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 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 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....

Monday 20 May 2019


A tale of record collecting woe...

Last Friday, two packages arrived for me. I am one of these people you read about who spend money on "vinyls" (grrr) and who buy deluxe editions of releases by certain bands. I also buy ridiculous things like every 7" version of People Are People that I come across, but that particular Depeche Mode related problem is the subject of everything else I write, so we'll leave that for now.

The two packages that arrived for me were the triple coloured vinyl version of I Am Easy To Find, the new album by The National and the deluxe boxset version of the most recent Foals album Everything Not Save Will be Lost - Part 1. The National's album came direct from The National's Cherry Tree fanclub and the Foals album direct from their online store. Both cost in the region of £50 each. 

For that money, you'd expect some care would go into sending a package that a lot of thought has already gone into. The National's album comes in triple vinyl in a tri-fold sleeve and is a lovely thing. That release was packaged up perfectly - a strong cardboard outer box contained another cardboard package inside which the record had been vacuum packed for extra safety. Although the actual vinyl was send in the sleeve inside its own inner sleeve (usually a no-no), the vacuum packing had kept it in place and it arrived in pristine, unblemished condition. Great.

As soon as I opened the Foals package however, it was clear something had gone very wrong.

The Foals Collector's Edition boxset promises this:
- Special edition box with additional vinyl sleeve to fit the equivalent Part 2 vinyl upon release
- 24 Page hardcover book
- Album on 12" violet coloured 180g vinyl
- Exits 7" vinyl single exclusive to this set

It also adds digital singles and a signed piece of artwork. All rather tempting if you're a person like me and if you've been playing the superb Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 incessantly since its release.

The first thing I noticed was the the spine of the box which didn't exactly fill me with confidence:

The front of the "hardcover" book is also torn:

Needless to say, the top and bottom corners are bashed and crushed.

Somewhat tentatively then, I opened the box. It came as no real surprise, when I found the album in this state:

The album had been left in its inner sleeve when dispatched and, having just been bunged into a box with no support, the inevitable happened. The sleeve is ripped on the right hand side and, doubtless because the vinyl was given room to roam about in transit like some sort of violet coloured marauding beast, the seems on the neighbouring page of the book are nicely ripped.

There is also the 7" of Exits which is found a couple of pages on inside the book. Hilariously, it was in worse condition than the album:

Exits had successfully exited its sleeve. The record is also damaged for additional good measure:

What a lot of shoddy shite.

I put up some of these posts on Instagram on Friday night and people responded, telling me that they had had similar problems withe the Foals boxset. One had even returned it at his own cost, only to be sent another that was in even worse condition.

With few exceptions (DFA, Mute, Hand Drawn Dracula to name three diverse companies). record companies obviously don't give a toss about how they send out orders because, as long as there are people like me in the world, they will be given bundles of cash for different versions of albums. I only bought the Foals box as I'd enjoyed their album so much on Spotify in the first place. Being an old fashioned type, I still feel that an artist should benefit from their labours so I wanted to get my hands on a cool version of what is a superb record. I ordered it and then whoever packaged it chucked it in a box, kicked it around a bit and then sent it to me. Thanks. Thanks very much.

What's the point of this post? I don't know. I'm fucked off that I've again bought something that is treated with no care at all once I've paid over my money. I can't even be bothered asking for a swap as I fear I'll just have to write another blog talking about another smashed up box. Contrast Foals packaging with that of The National and it's even more frustrating. Other labels or acts like I've mentioned above or, for example, the superb way in which Nine Inch Nails handle their packaging, are unfortunate exceptions to the general rule that those in charge of Foals' packaging have steadfastly abided by.

I imagine most of you who read this will have had similar issues. I hope this post helps people consider packaging a bit more from a 7" single all the way up to the most madcap of boxsets. I don't think it will however as, frankly, very few record companies actually care.

Everything Not Packaged Properly Will Be Lost - Part1 to infinity.....

Tuesday 19 March 2019



Today is the 29th anniversary of the release of Violator, Depeche Mode’s finest album and an album which I seem to have spent the last 29 years telling anyone who would listen just how important an album it is. 

Next year, the album turns 30 and my intention is to repeat the idea of the month-long Black Celebration – A Month Long Period Of Rejoicing blog I ran in March 2016 with a month’s worth of articles by me and a number of other contributors looking at Violator from every conceivable angle. 

One of those contributors will be Kevin May, author of Halo, a man who possibly knows more about Violator than the band themselves. 

Kevin had originally planned to release Halo in 2015 but events overtook him somewhat, meaning that the book was unfortunately delayed. It will now be released in 2020 to celebrate Violator’s 30th anniversary and I’m delighted and very proud to announce that Kevin has asked me to co-author the book. It was a real honour to be asked and I was only too happy to accept. 

