Monday 6 August 2012


As you'll realise from the majority of my blog posts I really rather like Depeche Mode. As far as I am concerned they are the greatest band I have ever heard and seen live. For me, there is very little they can do wrong. Occasionally however even I have to admit that I don't like something be it as insignificant a track as It's Called A Heart or something that I just don't get like others do such as Nothing. I've never disliked an album before though but showing that they can still surprise Depeche managed to persuade me to do that when they released Exciter. This album contains without doubt the worst Depeche Mode song in history and for that reason alone I have to rank Exciter as the worst Depeche Mode album. I'll explain more below...

The first new Depeche music in 3 years arrived on 23 April 2001 when they released Dream On which got to a very decent number 6 in the UK despite a bizarre and frankly crap video. Dream On is a good song propelled along by a nice guitar line from Martin. The first hints of the electronics that the album would contain are to the fore too making Dream On a good single and a good tune. It's certainly more subdued than previous first singles but that's fine. We only got three formats this time round. Firstly CDBONG30 (above left) which, like all (at least UK) cd singles from Exciter came in cardboard sleeves containing an envelope inside which housed the cd. The artwork is lazy from Anton but for the 2001 period that was not unsual. The cd itself has three tracks. Firstly we have the Single Version of Dream On which I like. Next we have the b-side which is the instrumental Easy Tiger (Full Version). I don't know what the point of this track is really. It starts off fine I guess but then Martin puts the drum machine on the Jazz setting and the song meanders pointlessly for its remaining 3 minutes. The final track is the God awful Bertrand Burgalat and AS Dragon Version of Easy Tiger. It seems to be two people covering Easy Tiger but doing it really REALLY badly. I have no idea at all how the band or Mute thought this would be a good idea. LCDBONG30 (below left) was an all black sleeve with a different coloured version of the CDBONG cover on the inner envelope. It contains 4 tracks in all, all remixes of Dream On. Firstly we have the Bushwacka Tough Guy mix which is fine albeit a bit bland. Track 2 is the star of the show here - the Dave Clarke Acoustic mix. It's a nice gentle version focussing on the guitar line and some synth parts. Martin played this as an intro to the era's shows. He would waddle onstage in an odd way looking around the arena playing on his acoustic guitar. Strange but quite charming really. Next up we have the Octagon Man Mix which tries to be a bit different but fails. Finally the Kid 606 Mix gives Dream On the full Kid A treatment which is ok but no more than that. 12BONG30 (same sleeve as CDBONG30) added two new mixes to the Bushwacka Tough Guy Mix. Firstly there is the Dave Clarke Remix (aka Dave Clarke Club Mix) which is a bit bland on the whole. There's then the Bushwacka Blunt Mix which is pretty much as its name describes. All in all, a fairly poor standard of remixes which you might listen to once or twice with the exception of the horror show that is the remix of Easy Tiger.

Next up we got the album itself. Exciter arrived on 14 May 2001 and reached number 9 in the UK album charts. I remember at the time that trailed the album's release by putting 30 second samples up on the site. That was rather exciting and I used to go to EasyInternet every lunchtime to catch the newest sample. The one that stood out the most for me was Shine - the sample started at "You've been hanging from a rope of mediocrity" with the hard sounding synth parts in the background. I was excite(r)ed. It sounded like Depeche were back in a big electronically marvellous way. Hmmm.

Exciter (left)  appeared on double LP (STUMM190), cassette (CSTUMM190), CD (CDSTUMM190) and mini disc (MDSTUMM190) each containing thirteen tracks. The focus of the album seems to be moody electronics with quite a bit of influence from producer Mark Bell. The production is fairly cold however and to be perfectly honest fairly bland. The whole thing never really gets going sonically and it really lacks something for that.  Kicking off with Dream On (see above), we then moved onto Shine. It's a decent track but not spectacular. I'd like to have seen them at least try it out live but that wasn't to be. Track 3 is The Sweetest Condition which is a great song and one which did work live despite Dave's Elvis-isms. Next up we have When The Body Speaks which is nice enough. So far so ok - the first four tracks don't compare to the first 4 on Some Great Reward, Black Celebration, MTFM, Violator, SOFAD or Ultra but fair enough. Next up though, Depeche give us something that none of those albums gave us.

