Friday 17 July 2020


You might think that spending months researching and writing a month long Violator special would mean that I have nothing else to say about the album given that, with the help of my guest bloggers, every single inch of the album was explored, analysed and, let's be honest, relentlessly praised in March this year.

That would probably be the case had the new Violator - The 12" Singles box not arrived this morning. It's the next instalment of Depeche Mode's 12" boxset campaign, a campaign that has been a joy so far. This boxset has been my and many other fans most keenly anticipated release as it is recreating the band's releases from their artistic (both musically and visually) highpoint. Can these reissues of iconic singles match the originals? Are they as beautiful as the likes of my much loved and much travelled L12BONG18?

Of course they are. This boxset is everything it promised to be and much, much more.

As Julie Andrews said, let's start at the very beginning. The box itself (front above) is a lovely thing. As with the other releases, it features a re-interpretation of the album artwork and the job that has been done is great. The back of the box has one of those explanatory stuck on bits of paper that is basically pointless but acts as a nice reminder of what's inside:

It's especially handy if you don't open the box as it tells you just what you're missing out on. I always take the view that music is to be enjoyed not hidden away, so I always open these up. Some people don't and that is of course fine. Each to their own and I can confidently back that up having written blogs about catalogue numbers and all that nonsense previously. Anyway, enough of the box, let's look at its contents.


At this point, you may be worrying that I am going to spend a large amount of time reviewing the remixes that feature here and droning on things that the vast majority of the population of Earth have little time for. Don't worry - that's not going to happen. I covered all that at almost ridiculous length in March, so if you want to read all about the singles themselves, have a click on the links below, have a read, then have a lie down and pop back here to carry on where you left off:

Personal Jesus - reach out and click here
World In My Eyes - let me take you on a click

Back to it. The 12" of Personal Jesus is faithfully and beautifully recreated as you would expect. Being reminded of just how stunning the artwork is for this release is never a bad thing. The limited edition 12" is recreated too and it's here that we get a couple of very nice surprises.


Housed within the sleeve is a stunning double sided 12" artwork which features all four then members of the band (apparently Alan Wilder left a while ago. I had no idea) in their awkward poses with the model who features on all the releases. It was a huge surprise to find this and it is a wonderful addition to this set. The little additions that have been made throughout this campaign have been a real joy; tiny fan pleasing details that show incredible attention to detail. 


When Personal Jesus first came out, there was a limited edition 7" gatefold release and, within the gatefold, there was a booklet that contained the pictures we now find in bigger form in this release. Their recreation here is a special touch.


Enjoy The Silence is next. It is of course beautiful:


The limited edition 12" is just as gorgeous:


This seems a good time to mention the second great surprise within this boxset, When Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence were originally released, some versions of the limited edition 12" and CD singles bore a sticker that said "Depeche Mode Limited Edition Remix." Here's my Personal Jesus limited edition 12" for example:

The 12" singles in the box don't have these stickers on them but, and this is VERY much the sort of thing that tickles me, the boxset includes replica stickers in case you want to stick them on yourself. They really have gone to quite extreme lengths to exactly replicate, or at least give you the chance to exactly replicate the original releases. There are four stickers but, as far as I'm aware, the original limited editions of the other two singles from the album didn't have those stickers on them. That's not a criticism by the way; it's just my reflex Depeche Mode geek reaction kicking in unstoppably. Here are the stickers:

Clever stuff. 1990 of course gave us the band's first ever Extra Limited 12", XL12BONG18. As you know, it features one track only, Enjoy The Silence - The Quad: Final Mix and the record itself is a one sided affair with glorious DM etching on the b-side. It is recreated here and is quite magnificent:


The etched b-side is of course present, along with the majestic inner sleeve:


Just look at that. Sigh.

Policy Of Truth is next in all its shiny glory:


The orignial limited 12" came in a gatefold sleeve with a glorious all-black inner sleeve. Will the boxset recreate that?


Of course it will.


It is as stunning now as it was in 1990.

