Saturday, 28 August 2021

DEPECHE MODE - THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 PART 36: THE SINGLES 86-98

 


Depeche Mode's second singles compilation, The Singles 86-98 was released on 28th September 1998 hot on the heels of Only When I Lose Myself.

It's hard to think of a better run of singles from any band of Depeche Mode's era or indeed any other era. From Stripped to Enjoy The Silence to It's No Good, the band released classic after classic over  a twelve year period. That period of course saw the band move from the pop world into the stadium league and they enjoyed a level of success that nobody saw coming.

By the time 1998's brief world tour came around, Depeche Mode were an entirely different band from the one we saw when Stripped was released. Alan had gone, Martin spent more time playing the guitar than keyboards and Dave was in recovery following the Devotional era and its many, erm, highs and they had gone from playing Whitley Bay Ice Rink to Pasadena Rose Bowl. They packed a lot into the period from 1986 to 1998.



The Singles 86-98 marked the end of another chapter in Depeche Mode's history. As part of the ongoing Singles blog project, it seems sensible to use that album as a way of gathering together the Singles reviews from the period. Here they all are then. Keep an eye out from the next review in the series, Dream On which will be along soon.


























Wednesday, 25 August 2021

DEPECHE MODE THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 - PART 35: ONLY WHEN I LOSE MYSELF

 


Ultra had been a huge success for Depeche Mode. They had come back after the madness of 93/94 certainly less Wilder and had released an album that many people, themselves included, thought impossible at the time. 

The lack of a tour in support of the album was sensible but where would Depeche Mode go next? The answer was a new compilation, The Singles 86-98, a tour in support of that album and, just as they had done with The Singles 81-85, they released a brand new single to promote the compilation. That single was Only When I Lose Myself.

I CAN FEEL THE EMPTINESS INSIDE ME FADE AND DISAPPEAR - ONLY WHEN I LOSE MYSELF

The Single


In August 1998, promo cards like the one above started dropping through people's letterboxes.


The card told everyone that a new single was to be released on 7th September 1998. Only When I Lose Myself would be backed with two new tracks, Headstar and Surrender ahead of "the forthcoming album" Depeche Mode The Singles 86-98. Exciting times. The card also alerted readers to Depeche club nights throughout September all of which were free to get into with the exception of the Manchester night which cost you £1 if you produced this rather unwieldy card. I'd just moved to Glasgow and had no idea the club night which was advertised as being in The Garage but was actually in the Cathouse, was happening.  My friend Scott went and managed to grab himself a free copy of The Remixes 86-98 promo CD and won a triple vinyl promo in the raffle too. The bastard.


The single, BONG29, was met with some almost unusually positive reviews. Simon Williams' review in NME seems to be one of those:

"Nowadays Depeche Mode are into beautiful packaging, beautifully pearly toothed videos and the sort of beautiful music which makes one go 'Mmmmm! Very tasteful. Tres continental. Lovely harmonies. Smooth production. Nice teeth, too. I'm thirty-two-and-a-half years old, you know."

Hmm. In Melody Maker, Stephen Dalton was more obviously positive:

"Less pompous and more vulnerable than much recent Mode fare, it's a low voltage charmer which grows on repeat hearings. The obligatory big-beat and old-skool hip-hop mixes are pretty rank, though."

A decent summary really. The single duly popped out on 7th September and just like the singles released in support of the last compilation did very little in the charts indeed. Other than the video, more of which in a bit, the band did very little to promote the song, at least in the UK. It entered the charts at 17 and then fell to 39 and 61 before losing itself forever. 

Only When I Lose Myself is a song that I loved at the time and still do now. It's far mellower than Ultra and that's perhaps evidence of the fact that the band had to get the dark, clingy, stunning Ultra out of their system before moving on. It was the post Songs Of Faith And Devotion hangover and this was the new, fresher Depeche Mode. The song does have some wonderful noises throughout but it has a softer sheen than previous singles. It appeared on all 64 dates on The Singles 86-98 tour in a fairly clunky way and then reappeared 8 times on the Delta Machine tour when Martin took over vocals and did rather splendidly. Martin also played it 8 times on his solo tour.