The worst Depeche Mode song ever.

"We are the dead of night/We're in the Zombie room"

What is a Zombie room? What the hell's going on? Why does this song exist? I will NEVER understand it. Anyway - moving on track 6 was Lovetheme a wholly pointless instrumental that despite that is still not as bad as The Dead of Night. Freelove is track 7 (see below for single review) followed by the first Martin song of the album, Comatose. It's not very good really. Track 9 is the second single, the Dad goes to the disco sounds of I Feel Loved (again, see below) and then we have another Martin song Breathe. I don't mind Breathe but it does somewhat overdo the Biblical theme. Easy Tiger (AGAIN? SERIOUSLY?) is next before I Am You which I feel the same way about as I do Shine. Sounds ok but I'd really have liked to have seen it played live. We then end on a high with the fantastic Goodnight Lovers (originally entitled Born A Lover). It's a great closing track and I love it.  The Exciter artwork was another three minute job from Anton albeit with some decent band shots in the inner sleeve/booklet. And that was that. Easily, at least in my view, the band's weakest album to date with some really awful moments on it. After the magic of Ultra it was a real shame. Happily we got a tour this time and whilst it had some odd moments (The Dead of F****** Night opening shows, the bizarre versions of Black Celebration and Condemnation) it was a fairly joyous affair. Pleasingly, on the shows I saw Fad Gadget opened which was a real treat. RIP Frank :(

The album was followed on 30 July 2001 by the next single I Feel Loved which got to number 12 in the UK. I Feel Loved is a Depeche go dance track which is a bit flat really and one that is ok and no more. It seemed a little odd for Depeche to be going down this route at the time as they appeared to be attempting to appeal to clubbes when they had no real need to do so. As well as the usual formats, the Exciter singles produced a ton of promo 12"'s and cd's which I'm not dealing with here as I don't own them. I'm sticking to general release formats only so forgive me if this blog seems short on remixes, especially where I Feel Loved is concerned. 12BONG31 (left) contained two remixes - Danny Tengalia's Labour of Love Edit and Danny Tengalia's Labor of Love Dub. They're both ok and use some interesting DM samples but I wouldn't rush out to get them if you don't already have them. L12BONG31 (above right) added three remixes - Umek Mix, Thomas Brinkmann mix and Chamber's mix all of which are much the same really. CDBONG31 (same art as 12BONG31) gave us a b-side which was a cover of Dirt by The Stooges. As well as that we had the single version of I Feel Loved and an Extended Instrumental version which is fairly pointless without vocals. LCDBONG31 (left) was a fancy enhanced cd. It had music (Danny Tengalia's Labor of Love Edit, Thomas Brinkmann Mix and Chamber's Mix), videos (four clips of the band doing things) and wallpaper for your PC. The video for the song features the band playing in a nightclub sometimes surrounded by angry dogs who had no doubt just heard The Dead of Night.

