Monday, 7 January 2013


After the let down of Exciter, (personally speaking of course) I had a sense of trepidation about the new Depeche Mode releases. The Remix album had provided some good moments but that was only ever going to be a stop gap as the real evidence of whether Depeche still had it in them would be the new album. Things turned out just fine....

The first new Depeche music in four years (I'm not counting the remixed versions from 2004) arrived on 3 October 2005 with the release of Precious. The song had been leaked through the company in charge of making the very odd Depeche on a computerised boat video a few weeks before so we were all familiar with it but setting that aside, the release of Precious was huge as it was and still is a classic Depeche track. The melody, the music, the lyrics (Martin writing to his kids apologising for any distress caused by their parents divorce), everything - it just worked. It was instantly better than anything from Exciter and would be welcome on any modern era album prior to that. The single joined Barrel Of A Gun and People Are People as joint highest ever UK chart position holders reaching number 4 in the charts. As with all the Playing The Angel era singles a collection of mainly bland remixes popped up too. The CD and DVD singles were released on 3 October. CDBONG35 (below left) featured the album version of Precious and the Single Edit of Sasha's Spooky Mix of the same track. There's nothing spooky about it really. LCDBONG35 (above right) gave us two bits of rubbish (Precious - Sasha's Gargantuan Vocal Mix (Edit) and Precious - Misc Full Vocal Mix) and a.......wait for it.......B SIDE(!!) in the shape of new track Free. Firstly, it's a great song and secondly, ignoring the joys of digital releases and the fact they only have one side, IT'S A B SIDE! It's not an album track (hello One Caress and Pimpf), nor is it an instrumental (hello Zenstation. Actually, piss off Zenstation) it is an actual new song. Lovely stuff. One thing does occur though - why was it not on CDBONG35? Finally, DVDBONG35 (above left) gave us the odd Precious video, a very good and indeed best of the bunch remix of Precious by Motor and the Michael Mayer Ambient Mix of Precious which is ok

The 12" singles were released on 10 October. 12BONG35 (same art as CDBONG35) has the full length Sasha mixes - Spooky Mix and Gargantuan waste of time Vocal Mix both of which are unfortunately longer than the Edits. L12BONG35 (same art as LCDBONG35) had the Misc Full Vocal Mix (meh), Michael Mayer Balearic Mix (bleh), Motor Remix (hoorah!) and Misc Crunch Mix (hmm) of Precious. Finally vinally and somewhat belatedly a 7" picture disc of Precious was released on 11 December 2006. All subsequent Playing The Angel singles had 7" picture disc releases yet no-one seemed to think that it would make sense if all 4 singles had 7" picture disc versions. Anyhoo, following sterling work by whose members petitioned Mute  the very colourful 7" picture disc (BONG35 - right) of Precious was released which contained the Album version and Michael Mayer Ambient Mix of the track.

Rather than release a new single, the band brought Playing The Angel out next on 17 October 2005 and it reached number 6 in the UK. The Anton designed artwork features someone who is either known as Mr Feathers or Tubby Goth, the latter being the band's name for him. Wonder if Robert Smith's lawyers were ever asked to get involved? We had the usual different formats to contend with. STUMM260 was a double LP, CDSTUMM260, LCDSTUMM260 (a SACD and DVD with a red Mr Feathers/Tubby Goth on the front) and UMDSTUMM260 which is apparently a format for the Playstation Portable. Now, I am a collector of Depeche releases as you may have gathered but I've never seen this and to be honest have no need to. Does anyone have one? The tracklisting of the album is A Pain That I'm Used To, John The Revelator, Suffer Well, The Sinner In Me, Precious, Macro, I Want It All, Nothing's Impossible, Introspectre, Damaged People, Lilian and The Darkest Star. This album is the first to feature songs written by Dave. He has three in all ranging from the excellent (Nothing's Impossible) to the very good (Suffer Well) to as good (I Want It All). The remaining tracks are Martin's and are a bit of a mixed bag. A Pain That I'm Used to is a great opener and John The Revelator follows it up nicely. After Suffer Well we have The Sinner In Me which is for me one of the strongest tracks here and has a marvellous very noisy breakdown in the middle. Precious is obviously excellent two. The two Martin sung songs are Macro and Damaged People and both are a bit crap to be honest though Macro is noteworthy for Dave's backing vocals both on the album and live which was a nice touch. The lyrics to Macro are easily amongst Martin's worst however. Lilian is a poppy effort which is a 4 or 5 out of 10 and Introspectre is one of those entirely pointless instrumental things. Finally, the album ends on The Darkest Star which I think is excellent. It's a track that tends to split the DM fan base - seems you either love it or hate it. Overall PTA has far many more high points than Exciter's many low points and is the better album of the two.