Surrender, originally called Tempt fact fans, is a rather decent b-side, the band's first new vocal b-side since My Joy in fact. It's an odd song really but there is something lovable about it. The "blerrgh" noises that make themselves heard during the "We're living in a world full of illusion" part are quite unsettling. The song is one that Martin feels has got lost a bit but he's not really helped resurrect it, playing it live a mere 20 times in his acoustic set on the Exciter tour. He played it at all eight of his solo gigs however.

Headstar is an instrumental that sounds much like most Depeche instrumentals from 1997 onwards. Bouncy with some good noises but not particularly memorable. It's never been played live and, let's be quite honest here, never will unless something very odd indeed happens.

The Video

There was no Anton this time round. Photographer Brian Griffin, famous for his early Depeche album photography among other things, took over directorial duties.

We start with a fresh faced Dave sitting quietly while a picture of a woman burns. That's odd, but not as odd as two pairs of dancing twins we then see. They are performing an Axl Rose style worm dance beside a crashed car. Of course they are. It's art you see.

Fletch and Martin both appear as do images of more crashed cars and we end up at a man laughing his head off beside a smashed up car. Now, that's not very nice. Two women appear in a Corbijn-like scene where they stand looking non plussed in front of a caravan and then we see it - the first of them is teh one who was on fire in Dave's early scene. It turns out her caravan itself was on fire, the vehicle's cassette player having exploded when it played an early demo tape of Hole To Feed.

At last, we get some red hot Depeche action as we see Dave singing along to the song. He looks a bit annoyed, no doubt because of the demo tape fire. To emphasise the point, we then see more of the two women and they torched caravan.

All of a sudden, we are in a speeding car driven by one set of the Axl Rose dancing twins from earlier. Naturally, one of them decides to stop and suspend the car above the road by using magic. What the hell is this all about? Is it a Car Insurance advert for incredibly bad drivers or a music video?

Dave returns but not for long enough and then we are back in the world of dancing twins, joined by a woman in a red dress rubbing herself over a car. This video might have made a glimmer of sense if it was for Behind The Wheel but even that would be pushing it. The red dress woman rubs her scarf over the face of some young chap who has randomly popped up in her car before we go back to Dave. Quite rightly given the unfolding shambles around him, he has his eyes closed. 

Fletch angrily looks on before there is more red dress car rubbing, an act which seems positively normal when we come across two men, one the laughing man from what feels an hour or so ago and the other twirling about beside him like an idiot. More Dave raises the spirits but then the video officially goes off the rails.

A man with some sort of scraggy dog puppet appears and he is sitting down as a tattooed guy stands over him. Of course he is. Our would-be ventriloquist stares blankly on and thankfully Dave returns again all too briefly as we quickly go back to the puppet show. A moment of levity follows as we see a close up of Martin who looks massively pissed off and it's no wonder. We then end on more cars, daft men and that is thankfully that.

A car crash in every respect.

On a musical note, the version of Only When I Lose Myself the video uses is unique to the video. It fades out at the last course and, like the radio version, leaves out the instrumental outro. Unlike the radio version however, it includes the instrumental intro. There you have it.

The Formats


Where the video was an artistic failure, the singles were an utter triumph. The artwork for this whole period, from the first promo of this single to the album is outstanding. Despite Daniel Miller's initial scepticism ("We spent how much on a photo of a hotel room?"), every sleeve here is superb.


There were two promo 12" singles releases, each in a glorious sleeve. P12BONG29 uses the digital screens we were about to see a lot more of to spell out MODE. A very Kraftwerk like feel to this image.


The rear sleeve is a die-cut sleeve that shows off the label of the record. 