The fourth and final single from the album was of course World In My Eyes. Let's get the easy bit out of the way - the standard 12":


Iconic, majestic and many other over the top adjectives - this single is probably my favourite Depeche release in terms of artwork. As you will have read in my blog about the single I linked to earlier (if not, have a look at it will help with this bit), the limited edition 12" of this release was an absolute stunner. It was housed in a blue gel pack that needed to be cut open ("Violate here" - genius) to reveal the gorgeous, glossy wonder inside with an inner sleeve bejewelled in drool inducing World Violation tour pictures. Surely recreating that would be a bridge too far? Blue gel sleeves may have been possible in 1990 when the world was young, more innocent and contained a record industry mad enough to pull off a stunt like that, but this is 2020. We are all more cynical and we don't have time to spend cutting open blue gel sleeves when people need to be online moaning about wearing masks that actually stop people dying and so on. A replica of the 12" that the original release contained would surely be all we could expect here and that would be fine.

Well, at long last, 2020 has improved. There is a freshness in the air, an almost 1990-like feel in fact and that is because blue gel packs are very much back in fashion. Yes, the absolute masterminds involved in this project have once again come up trumps as the limited edition 12" recreation we find is is VERY much encased in a sealed blue sleeve:


The sleeve is recreated perfectly. On the Alan and Andy side (above), their icons are present in the top left, and on the Martin and Dave side, theirs are there too. Crucially, the best part of the original sleeve is also right where it should be:

Violate There

Now, in 1990 I was young and stupid enough to horse right into this package, cutting it open for some arsewitted reason on the side rather than along the suggested violation line. I was also stupid enough not to buy a spare and have snared a couple on unopened versions later in life. If this blog has a role in the world, it is to show you parts of the Depeche Mode universe other blogs don't reach. I am not going to open this record up however as that would be madness. Sorry about that. I will presume that the inner sleeve matches the original release, so here is a fully violated L12BONG20 from 1990 to show you what is inside:


For completeness' sake, here's another:


Truth be told, I am slightly annoyed that I can't see just what is inside the re-issue, but I shall stay strong. To regain some pedantry points, I should point out that the re-issue blue gel sleeve is a thinner material than the original release which was also much firmer and a little roomier. The original also had a sticker on the back with the barcode, L12BONG20 and the Mute logo on it which this doesn't but that is far from being a criticism. Finally, the re-issue weighs 305g when sealed, heavier than the original sealed version's 280g. 

Yes I weighed the packages. Blame lockdown.

There have been nice added bonus 12" singles in the reissue series before, and once again we are spolied here with a reproduction of the promo single for World In My Eyes, P12BONG20:


Many people simply and quite correctly don't have the time in their life to chase around after promos, so this will be a first for a lot of people I presume The record is housed in one of the much missed and much loved Mute promo 12" sleeves although this one is thicker than the sleeves originally were. That allows it to have a catalogue number on the spine and, as I am sure you can all guess, that is a very good thing indeed. Look how lovely it is:

This promo 12" reproduction was already advertised and is a welcome addition to the box. With that, the additional Personal Jesus artwork and the stickers, we are really being spolied this time.

Finally, as with the previous boxsets there is a poster. It is of course a work of art beyond compare:

There is a download card too:

And that is that. 

This whole series has been incredible and the Violator era boxset has actually surpassed the high expectations I had for it. The effort that has been put into this release from everyone involved is incredible and it really is something very special indeed. Ok, we may have these releases in multiple formats already, but when something as incredible as Violator exists in the world, it is worth celebrating it at every opportunity. This release does that and then some.

Wednesday 1 July 2020


I'm often accused of being unable to criticise Depeche Mode, seen as a cheerleader for the band unable to analyse their work objectively. Certainly my deep love of Depeche means that any new album is greeted with almost unbridled enthusiasm - my Spirit review is evidence of that alone - but when I do criticise the band, as I did when they released the pointless and amusingly expensive Mode boxset, I get criticised for offering a negative opinion. That's life I suppose, and if I'm silly enough to expect people to read things that I put up online about a band whose fanbase is, to put it mildly, dedicated then I am of course fair game. 

Depeche Mode split opinion in many areas, not least within their own fanbase. Everything they say, do or release is subject to levels of analysis that would make a United Nations debate seem under prepared. You know the battle grounds by now - Alan or no Alan, drums or no drums, obscure album tracks or greatest hits, anything new not being as good as anything old and so on and so on and so on until the internet runs out of space because someone in the Ukraine is telling someone in Montreal that the whole world changed for the worse when Alan left over two decades ago. It'll never end. 

