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