Saturday, 4 December 2021

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 53: SHOULD BE HIGHER

 


The third and final single from Delta Machine was released as the tour entered its final few weeks. Should Be Higher is a Dave penned track (with the assistance of Kurt Uenala) and is the third Depeche Mode single co-written by Dave after the wonderful Suffer Well and Hole To Feed.

As with the album's two previous singles, we got three official formats, no promos, some "will this do lads? I've got a Joshua Tree anniversary tour to actually start designing things for and I can't be arsed" art from Anton and the worst set of remixes on one 12" in Depeche Mode's history.

With that build up, you'd be mad to stop reading now.

YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO PRAY - SHOULD BE HIGHER

The Single


Should Be Higher was released on 11th October 2013 in Germany, 14th October in the UK and France and on 15th October in North America.  3 days, 3 times the fun.

The Quietus liked the song when it previewed the album track by track:

"It starts off as the murkiest track yet with a purposeful 4/4 whip-crack beat. There's now no doubt that Delta Machine is the the darkest and most violent Depeche Mode material in years. Lyrically, the title and lyrics of holes in infected arms and lies , succumbing to bliss and so on suggest another addition to the DM canon of songs that might be about smack, or love, or both. There's another sky-straining chorus that makes this brilliant stadium pop, and yet more evidence of the weakness of the Anglo Saxon ear. Across Europe, from Volgograd to Turin, Helsinki to Lodz they'll come in their thousands for songs as mighty as this... while here in Britain we like to watch Coldplay and Muse. The disgrace of our nation."

I can't fault the Coldplay hating right enough. DIY Magazine said:

"The pace subsides, for a couple of minutes, in the waltzing brooding sway of ‘Should Be Higher’, an effortless and sombre build-up to a swirling and hypnotic pay-off. Martin Gore lends his backing vocals perfectly as he does throughout the album, creating beautiful contrasts with Gahan, as well as stunning harmonies."

Pitchfork was, naturally, scathing:

"As for Gahan's own songs-- this time, their music is by Kurt Uenala-- they're generally a reasonably convincing imitation of middling Gore. His Should Be Higher is yet another on the pile of ex-junkie lyrics"

One day music journalists will write about Dave and Depeche Mode without talking about drugs.

Anyway, the initial reviews of the song were mainly positive and I recall many people liking it at the time. The band of course neglected to promote it in anyway and thus it only hit number 81 in the UK charts. Ok, that's 7 places higher than Soothe My Soul, but it's hardly a chart smash.

The song is on ok song I suppose, but that's a problem Depeche Mode have suffered from since Sounds Of The Universe - a lot of the songs are just ok. It's an inoffensive enough track but it's just not really all that good. I would have preferred that the band were braver when choosing the inevitable Dave single from the album as Broken would have been a much better choice and one that might even have had a chance of charting and getting some exposure. Obviously, it would have been destroyed when remixed but it would have made a decent single. 

Should Be Higher was a fixture on the Delta Machine tour, using the various arenas' lights to full effect and, unusually for the, erm, challenging films Anton produced for this tour, the backing film was rather nice too. It was played 92 times on the tour, last appearing in Turin on the 18th of February 2014.

The Video


The video is a live version of the song, directed by Anton Corbijn with footage taken from the Delta Machine shows in Berlin, Leipzig and Munich. The full impressive scale of the accompanying film is shown in full effect and we see the five standard things we've come to expect on Depeche Mode tours in recent years:

1. Christian playing drum fills where there is no need to do so
2. Peter massaging his keyboards. He has a unique playing style really that brings to mind Swiss Toni from The Fast Show ("playing keyboards for Depeche Mode is very much like making love to a beautiful woman Fletch")
3. Martin grinning. A lot.
4. Fletch fletching like only Fletch can fletch
5. A sweaty Dave twirling around, pulling faces as he sings looking like a man who forgot to go for a pee before going on-stage.

During the film that is playing on the screens we see the members of Depeche Mode setting fire to all their pictures of Alan Wilder and flinging them around the place to dramatic effect which is eye catching if slightly petty.*

*possibly untrue

The Formats


It's funny to look back on these blogs and see the occasional criticism of some early remixes. They had a lot to live up to back then so the odd bad one stood out. When you have, for example, the Split Mix facing off against the Tsangarides Mix of Never Let Me Down Again, there can only be one winner.

I've never really seen the point of the Tsangarides Mix you see, as it doesn't actually seem to do anything bar make a few parts of the song slightly different. Perhaps it is too subtle for me. What I would say however is that I would happily have the late Chris Tsangarides remix every single Depeche Mode song if it meant I didn't ever have to listen to whatever on earth the collection of utter tat masquerading as remixes on this release again in my life. Christ, this is a rough ride.


The first CD is the best of the bunch here, primarily because it features one listenable track and therefore has a 50% success rate.


The two tracks here are Should Be Higher (Radio Mix) and Should Be Higher (Little Vampire Remix Single Edit). The first one is the good one. The second one is not good. On the artwork side, the live shot on the back is nice.


