin for the Waldbuhne gigs, I had a chat with one of the 6 fans who are featured. From that it would seem that this is not going to be 101 part 2, but instead is going to focus more on the fans' lives in the period leading up to and including the Berlin gigs. Given that many of us travelled from all over the world to attend the concerts, you can see why this angle has been approached. If nothing else, it gives us a new angle on the DM live dvd and it's interesting to see them..wait for it...branch out. Sorry.

Will I watch it? Of course. I'm waiting to see what cinema gets it in Scotland of course and if none take it, I'll wait until it's given a physical release. There have been a number of mentions of Netflix being involved but nothing has been confirmed yet. Presumably we will also get a physical release and it would of course be wonderful if both Waldbuhne gigs were part of that package. All of that is yet to be announced however.

Naturally, the reaction among the notoriously patient and in no way at all pre-judgemental fanbase has been split into the usual three categories:

(b) "Typical late period half arsed Corbijn bollocks that could have been painted by a blind dog what's the point it's a joke remember Violator? Where's Alan"
(c) "Oh right cool. I'll watch it"

I'm in the (c) category although I must say that the artwork is quite dreadful. It looks like a bunch of angry golf clubs have escaped their golf bag and are charging the Depeche stage screaming about setlist variation and Dave's dancing. The title is quite dreadful too, but there is a logic to it. 

So now we wait. There will no doubt be more information released as November 21st approaches and I'll write about that as and when it surfaces. For now however, let the speculation begin. Exactly how will the Global Spirit Tour come across when given the live dvd tree-tment? Will we exit the cinemas full of joy or will we leaf in silence? 

No more tree jokes. I promise.

Thursday, 5 September 2019


As Kevin May and I are currently finding out, writing a book about Depeche Mode can be a tricky thing to do. For a band as big as they are, there is not a huge amount of source material to draw upon beyond the usual interviews on the release of a new album or the odd live review or two and, outside the short films that accompanied the Remasters series or the occasional contribution to the likes of Synth Britannia, the band keep their history close to their chest. Previous Depeche Mode biographies have ranged from the very good (Stripped by Jonathan Miller) to the frustrating (Some Great Reward by Dave Thompson  - see the constant use of "Fly On The Windshield") though it must of course be acknowledged that presenting a history of the band without the band being involved means that the author has to look at new ways of telling a well known story. With Faith & Devotion, renowned music writer Ian Gittins has taken on that challenge and has produced the most enjoyable Depeche Mode biography yet.

Faith & Devotion comes at a point in the band's history where we await news of any future plans. That means that the book is bang up to date, ending with the band's glorious concerts at the Waldbuhne in Berlin in July 2018, giving Gittins the chance to look at the band's entire history from day one to the present day. He presents a thorough examination of Depeche Mode in a style that is less reverential than previous biographies and the book is all the better for that. While he's clearly a fan, he's not frightened to point out the band's flaws (see his views on Exciter or Sounds Of The Universe) and it is that honest but in-depth look at the band that makes Faith & Devotion such an entertaining read.

To augment the magazine articles we've all seen and the books we've all read, Gittins has added his own interview material with new input from Miles Goosens, Mick Paterson and Douglas McCarthy and their involvement gives the book an edge that others don't have. There are more contributions from people who were at one time inside the Depeche inner circle than we've previously seen elsewhere and though they aren't many - this is a Depeche Mode book after all -  they give parts of the DM tale a new, welcome edge. 

Aside from the writing, the book contains a large number of wonderful photographs of the band through the ages. From the early dress sense disasters to Black Celebration's wall to wall leather via World Violation ending at Dave's still bewildering Spirit era pencil moustache, the visual side of the book is simply wonderful and a perfect compliment to the story being told.

Depeche Mode fans are very hard to please and, as I've learned many times, it's a brave person who takes on the challenge of writing about the band. With Faith & Devotion, Ian Gittins has produced a comprehensive and impressive Depeche biography, presenting a fresh look at the world's biggest underappreciated band. Whether you are either new to Depeche Mode or a long standing Devotee, Faith & Devotion is a wonderful read to help you pass the time until we all meet again in stadia and arenas around the world. 

Depeche Mode Faith & Devotion by Ian Gittins is published by Palazzo on 5th September.
Purchase the book from Amazon here

Saturday, 1 June 2019


Thus far, the Depeche Mode 12" reissue series has been a great thing. The amount of care that has gone into every element has been incredible from Daniel Barassi's impressive work on the audio side of things to the faithful reproduction of the artwork. As we'll see in a while, an extra level of attention to detail has been paid in the Black Celebration boxset which, for people like me, is an absolute joy. There is a problem with the Black Celebration boxset however - it's not complete.

If the purpose of this reissue series is to rightly celebrate Depeche Mode's role as one of the first great innovators in 12" remixing, then the omission of the 12" singles for Shake The Disease and It's Called A Heart is a calamitous oversight that undermines the entire project. "Ah, but they're non album singles," the record company might say. "Neither of them featured on Black Celebration." That is of course true, however, if that is the argument, let's open up the Construction Time Again boxset and take a peek at the two 12" singles in there for Get The Balance Right.  What's odd about them? That's right. It's a single that did not feature on that album. The same point could easily be made about Dreaming Of Me's inclusion in the Speak & Spell boxset.  So the non album singles thing is very much a non starter.