There are four tracks in total. On Side A (above) we have Only When I Lose Myself (Dan The Automator Remix) and Only When I Lose Myself (Subsonic Legacy Remix)


 Side B features Painkiller (Kill The Pain Mix - DJ Shadow vs Depeche Mode) and Headstar.


For PL12BONG29, the digital screens have gone to the cinema.


The rear sleeve is a die cut sleeve again.


On side A (above) we have Headstar (Luke Slater Remix) and Surrender (Catalan FC Out Of Reach Mix).


The B-side features Only When I Lose Myself (Gus Gus Long Play Mix).


The promo CD, RCDBONG29 features the Radio Version and Single Version of Only When I Lose Myself.


The postcard announcing the release told us the single would be released on 2 CD singles and a 12" but that was a lie. There was an additional CD single and an L12 but more of those later. CDBONG29 (above) is the first official release and it features the three single versions of Only When I Lose Myself, Surrender and Headstar.


12BONG29 contains three remixes that make me sad. On Side A above we have the Subsonic Legacy and Dan The Automator remixes of Only When I Lose Myself. The first is a very late 90's trip hop by numbers thing and the second is a worse version of that.


The B-side contains Headstar (Luke Slater Remix).If you want to put someone off Depeche Mode, play them this. 


LCDBONG29 contains the same remixes as 12BONG29. Like CDBONG29, it has a sticker on the front telling you what is on the CD. Use the sticker on this one as a warning. Both CD singles contained a card for you to fill in and send off to join the Depeche mailing list. If you listened to LCDBONG29 before completing it, chances are you didn't bother sending it off. Both CD booklets are gorgeous by the way but my photography skills are patchy at best so you'll need to either dig out your own versions or have a peek at depmod.com.



L12BONG29 bucks the trend and is a combination of both superb artwork and, in the main, decent music.


Side A (above) contains the pick of the Only When I Lose Myself remixes - the Gus Gus Long Play Mix. It's eleven minutes of really rather decent fun.


The B-side gives us Painkiller (Kill The Pain - DJ Shadow vs Deepche Mode) and Surrender (Catalan FC Out Of Reach Mix). The DJ Shadow mix was also released on a Mo Wax 12" promo and it is very good indeed. I've just played the remix of Surrender to remind myself of it and have forgotten it already. The rear sleeve is very Kratfwerky.


Rather wonderfully, we also got that rarest of beasts, an XLCD. XLCDBONG29 came out a few weeks after the main release and I quickly set about hunting it down in Glasgow. I went into a record shop in the West End, the name of which I forget, and asked the man behind the counter if he had this CD. "Eh..we don't have that mate. Not the sort of thing we'd get in," he said. Sensing he was the type of arse who would quickly change their tune if I mentioned an act that the NME had told him was someone he should like, I said "It's a new release - there's a DJ Shadow remix on it." "DJ Shadow remix? Aye right. He wouldn't touch Depeche Mode." Oh fuck off.

Anyway, I eventually got it and it has five tracks. We get the three that appear on L12BONG29 including, somehow, a DJ Shadow remix plus the very nice Gus Gus Short Play Mix of Only When I Lose Myself. There's a bonus too as track five is a remix of World In My Eyes. The Safar Mix is tremendous and a real lost gem in the Depeche catalogue. For fans of that sort of thing (like me), it lifts its "Good evening San Francisco" sample from the USA94 bootleg of the gig there.


The 2004 reissue CD single features all eleven tracks released across the various formats.

Before we go on to the US, the single was released on CD only in Argentina (2 CDs), Australia (3CDs), Benelux (4CDs including a 2 track card sleeve omitting Headstar), Brazil (1 CD), Canada (2 CDs), Czechoslovakia (2 CDs), France (4 CDs - same as Benelux), Hong Kong (1 CD), Mexico (1 CD), Poland (a cassette), Scandinavia (3 CDs), South Africa (1CD), Spain (4CDs, one of which is a promo) and on cassette in Turkey.