Night follows day, four years silence follows the end of a Depeche tour and CD2 always follows CD1. 


There are five remixes on this CD. Six. Two and, being generous, a half of them work, so we nearly get the 50% approval rating.


Here we go then:

1. Jim Sclavunos From Grinderman Remix. The good thing about Grinderman is the genius of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. This remix is like a Grinderman track with all the genius removed. Did any member of Depeche Mode even hear this?
2. Little Vampire Remix. This longer version of track 2 on CD1 is actually ok but that may be because I'd just sat through track 1 of this CD
3. MAPS Remix. This is the star of this CD. It's a lovely, shimmery take on the song that actually remixes it rather than gives it a kicking.
4. Jim Jones Revue Remix. Genuinely terrible. There's no other way to put it.
5. Radio Mix. Presuming you haven't kicked your CD player to death, this track comes as a relief.


We've reached the 12". Because I feel I owe you all a duty to report on every UK release, I listened to this for the first time since the only other time I listened to it, just so I could tell what it's like. "It can't be as bad as you remember David, " I said to myself as I nervously removed it from the 12" section of my Depeche Mode shelves. 

It was as bad, in fact, it was probably worse. What on earth is the point of this record? I wonder if my copy is actually defective as it appears to contain no Depeche Mode whatsoever in places and instead comes across like a collection of tracks by people who think they can operate modular synths but in fact can't. In the 90's there was a no doubt apocryphal tale put about by the Aphex Twin that when a record company courier came to his house for his remix of a Lemonheads track, he realised he'd forgotten so handed over the first DAT he could find. As we has the Aphex Twin, anything he touched would do and so the remix was used. Now, that may all be rubbish, but having heard this 12" I think the story has a new level of plausibility to it.


There are six remixes of Should Be Higher in total. Six. They are:

Side A
1. Truss Remix. This starts off badly, tails off in the middle and is dreadful by the end. A remix by the hapless current UK Secretary of State For Foreign Affairs Liz Truss would possibly have been better.
2. MPIA3 Definition. Firstly, that is a crap title. Secondly, this remix is surely a joke? The only note I have from when I listened to it is "Christ"
3. Keon Groenveveld Massive Remix. A massive waste of vinyl

Side B
1. Pangaea Dub Remix. By the time you get to Side B, you're questioning whether you still like music. This remix makes me hate everything.
2. Uberzone Remix. This is a good remix but that is only by comparing it to the surrounding horrr.
3. DJMREX Remix. Unlistenable

Seriously, if I ever look like I'm doing a "Let's look at Depeche Mode remixes" blog thing, please remove my access to the internet. I love Depeche Mode, they have brought me and will forever continue to bring me almost unexplainable levels of joy, but for the duration of this 12" which I think is around 76 hours, I wish I'd never heard of them.

Elsewhere, there were the two CD singles in the US, one in Taiwan, two UK promo CD-Rs and the usual digital download bundles so that you could take the Jim Jones Revue Remix wherever you went in case you met someone you hated or had to torture a prisoner.


And on that high note, the Delta Machine era releases came to an end. How on earth could they follow the worst 12" in their history? Would we ever see Depeche Mode again?

The tour ended in Berlin, there was a DVD of the Berlin gig and Dave did some Soulsavers stuff unlike after the Global Spirit Tour when...oh.

Anyway, they did come back and they were flag waving and fully bearded up. We'll take a look at that revolutionary return next time.

7 comments:

  1. Wonderful as ever, but feel you're sometimes a little dismissive of the the latter day remixes. Not all are dross, in this case the DJMREX track (the DJM part is Douglas MacCarthy of Nitzer Ebb) is pretty decent, moody and pulsating, and actually does sound like a companion piece to the original song?

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  2. It's better than Soothe My Soul by a long way but I agree that it seems like a nice album track rather than obvious single. The screens when they played it live were probably the best visuals of the Delta Tour.

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  3. The Darkest Days Of D&M : The last issue. The covers are a shame (even with crappy songs, Martyn Atkins could give a good visual.... Anton can't). The Jim Jones version is quite good, it bring something knew...But "Angel" or Alone could've been a much wiser and stronger choice for a single.
    Thanks from France
    Rendal

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  4. Mate, you’re way off the mark with this review! All about personal opinions, I get that, but this smacks of nonsense!

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  5. Sin dudas para mi también es el peor 12 pulgadas de la historia. Lo escuché una sola vez en la vida, cuando lo compre. Es insoportable. Horrible. Encima la canción me parece buena, pero esos remixes destruyen cualquier cosa.
    Abrazo. Mariano

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  6. Personally, I thought Should Be Higher was great and a real highlight of the Delta Machine tour - okay, perhaps lyrically, it was a bit all arms and injections and blah, but sonically, it had a really nice, 80s atmosphere, it kind of twinkled. Angel was the best song on Delta Machine, this was the second one.

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