Halo, the book version, will feature all the original interviews, story, analysis and fan contributions that Kevin has worked so hard on. Trust me, you’re going to love what Kevin has done. The book will now also feature additional elements from me and other blog contributors, many of which will be teased during the blog’s Violator month in March 2020. 

The release of Halo in paperback, Kindle and other digital formats will come at the conclusion of that online series – as close to March 31st 2020 as we can get it! 

I’m really thrilled to be involved in Halo as I know how keenly the Depeche Mode fanbase is anticipating it. I hope that the additional content that I provide will add to what is already a hugely exciting project.

Monday 11 February 2019


One of the finest pieces of music news I got in 2018 (other than confirmation that the Depeche Mode tour was finally ending meaning I could put the Global Spirit Tour Project to bed and reclaim my life) was that Ladytron were coming back. For reasons I've never been able to understand, Ladytron have never been given the recognition their immense back catalogue deserves - if this album doesn't put that right, I'm officially giving up on holding out any hope for the public's taste in music.

Since 2011's Gravity The Seducer, the members of the band have been off doing their own thing. Helen Marnie's two solo albums Crystal World and Strange Words And Weird Wars were two exceptional albums much loved by this blog, both of which moved away from the dark electronics of Ladytron into a poppier area. On Ladytron, this poppier, lighter feel combines wonderfully with the band's trademark sound, producing an album rich in quality and bursting with wonderful tunes. 

Opener Until The Fire opens the album perfectly with a real statement of intent, leading into the already released The Island. Both The Island and The Animals were issued last year to rightful acclaim, but when you hear them as part of the album, they sound bigger and even better. They, and indeed the whole of this album, seem to suggest that Ladytron have found a new level of confidence, making them sound better than they ever have done. When you compare this album to Chvrches sadly forgettable third album, there is a marked difference.

It no doubt seems over the top to say this, but it's very hard to pick one highlight out from this album because the whole thing is excellent. It's not too often a 13 track album will hold the listener's attention its full duration, but Ladytron manages this effortlessly. Tower Of Glass is a stunning track which, like the album's penultimate track The Mountain, brings to mind Helen Marnie's solo work.  The blazing electronics in Paper Highways are just superb and Mira's lead vocal on the track is sublime. A Mira track is always welcome. At the band's comeback show in Glasgow last year, Black Cat was a standout as it always is. If the band tour this album (and let's hope they do), Paper Highways will doubtless be a similar highlight.

Even though the job of a review is to review the album in some depth, I'm going to ignore that and just once again say that this album is excellent. You really do have to listen to it. Ladytron have been away far too long and not many bands come back after such a break with the same magic they previously had. Ladytron have not only come back impressively, but they've come back sounding bigger and better than they ever have done. Ladytron is an album you really don't want to miss.

Ladytron by Ladytron is out on 15 February on !K7. Find out more at

Monday 7 January 2019


The release of Depeche Mode's first two 12" single boxsets (review here) was greeted with a mixture of delight and complaints as with every Depeche release these days it seems. Many people felt that they were too expensive especially when they would be paying for things they already had, which is a perfectly understandable view to take. There's no getting away from the fact that they are expensive and as the series continues the prices will only go up. When we get to the Violator boxset for example, we're looking at at least nine 12" singles. If you've been a collector since the early days then, you'll have all these records already. However, if you're new to Depeche Mode collecting, these boxes are a great way of starting things off.

Again using Violator as an example, a look at Discogs this morning shows me that the cost of buying the full set of 12" singles released in 1990 in mint condition (as the 12" singles in the boxset are) is £273 plus postage. I presume, indeed I desperately hope, that the Violator boxset will cost less than that - I'm sure you'll remind me if it doesn't.

Anyway, my point is that, while costly, these boxsets are a great way to get a hold of mint condition Depeche Mode 12" singles for less than you'd pay on Discogs etc. They're a good thing as far as I'm concerned. There are of course people like me who already have the 12" singles AND buy the boxsets but we're beyond help. 

Right - enough rambling. What about the boxsets themselves?

Construction Time Again The 12" Singles Boxset

Look at those beauties. The Construction Time Again era contains some of the band's most iconic cover art with the album and Love In Itself covers superbly photographed by Brian Griffin. The attention to detail throughout that era's releases is superb. From the worker icons on both Get The Balance Right singles (which may have slightly influenced this blog's logo) which fit the theme of the at that point unreleased album perfectly, to the matching designs of the three limited edition 12" singles, everything the band released in 1983 had a marvellous symmetry to it, each released tied to the themes of the album itself. 

The 12" singles in the boxset are of course faithful reproductions of the originals. For people who get excited about that sort of thing, and I of course am one of those, the covers of the limited edition 12" singles have the same texture as the original releases. The labels on the records are also identical to those on the original releases and again, that is a very good thing. That sort of attention to detail is what makes these boxsets worthwhile. As ever, thanks to Daniel Barassi for all his work here.