Only Italy and Germany issued the single on 12". In Italy, there were two CD singles and a 12" and in Germany, the full set of two 12" singles and 3 CD singles.

At this point, the US started releasing a bewildering and frankly uncollectable amount of promos. There were 9 promo CD-Rs released - 9! One of them has Surrender named as Tempt and others feature lost of different variations of a remix by Josh Abraham. Have fun collecting the set.


The US promo 12" is a lovely thing.


There's a big sticker on the cover which warns you about some of the content.


It's a double 12" release featuring all the tracks you can see on the sticker.


The US promo CD comes in a jewel case.


It features the same two tracks as RCDBONG29.


The 12" single itself is a double 12" and features the same remixes as the double promo 12".


There are two US CD singles. The first features the Subsonic Legacy and Dan The Automator remixes of Only When I Lose Myself, the single version of Surrender and the Single Version and Luke Slater Remix of Headstar.


The second CD single features the same five tracks as XLCDBONG29.


Ultimately, the most important thing about Only When I Lose Myself was that it preceded the release of The Singles 86-98 and the tour in support of that album. Depeche Mode made their return to the live stage and the world was a better place for it.

The end of the tour saw the band take a long break and it would be another three years until we heard from Depeche Mode again with Dream On. We'll take a look at that next time.

Friday, 13 August 2021

DEPECHE MODE THE SINGLES 1981 TO 2021 - PART 34: USELESS

 


Useless was the fourth and final single from Ultra and it appeared as remixed version which is always a reasonable approach for the last single from an album I think. We got a rather cool cover, a very enjoyable video and the bold new techno world of videos on a CD single which you could watch on a computer. Remarkable times. Overall, a single that was very much the opposite of its name. Here is the story of Useless.

WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME - USELESS

The Single


Useless, BONG28, was released on 20th October 1997. Prior to that, promo postcards just like the one above started dropping through people's letterboxes. They told you all you needed to know about the forthcoming single:


We'll take a look at the formats in Format Corner (never called it that before) later but it's perhaps worth noting that this single was only released on three official formats in the UK. The last time they released a single with so few formats was when they released  A Question Of Time. Don't phone in (how on earth did you get my number?) and say "But what about Little 15 David? Call yourself a fan? THIS BLOG IS A JOKE." As we have seen in the wonderful and still in print Little 15 blog, no-one knows where that single was released. It might not even have been released at all.

There was of course no promotion for Useless in any form other than via the video which we will come onto. Reviews of the single are fairly thin on the ground but, thanks to the seemingly bottomless well of Depeche Mode information held by blog friend and huge pulsating brain at the centre of the Depeche universe Michael Rose, I have this gem. It's a review by no less an authority than the late Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate:

Picture courtesy of Michael Rose 

Not only did Errol like the song, he gave it Single Of The Week.  He even offers praise to Depeche Mode themselves which is the sort of action that got you banned from the UK music press then.

The only other review I could lay my hands on was found on the now closed by hugley enjoyable Depeche Mode Press File site. The reveiw is from that titan of the music world, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, who, on 20th October 1997, said:

"The fourth single from the chart-topping Ultra album - and the best. It's tense, pensive and torn apart by a filthy bluesy riff."

That seems fair to me.

The single didn't do a great deal in the charts in Britain. In fact, it did terribly, entering at 28 on 1st November, falling to 64 the next week and then disappearing forever. All of this despite the resolute backing of Errol Brown.

Useless is a tremendous track and one of Ultra's finest. That said, I actually prefer the remix version released as a single as it has more of an edge to it. It's a song that was played at both Ultra parties and then 64 times on The Singles Tour but, for years, Dave's pub band tour in 2003 aside, that was that. 2017 saw it return however, firstly somewhat tentatively, on 18th October, the fourth and final night of the Hollywood Bowl run. That was a real surprise and a superb one. The band seemed to enjoy it too, as they added it to the setlists starting with the first of the European indoor gigs in Dublin on 4th November and it even had a fancy new Anton video which was really rather wonderful. That gig was of course the only gig where Halo was played on the entire tour. Did I mention I was there? Oh, I did Anyway, thanks to its 2017 resurrection, Useless has been played live 122 times.