The next single release came on 12 December with A Pain That I'm Used (APTIUT) to which charted here at a respectable 15. Two cd formats and a dvd format were the first releases. CDBONG36 (left) featured APTIUT and another new B side called Newborn which, like Free, is a great tune and far stonger than a couple of the tracks on the album itself. LCDBONG36 (right) gave us five remixes of APTIUT. First up there is the Jacques Le Cont remix and Jacques Le Cont Dub with the former being more impressive than the latter though both are pretty decent. Jacques Le Cont is the alter ego of producer Stuart Price who is a huge Depeche fan but turned down the chance to produce the band on the basis that he was too big a fan to undertake the task. Track 3 is the Goldfrapp remix which is good but not up to the standard of their excellent remix of Halo for the Remixes project. The Bitstream Spansule Mix follows (again ok) before the Telex Remix rounds things off. The Telex Remix is excellent - short and to the point. It's well worth hearing.

DVDBONG36 (left) contains the utterly pointless APTIUT video, some exclusive behind the scenes footage of the video (yawn) and the audio of the Foster Remix by Kettel of Newborn which is by far the only reason to own this dvd. Vinyl releases followed a week later with two 12" singles and another 7" pciture disc. The 7" (BONG36 - see my four (!) copies right) contains the Goldfrapp remix of APTIUT and the Foster Remix by Kettel of Newborn. The picture disc itself is dark on one side and has PAIN on the other as the picture of my needlessly large collection of them shows. 12BONG36 (same art as LCDBONG36) contained the two Jacques le Cont remixes and L12BONG36 (same art as DVDBONG36) has the Bitstream Threshold Mix (again ok nothing more) and the Bitstream Spansule Mix.

The third single of the campaign was a new chapter in Depeche history as it was a single that Dave had written making it the first DM single release since Just Can't Get Enough not to have been written by Martin. Suffer Well is a great song and remains one of Dave's best. I'm not really a fan of his solo work bar the odd song (Kingdom, Saw Something (until the horror of the guitar solo)) but Suffer Well and Nothing's Impossible are really strong tracks. Another pleasing thing about Suffer Well was the video which saw Anton Corbijn return and which put Martin in a wedding dress. Whilst he may not have suited the leather skirt look in the mid 80's it's fair to say that it was far more attractive a sight than him dressed up as a bride. As well as the blushing bride the video also features Dave as a bequiffed fallen rock star (possibly the guy from the Its No Good video?) and Fletch as a preacher. Do try and see it if you haven't already. Suffer Well was released on 27 March 2006 and got to number 12 in the UK which was a strong showing for the third single from a 6 month old album. CDBONG37 (above left) contains Suffer Well and yet another new track as a bside, the short and snappy Better Days which is again a good tune. LCDBONG37 (above right) has 6 remixes of Suffer Well - Tiga Remix (a bit bland), The Narcotic Thrust Vocal Dub (nowhere near as good as its name would suggest), the Alter Ego Remix (ok), the M83 remix (hmmm....some love it but I don't), the Metope Vocal Remix and finally the Metope remix, the latter two sounding just as interesting as each other. DVDBONG37 (left) has the video (hooray!) and two audio tracks namely Suffer Well (Alter Ego Dub) and Better Days (Basteroid "Dance Is Gone" Vocal mix).