Tours are one of the great uniting factors among Depeche Mode fans however. Everyone loves a Depeche Mode tour and the gigs are now huge communal meet-ups celebrating the best band there has ever been (note lack of objectivity - it was quite deliberate).Ok, not everyone loves the tours. People will always complain about setlist variation (very little of that since 1984 fact fans) or the new band set up, more of which in a bit, but, in the main, Depeche Mode fans love a Depeche Mode tour.

And Depeche Mode fans loved the Global Spirit Tour. The band played their biggest tour ever, taking in 130 mainly sold out dates. The enthusiasm for the tour was such that I managed to get all 130 gigs reviewed on this blog by fans who were at them and, in the main, the reviews were all positive. I went to nine gigs in total, from the Barrowlands to both nights in Berlin, and every one I went to was an incredible experience. Things like the new remixes of Everything Counts and Walking In My Shoes, "Heroes" at the London Stadium, Personal Jesus at the Barrowlands and three days in Berlin with friends old and new that I will never forget meant that the Global Spirit Tour was a remarkable event for me. I know many other people felt the same and so there was great interest in the live film that would inevitably follow the tour when cameras were noted at the Waldbuhne gigs.

Now, no live recording will replicate the feeling of being at the gig that was actually recorded; no-one would ever expect that. I was lucky to have been at the Waldbuhne and I genuinely thought that gig was one of the best Depeche shows I've been to as my review said. That night, Stripped sounded as good as it ever has done, a titanic track played against a backdrop of a glorious deep pink sky as the sun finally set over the stage. Never Let Me Down Again was louder than I had ever heard it and all the better for it and the whole set with the exception of the mood slowing Poison Heart and Where's The Revolution flew by, positively crackling with electricity from beginning to end. It was a special gig to be at and the crowd had an edge, infused with an unspoken agreement between us all that we would celebrate this glorious band in case, as is always rumoured, that this was going to be the last Depeche Mode show ever. The feeling that everyone present had that night could never be replicated but surely it could at least be hinted at on any release?. Surely LiVE SPiRiTS should show people just how good it was?

Sadly, it doesn't. This live album is flat. It's badly mixed, it seems too slow in places (play Stripped from this and then listen to the bootlegs - something has gone wrong somewhere) and, in places, it just sounds awful. It lays bare things you don't acknowledge on the tour such as a Depeche Mode gig being no place for a bass guitar or the sounds the band use on tracks like Everything Counts are weak cover band versions of the real thing, a real thing the band played for years with no need to alter it. There is far too much here that just doesn't fit - it's really strange.

Ultimately, it's just really disappointing. There are moments of absolute genius of course, such as The Things You Said (sigh...), Everything Counts' incredible intro (though PLEASE lose those bloody tom- tom fills - ARGH) and a quite glorious "Heroes," one of the night's emotional high points, but there are not enough of those moments. I usually try to shy away from the whole things-aren't-as-good-as-they-used-to-be thing, but it's no Devotional or 101. To be perfectly honest, the live tracks on the Limited edition 12" singles of Get The Balance Right, Everything Counts and Love In Itself have more life to them overall. 

The live album, a few tracks aside, isn't one I'll return to much if at all. The DVD is great to have because it takes me back to that glorious night in Berlin and there are moments on it that brought me out of my seat like I was celebrating yet another glorious Mo Salah goal (Liverpool have just won the league - let me have this) but it doesn't get across the energy the whole arena positively fizzed with that night. I've seen people take issue with a number of the performance aspects on the DVD but I'm not that interested in analysing Dave's dancing, Martin's bouncing/dancing thing or Peter's petering. I'm interested in the music and sadly, this release doesn't hit the heights I need it to.

As I've mentioned above, I would never expect that this release would allow me to feel what I felt at the gig - even for a Depeche Mode fan that would be a demand too far. What I expected though was something that at least sounded like I know the band sounded that night at what a special gig. What we've got instead is a decent enough show that sounds like it was played at a decent enough venue during a decent enough tour. Nearly two years on from the Waldbuhne, it doesn't serve as a memento of a great tour; it serves as nothing more than a reminder a tour happened.

And, believe me, as a band cheerleader, I hate saying that.