The next single was Freelove which hit number 19 on its release on 11 November 2001. The artwork whilst as minimal as the rest of this project's artwork is much more appealing which is nice. The video is odd however involving the band going about on a truck playing the song.  I find the album version of Freelove a bit bland really. It's a good enough track but it lacks something. CDBONG32 (left) kicked off with Flood's Mix of Freelove which I much prefer to the version. It's much livelier sounding and really works. Hooray for Flood as ever. We then get an instumental b-side named Zenstation which is pretty average but not as average as track 3 which is a remix of Zenstation named Atom's Stereonerd remix. LCDBONG32 (above right) gives us three remxies of Freelove. We have the Bertrand Burgalat remix which is ok, the Schlammpeitziger "Little Rocking Suction Pump" version which is as bad as its name is long and then the frankly shambolic DJ Muggs Remix which is not as much a remix as a downright insult. Awful. In a first for Depeche we also got a DVD single (DVDBONG32 - top left ) which has a "Live Bootleg" video of Freelove which is of little interest. There's also audio of live versions of Breathe and The Dead of Night (STOP IT FFS!) all from the Phildelphia show of the tour. There are also 4 short clips including a clip of Black Celebration live. Finally, a 12" (12BONG32 - same art as CDBONG32) is available too taking the DJ Muggs, Schlammpeitziger and Burgalat mixes of Freelove, the Stereonerd version of Zenstation from the formats above and adding the Console Mix of Freelove which I'm pleased to say is a fairly decent remix.

To end the Exciter promotion Goodnight Lovers was sort of released on 11 February 2002 although it didn't chart in the UK as the cd format didn't count for the charts due to the number of tracks it contained (CDBONG33 - right) We had Goodnight Lovers, the Acoustic version of When The Body Speaks (a great remix), the Electronicat Remix of ...yes you guessed it...the Dead of Night (ARGH!) and finally the marvellous and probably best remix of the whole campaign Isan Falling Leaf Mix of Goodnight Lovers. The lovely Germans released a great red vinyl 12" which came with a poster of the cd cover. A very nice release notwithstanding the remix of THAT song that appeared.

And that was that. Exciter is not very exciting in fact it's too bland and mainly not very good with the odd exception. Whether that was a symptom of the band still not getting on too well (Martin's refusal to consider Dave's songs etc) I don't know but when your album is worse than A Broken Frame you really have to take a long hard look at yourself. Mercifully they got it together on Playing The Angel which I'll write about next time

Thanks as ever to all of you, to, to, to and to anyone else I should have credited. I hope you enjoy this blog and I'm sorry if it seems harsh on Exciter but there you go. I can't love EVERYTHING they do. Please feel free to stick any comments here or even to shout at me on my Twitter page.

Finally, let me apologise for the slightly odd formatting of this blog. For some reason Google keep mucking up my pictures
I'm off to the Zombie room.....

Wednesday 1 August 2012


Given the circumstances, not touring Ultra was a wise decision. The band were fragile at best so focussing on staying alive was rightly considered more important than a 9 month trek around the globe. Rather than follow that with another album the band (or perhaps more accurately the label) decided that the time was right for the much anticipted follow up to The Singles 81-85 so we got The Singles 86-98 a compilation of all DM's singles from...well...1986

Prior to the release of the album we were treated to a new single named Only When I Lose Myself (OWILM). I still like the song and think it's a decent single. It didn't really work live on the Singles Tour however I'd like to see them have another go at it someday.  The single was released in the UK on 7 September 1998 reaching a pretty poor number 17 in the charts. The video was an arty affair featuring dancing twins, dancing men, car crashes and occasional shots of the band. Not really a great addition to the DM visual catalogue. There were a number of formats for us to buy. The standard cd single release CDBONG29 (left) featured three tracks - OWILM, Surrender and Headstar. The latter track is an instrumental which is perfectly fine but is no Kaleid. Surrender is the standout track on this release however. It's a typical Martin love song featuring holy beds, temptation and of course chains and whilst some might criticise it for being a bit too jazzy I think it's cool. Martin's live version is worth hearing too. Here's a random fact for you - the song was originally called Tempt.