As well as the usual 12" singles there will vinyl treats in store too. 12BONG37 (same art as DVDBONG37)  had a whopping three tracks, all remixes of Suffer Well - Tiga Remix, Tiga Dub (Aren't dub versions usually just worse versions of the remix they claim to be a dub of?) and the Narcotic Thrust Vocal Dub (case in point). L12BONG37 (same art as LCDBONG37) gives us the two Metope and one M83 remix of Suffer Well and the daftly named Basteriod etc version of Better Days. the 7" picture disc (BONG37 left) has the Metope Vocal Mix of Suffer Well on the a-side and the frankly brilliant Monolake Mix of The Darkest Star on the b-side. An album track remix as a bside! We're in Higher Lover (Adrenaline Mix) territory here albeit the Monolake Mix isn't rubbish. And finally, we have our third ever XL12", XL12BONG37 (above right) which features two further remixes of The Darkest Star - the Holden Mix and the Holden Dub. Some ill advised commentators may try and tell you that a dub mix is usually just a worse version of the mix it claims to be the dub of but they clearly haven't heard these mixes. Both are great and frankly, it was nice to have an XL12 again.

The last single from Playing The Angel was a double a-side, the band's first since 1984's Blasphemous Rumours/Somebody double header. John The Revelator (JTR) and Lilian were a curious combination for a double A side as JTR is a far stronger track than Lilian although perhaps the intention was to attempt to capitalise on Lilian's poppy sound. It was released on 5 June 2006 and got to number 18 in the UK is again a pretty decent performance. There was only a video for JTR which is taken from the live performance from the Touring The Angel dvd with Mr Feathers making cartoon style appearances throughout. It's not very good. Once again we had a 7" picture disc (BONG38 - below left) which had JTR (Unkle Dub) which is ok and the frankly hideously named remix of Lilian named Robag Wrumhe Slomoschen Killer. The remix itself is as good as the name. CDBONG38 (above left) had the single versions of both tracks both of which are slight edits of the album versions.

LCDBONG38 (below left)  had 5 remixes of JTR:- "Dave Is In The Disco Tiefschwarz Remix, Murk Mode Remix, UNKLE Re Construction, Boosta Club remix and Tiefschwarz Dub. I know that it may be getting repetitive of me but, the UNKLE Re Construction aside, these remixes once again suffer from the curse of the bland club mix and as a result none are in any way memorable. As ever for this campaign we aslo got a dvd (DVDBONG38 - right) with the JTR video and audio of the bare version of Nothing's Impossible (the best thing on show here) and the Chab Vocal remix of Lilian. I should say at this stage that Mute made cardboard sleeves available for all single releases from PTA which were designed to house the 2 cd's and the dvd. From memory they were only available by ordering them from Mute and were fairly limited. There was vinyl here too with 12BONG38 (same art as CDBONG38) providing the two Tiefschwarz mixes above and the Chab Dub of Lilian and L12BONG38 (same art as LCDBONG38) giving us the Murk Mode Dub and Boosta Club remixes of JTR and the Chab Vocal remix of Lilian. Really one for collectors only and not in a good way.

The band toured the album fairly extensively and the shows I saw were great. There was much more life to them than the Exciter shows and the choice of songs for the set was much better especially Martin's solo versions of Blue Dress, Judas, shake The Disease and.....LEAVE IN SILENCE! I couldn't believe it when he played that - it was truly magical. A live dvd from the Milan show followed the tour but failed to capture how good the shows were due to the needlessly arty direction of it - a real shame. Overall the PTA era was a far more enjoyable era for me than Exciter mainly because the band showed that they could still put together a good album and that they were still a real live force. Next up would be another Best Of which I'll come to next time.

Finally - please let me apologise for the formatting of this blog. Google have once again pissed around with the blogger settings meaning my pictures are all over the place. I can't find an obvious cure for this at present but will sort it out once I do.

Thanks again to ,, and to Panos for his editorial skills and huge Depeche Mode brain.

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