The Video


As the band chose not to tour Ultra, an annoyed Daniel Miller insisted that they make Mute some money so he sent them to work in a lead mine, specifically Cwmystwyth Lead Mine near Aberystwyth in Wales. Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group tracked down the previously top secret location a few years ago when they were sent a copy of Fletch's wage slip for his mine work by a source.

To make sure the three DM chaps weren't just sitting around idly and to make sure that they followed Daniel's orders to the letter ("Martin - do NOT wear a leather mini dress to work. They WILL kill you"), Anton was sent to the mine to film what they got up to on a day to day basis. As it turns out, all they did was sing. Honestly. You cannot trust pop stars.

The band didn't know Anton was coming. As he lay in wait, they turned up for work in their yellow Ford Granada. To avoid any nail varnish issues, the band had made Martin promise to get rid of his entire black varnish stash, but, as we can see, all he did was use it to paint an Ultra "U" on the side of the car. Reckless.

Unluckily for Anton, they spot him immediately. Incensed that their day of skiving off work has been rumbled, Dave walks straight over to him, throws his gloves down in the least threatening way possible and starts singing at him. Not exactly terrifying. Martin gets his guitar out for no reason at all so once again, it is left to Fletch to look after everyone. He wanders over, and it must be said that he looks as cool as he has ever done, and tries to calm Dave down by giving him a cup of tea. Well done Fletch.

Dave doesn't like tea though.

One sip and he throws it away in as weedy a way as he threw away his gloves. How Daniel thougth ghis lot would make any money mining is beyond comprehension. To calm everyone, Fletch takes his bass guitar out of the boot and joins Martin in playing along with Dave. That seems to annoy Dave even more however as, having told Anton off, he heads back to the car, sees th eother two playing their instruments ("That is NOT how Hole To Feed should sound - listen to the demo FFS!"), puts his head in hands and heads straight back to Anton,

The mine's foreman and his donkey arrive on the scene, but he's used to this now. There was no way musicians were going to be any use to him, so he and the donkey walk on past. Only Fletch ever listened to him and even he is now mucking about with a bass guitar, copying his friend Gore. Actual miners could have had those jobs.

Corbijn just won't listen however so Dave needs to bring out the big guns. He needs to scare Anton away so there is only one thing for - Martin? Get the  guitar. Shorn of his usual fluffy hairdo - impractical for mining - Martin waddles over and let's Anton have it. A three note guitar solo is balasted at him while Martin gives him his hardest hardman stare. Job done, he wanders off and leaves Dave to it. Dave, having been momentarily distracted by the Mute promo budget busting biplane with Ultra sign than flies over the mine, returns to business.

As he sings, a mine employee wanders over to him. He had been asked by the mine over to tell "those bloody musicians" just how useless they are and he takes his job literally. He hands Dave a leaflet which Dave simply scrunches up and throws at the camera. You can now buy that leaflet for £17,000 on Ebay.

Suddenly, all three band members walk towards the camera with wee Martin singing his heart out. It has to be said that they all look superb in this video by the way, especially Dave. They have a last go at scaring Anton off and, happy that they've got the message across, they wander back to the Granada, pack away the guitars and head off, another day's work in no way done. 

It turns out of course, that it's not Anton they've been singing at, but the mine owner's daughter. She was a huge Depeche fan and came down to the mine in the hope of getting an autograph. All she got was a cup of tea, a pair of gloves and a leaflet thrown near her and a man playing the least aggressive guitar solo of all time in her direction. 

Alternatively, this is a superb video with the band looking amazing and a wonderful song playing in the background. I'll leave you to decide which it is.

The Formats


As the promo postcard told us, there were only three formats available for Useless. There were two promos however. The promo 12" P12BONG28 is a lovey thing, as you can see above.