The twelve inch release (12BONG29 - same art as LCDBONG29) featured three remixes. First up we have the Subsonic Legacy Remix of OWILM. It's ok I guess - not good, not bad. Track 2 is the Dan The Automator remix of OWILM which is very odd but pretty cool featuring a lot of strings. Finally we get the Luke Slater remix of Headstar which does absolutely nothing for me. LCDBONG29 shares not only the 12BONG29's artwork tracklist but also its' tracklist

To confuse matters further L12BONG29  features tracks that feature on XLCDBONG29. Blogging about DM was simpler when CD mirrored 12, LCD mirrored L12 etc. Anyway, I'll focus on the XLCDBONG release as it is the pick of the bunch here. I remember trying to track this cd down in Glasgow upon its release. I went to a now closed record shop in the city's West end and asked the chap behind the counter of he had the new Depeche Mode cd single. Barely looking up from his copy of Hipster Monthly he snorted "No mate...what's on it?" to which I replied "A few remixes. There's one by DJ Shadow on there." This caused him to look up - "DJ Shadow? Aye right. Like he'd touch Depeche Mode." What marvellous customer service. Anyway, once I tracked the XLCD down it turned out that lifelong Depeche Mode fan DJ Shadow HAD touched the band and had provided a remix after all.

The XLCD (cover left) features five tracks in all. First up we have the 10 minute plus Gus Gus Long Play mix of OWILM. It's ok but it really is too long. The Gus Gus Short Play mix (track 4) is much better and is a really decent remix. It's also my wife's favourite DM remix. Track 2 is the fantastic Painkiller ( Kill The Pain- DJ Shadow vs Depeche Mode) a storming remix of the b side of Barrel Of A Gun by none other than Depeche Mode hating ;) DJ Shadow. I love this mix and have done since I first heard it. My friend Dom has this on a rare Mo' Wax 12" which he refuses to give me. You can click on his name there to be taken to his Twitter page where you can harrass him until he gives me the record. Track 3 is a remix of Surrender named the Catalan FC Out of Reach remix. It's ok but doesn't beat the original. Finally, we have World In My Eyes (Safar Mix). This was a bootleg mix which had been kicking around for a while which was then pleasingly added to this release. It's an excellent remix of an excellent song, featuring a clearly tired and emotinal Dave drawling "Goood evening San Franciscooooo" at the start which is sampled from the soundboard recording of the US94 San Francisco gig (get that if you haven't by the way). All in all, XLCDBONG29 is a real treat and a must have for Depeche fans. L12BONG29 lifted the Gus Gus Long Play, Painkiller and Catalan FC mixes from the cd and had the same artwork as the cd.

The Singles 86 - 98 (MUTEL5) (art right) was released on 28 September 1998 reaching a respectable 5 in the UK album charts. It was available on number of formats - Triple LP (MUTEL5), cassette (CMUTEL5), double cd (CDMUTEL5) and minidisc (ask your parents!) (MDMUTEL5). The tracklisting on all was the same with all the singles in date order bar the "Wait....What?" moment of finding Everything Counts (Live) and Little 15 at the end of the tracklist. Now I can sort of understand Little 15 as it was a Euorpean release only but Everything Counts (Live) was an actual single (see blog here) and should have slotted in between Behind The Wheel (7" remix - boooo) and Personal Jesus. Grrrr. Pedantry aside it's a good if inessential release for DM fans. The Singles 81-85 was re-released with a fancy new cover at the same time. I covered that on the Singles 81-85 blog which you can find here if you wish.

Pleasingly, Depeche also hit the road for a world tour where they played most of the singles and the odd older tune such as Somebody. The gigs were good but fairly restrained certainly when compared to the SOFAD era shows. The only downsides were the failure to translate OWILM and Barrel of A Gun into decent live versions. Oh and the support band I saw (Purity) were the worst support band I've ever seen.

And that's that. The Singles 86-98 closed a chapter on the band and opened a new one where they were back to a three piece. Would the next release be A Broken Frame part 2? No - it would be Exciter. I'll write about that next time but I should be warn you of something.

I really don't like Exciter........

Thanks for reading and thank you to, (the new revamped Home. Go and check it out and while you're at it check out its Facebook page too) and who helped me with the pictures as well as everyone else in the Depeche Mode world.