The contents of each 12" are well known to everyone by now so I won't go through them all. If for some reason you have never heard Get The Balance Right (Combination Mix) or Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts) then you really need to remedy that. They are two of the band's great self produced remixes. The limited edition 12" singles are all worth hearing too as each one contains four live tracks from the band's show at London's Hammersmith Odeon on 25 October 1982. The A Broken Frame era was an interesting one for the band given that they had to deal with Vince's departure. These live tracks show that they were trying to strike a balance or even trying to get the balance right (sorry) between pop (A Photograph Of You, The Meaning Of Love) and the more experimental side of things that the album had already hinted at (see My Secret Garden and its Oberkorn intro). These three records are the only officially released A Broken Frame era live recordings and that makes them worth having.  

The peerless DM Live Wiki has more tracks from that show available for streaming by the way. To further prove my point about the band's more experimental side coming to the fore, check out The Sun And The Rainfall from that show with its pre Construction Time Again metal bashing noises. You can listen to it here. 

This release also contains Alan Wilder's first Depeche Mode songwriting credits. He and Martin co-wrote the frankly awful The Great Outdoors and the "ok lads we get it - it's all about work and metal and all that" decent b-side Work Hard and Alan penned the rather good Fools all by himself. The Great Outdoors  is probably the band's most terrifying track, sounding like the music you would hear as you are murdered by an enraged gnome with the hammer shown on the album's cover.

Finally, the boxset comes with a reproduction Love In Itself promo poster and the box itself shows the oil derrick from the Love In Itself limited edition 12", recreated for this release. There's a download card to allow you to enjoy all these digitally too. One thing that Sony want to change for future releases is the tagging of these songs on all boxsets when downloaded and put into ITunes. When downloaded, the individual track names are all garbled and therefore almost entirely  useless e.g. "ConstructionTimeAgain12"boxset_EverythingCountsA1InLargerAmounts" etc. It's not the biggest problem in the world, but entering the names individually is a pain in the arse. 

By the way, if you bought all these 12" singles in mint condition on Discogs today, you'd pay £117 plus postage. That's more expensive than the boxset,

 As with the previous boxsets, there was an unboxing video and here it is:

Some Great Reward The 12" Singles Boxset

The Some Great Reward boxset unsurprisingly contains all the 12" singles from the era plus a new 12" in the shape of L12BONG7 which is the 12" version of the original 7" ep featuring Somebody (Remix), Everything Counts (Live), Blasphemous Rumours (Single Version) and Told You So (Live). I'm really pleased with that as it means the release is a complete record of the era. It'll be interesting to see what happens with GBONG17 when the Violator boxset comes around.

The artwork for this era isn't as impressive as Construction Time Again, the album cover art aside. It's a lot starker and, while the Master And Servant 12" cover is marvellous, the rest are a little bland. I'm not sure how well known this is or not, but on the People Are People cover, the arm on the right hand side belongs to Hugh Grant the entirely one dimensional English actor. There's a fact to entertain your loved ones with.

One of the best things about this boxset for me is the digital download element, track name nonsense notwithstanding. Unless I'm very much mistaken (awaits "OMG YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT DEPECHE MODE MAN" attack from the Black Swarm), this release sees the first official digital versions of People Are People (On U-Sound Remix by Adrian Sherwood), Are People People? and Master And Servant (An On-U Sound Science Fiction Dance Hall Classic Re-Remixed by Adrian Sherwood) and that is very much a good thing. I love these remixes and the fact I can now sing along to Are People People's Zing Zing Zings and Boom Bop Bops on the train is great for me and terrifying for my fellow passengers. 

For completeness' sake, I should point out that Alan (no he's not coming back) has another song here, the superb In Your Memory, the b-side to People Are People. It's far better than Martin's (Set Me Free) Remotivate Me which lets the Master And Servant  release down rather dramatically. The 12" versions of People Are People and Master And Servant - Different Mix and Slavery Whip Mix - are both towering gorgeous beasts of remixes and should be on everyone's playlists. The live tracks on the Blasphemous Rumours releases are from the band's show at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool on 29 September 1984. 

As an aside, the huge pulsating Depeche Mode brain that is Michael Rose pointed out on depmod's Facebook page a thing that will annoy people like him (and me) for the rest of time. It takes a certain type of person to get annoyed by this sort of thing, but as I mentioned earlier, we are beyond help. Look at the alignment of the spines in the boxset:

Photo courtesy of Michael Rose


Finally, there was another unboxing video and this time it features, among others,  the silky sounds of Sean Salo. Here it is:

And what would this cost you if you bought the records all in mint condition on Discogs? £148 plus postage is the answer which seems high to me but there you go. If anyone is remotely interested by this point, I included the 7" ep in that.

And Then...

So there we have it - two more excellently curated releases and two great additions to my collection. If you want them, go and get them. If you don't want them, don't go and get them. Let's not argue about their worth or otherwise. Let's not get along so awfully. Boxsets Are Boxsets.