It features two songs. On the A-side we have the C J Bolland Funky Sub Mix of Useless.


The B-side contains another remix of Useless - The Kruder + Dorfmeister Session.


The promo CD, RCDBONG28, contains Useless (Remix) and the Barry Adamson Escape From Wherever: Parts 1 & 2! and Cosmic Blues Mix of Useless.


In official release land, 12BONG28 has a smashing sleeve and contains some really rather good remixes.


On the A-side, we have Useless - The Kruder + Dorfmeister Session which is superb, though you will have the phrase "Echoing in my mind" echoing in your mind after you listen to it. Nice Policy Of Truth sample in there too.


On the B-side we have the CJ Bolland Funky Sub Mix which may sound a bit of its time but still sounds superb, and the Air20 Mix by Carl Craig which does honestly feature some of the song it remixes if you look hard enough.


CDBONG28 comes in another back to front box/sleeve thing. Once you work out what end is what, the booklet and artwork are rather lovely.


The back/front of the box has a sticker that proudly announces that the CD contains remixes by Alan Moulder (Useless (Remix)), Barry Adamson (Escape From Wherever: Parts 1& 2!) and Cosmic Blues (Cosmic Blues Mix). Barry Adamson's remix is typically superb. Cosmic Blues' Kraftwerk sampling remix is a bit bland. The CD also contains the video for Barrel Of A Gun. All you had to do was pop it in your PC and you could watch Dave wander around Marrakesh as many times as you wanted. In 1997, this was a very cool thing indeed, believe me.


LCDBONG28, back to front again, is another nice single.


The front/back again has a sticker alerting you to the fact that you have another enhanced CD in your paws. Music wise, we have The Kruder + Dorfmeister Session and another CJ Bolland mix, the CJ Bolland Ultrasonar Mix which is another very decent remix. A live version of Useless from the Ultra part in London appears too, together with the limits of technology testing It's No Good video.


The 2004 reissue CD single is a 10 track CD featuring the 8 music tracks from the official releases plus the two videos. That makes it an enhanced CD too, but we were all well over that notion by 2004.

Elsewhere in Europe, the single appeared mainly on CD with only Germany and Italy releasing 12" singles, neither of which I have my hands on yet. Two track card sleeve CD singles can be found in Benelux and Spain, the latter being a promo only.

Finally, we head to America. Like Home, Useless wasn't released as a single in its own right in the United States. A promo CD and two promo CD-Rs appeared but nothing else. This blog is really only about the UK singles only but I'll make an exception for the curious release that appeared in the US and Canada on 18th November 1997 called Home/Useless.


The front cover used the Home artwork with the Useless artwork on the rear. There were three US CD singles. The one above features the Single Version and Air "Around The Golf " Remix of Home and the CJ Bolland Ultrasonar Edit of Useless, a four minute 6 second edit of the 12" track previously available on the US promo CD-R. A four track CD single featuring both CJ Bolland remixes from the UK formats together with two remixes of Home - The Noodles & The Damage Done Edit and  LFO Meant To Be is available too.


The third and final US CD is a 12 track beast. It contains four mixes of Home (Single Version, Grantby Mix, LFO Meant To Be, The Noodles & The Damage Done Edit), four mixes of Useless (CJ Bolland Ultrasonar Mix, CJ Bolland Funky Sub Mix, The Kruder + Dorfmeister Session and Escape From Wherever: Parts 1&2!) and the videos for all four singles from Ultra. The Canadians only released on CD single and it was the same as this US version.



And with that, the Ultra era was over. Useless was a nice way to end it with a fresh new take on the album track and a video that showed the band in fine form and having fun. Against all the odds, Depeche Mode had come back and they had done so impressively with an album that has more than stood the test of time.

What would be next though? Could they tour again? Would we even hear from them again?

Thankfully we would. Next time, we will look at the song that ended this phase of Depeche Mode and kicked off the next one.