Get The Balance Right is correctly tied into Construction Time Again because it was an important bridge between that album and A Broken Frame. It also features a hugely influential 12" remix and this whole project's purpose is a celebration of that format. Dreaming Of Me is of course very much tied to the Speak & Spell era so, again, its inclusion in that box made sense. For the same reasons then, Shake The Disease and It's Called A Heart surely have to feature here don't they? Shake The Disease is another hugely important Depeche single. As well as being nothing more than one of the most beautiful songs Martin has written, it also ended the band's pop phase and led us in to the dark, leather clad Berlin hammer wielding world  of Black Celebration. It is the very point that Depeche Mode became that thing that we all love. in 1985, two 12" singles were released. It is illogical to ignore them here. Similarly, It's Called A Heart's three 12" singles (the standard and double pack) should also feature here albeit that is only for reasons of logic and not of dark majesty. 

Basically, the omission of Shake The Disease and It's Called A Heart is a cock-up of epic proportions. And with that, we move to the boxsets.

Black Celebration - The 12" Singles Boxset

I'm not even going to attempt objectivity here - this boxset is a thing of quite staggering beauty. There is so much to love about this collection of singles and there are several fan pleasing highlights. For example, the cover of Stripped is embossed, just like the original issue of the record. That's superb. Also, the Limited Edition 12" of A Question Of Time features the Limited Edition sticker on the front, again just like the original issue. It would have been incredibly easy to simply have the words Limited Edition printed on the sleeve as happened with later pressings of the original 12", but the care taken in making these boxsets has extended even to these small details and that is a wonderful thing.

There is one real treat here and, for me, it's the highlight of the series so far. In 1986, A Question Of Lust was released on 7", 12" and a limited edition cassette single. That cassette singles came in a cardboard package and as the sleeve promised, contained a cassette, a badge and a booklet. Here it is both opened and unopened:

The ever resourceful West German label Intercord went one better, releasing a vinyl version of the cassette single in two versions - black vinyl and yellow vinyl. It only contained the booklet however. There was no badge.

It is therefore wonderful to find this version released on 12" for the first time ever in Britain contained within the new boxset. The attention to detail show in the packaging of it is exquisite. Here's the sleeve:

As with the West German release, it says "Special Edition Single 45rpm" at the top right. It also says "L12BONG11" below that. However, as you'll see, unlike the cassette single and the West German 12" there are no boxes ticked that indicate there is either a badge and booklet contained inside (the cassette single) or just a booklet (the West German 12"). What have they done with those then? Wel,, they've done something quite fantastic.

Firstly, the badge has been incorporated into the package as it has been used as the label on the b-side of the record. 

How cool is that? I know that it's probably wrong to get excited about things like this, but I make no apologies for it. The booklet is also here but not as a booklet. Instead, quite brilliantly, it has become the inner sleeve.

It's genius. A masterpiece of repackaging and attention to detail of a level far higher than I could have expected. Beautiful, beautiful work.

The records also feature remixes, b-sides and a couple of live tracks, but you all know them by now and there's no point in me droning on about them. All I will say is that the Stripped 12" is one of the greatest 12" singles released by anyone ever at any time on earth and a record collection without that record in it is being treated very shabbily indeed. The final point to note is the inclusion of a reproduction of the A Question Of Lust promotional poster.

Overall then, despite the ridiculous Shake The Disease/It's Called A Heart situation, this is the best boxset of the lot so far.

Music For The Masses - The 12" Singles Boxset

Just look at that. This collection of 12" singles was already a thing of beauty in its original format - the reissue has polished them up and turned them out splendidly. All the classics are there - Strangelove's orange loud speaker, Never Let Me Down Again's maps and speakers and Behind The Wheel's gorgeous matt sleeves, all sparse and ominous. If you want to get right into Depeche Mode dullard's corner, the labels are simply perfect. I mean, just look at this:

Perfection itself. It also helps that the towering megabeast that is the Split Mix is there too. God, Depeche Mode really were incredible back then. 

The addition of the Little 15 12" is a nice touch. Even though it was not really released as a single in Britain (well, it wasn't promoted at all), the French label released it, as did a few other countries in Europe, causing it to sell well on import here. From the point of view of making this series a comprehensive celebration of Depeche Mode's 12" history, it is only right that Little 15 features here. 

There's also a Strangelove poster reproduction which is cool. 

As with the Black Celebration boxset and indeed the four previous boxsets, this is another gorgeous package, lovingly put together and both boxsets featured in this review are a real treat. Yes they're expensive and, yes they contain something that most of us already have in many different formats, but as a celebration of Depeche Mode at a crucial period in their career, they are fantastic.

If only they'd given some thought to what they haven't put into them....