Thursday 8 December 2022



Normally I'm a bit quicker off the mark with these releases, shoving them in the faces of a largely unmoved public the second a boxset, or indeed any Depeche Mode release, is out there. I've been a bit busy however so do forgive the delay. 

The next instalment of the Depeche Mode 12" celebration celebrates the superb Playing The Angel album by giving us that releases 12" singles which are of course crammed with remixes that are largely very far from superb. As I've mentioned before, once Depeche Mode handed over remix duties to people outside the Depeche Mode process (band members, producers etc), the quality dipped. That dip is perfectly demonstrated here with some notable exceptions. 

I'm not going to go into all the remixes of course as I spent most of 2021 doing that very thing. To read what I think about each single in frankly terrifying depth, have a look at these links:

Right, enough of that. What's in the box?

Despite vinyl being as popular in 2005 as Matt Hancock is just now, Depeche Mode resolutely and quite rightly stuck with the format, releasing nine 12" singles from Playing The Angel as well as four 7" picture discs. All nine 12" releases feature here alongside a superb bonus 12".

As ever, the box (the cover of which features at the top of this post) comes with a paper sheet stuck to the back of it that flaps around annoyingly and gets bent when you put it in your shelf. Of course, that may just be me. 

The box is numbered and, behind the flapping thing, the same tracklists are printed on the box itself.

The first single from the album was Precious

12BONG35 is naturally lovingly reproduced and, as with all the records in this box, it sounds great. When I did my normal pictures of records thing on Depeche Mode collector groups on Facebook you really want no part of, my removal of the cellophane and binning of it and the sticker on it caused much consternation among fans. It seems that the stickers on the cellophane cover is highly prized and viewed by many as something almost as important as the records themselves. I had no idea. Genuinely, if those of you who follow this blog and my various other social media outlets think I am an extreme collector, I urge you to think again.  

The rear of the 12" looks all shiny and lovely.

Hot on the heels of 12BONG35, we get L12BONG35.

The labels are lovely aren't they? I'd forgotten about them until I did the single reviews last year.

Next up, A Pain That I'm Used To. Andy is the cover star here. On the front of 12BONG36, he is dark and shadowy:

On the back we see him acting all moody and cool:

On L12BONG36, Martin is the cover star:

The rear of the sleeve reveals more Gore:

He looks like he's having a lovely time there. 

The next single from the album was the Dave written Suffer Well which also featured the album's best, indeed only, good video. 12BONG37 features Dave on the front and a smartly dressed Fletch accompanying a terrifyingly dressed Martin on the label.

The rear sleeve takes the Side A label and displays it in its full "glory."

L12BONG37 really speaks for itself. Given the look on Martin's face, I imagine he wasn't terribly thrilled about the role Anton designed for him in the video.

On the rear of the 12" we see a sombre Dave, a vision of a man traumatised by the beautiful bride he's just seen.

Thrillingly, we got an XL12 for this release though it had nothing at all to do with Suffer Well, the BONG catalogue number aside.

It's an actual fact that The Darkest Star is a glorious album closer and it's an even more guaranteed solid gold fact that the Holden Remix of the song, as featured on Side A of XL12BONG37 here, is majestic.

The Holden Dub on the other side is really rather splendid too.

The last single from the album was John The Revelator/Lilian and it was only really notable for the dreadful remixes, dreadful remix names and terrible video. Still, collectors will collect and we all bought the many formats it came in. Two more feature here and within these we find our first stick on your own stickers of the boxset. 12BONG38 looks like this:

5 minutes hard work for Anton there. On the back, it's, well, all black:

The original 12BONG38 had a sticker on the front telling you what to avoid on the record. Here's what mine looks like:

Hidden with the 12" in this boxset is this sticker which you can use to replicate the original if you so wish. Oddly, for a man who shows little regard for the stickers that come on the cellophane on the box, I choose to keep my stickers safe inside the record.

L12BONG38 looks like this:

The back of it looks like this:

The wee sticker looks like this:

And finally, if you want to mimic the original, here is my original L12BONG38 fully stickered up:

Now time for the bonus round. These boxsets have been great when it comes to bonus 12" singles. Yes some purists get infuriated by the new catalogue numbers (I don't) but there have been some moments of genius in this series. The additional A Question Of Lust 12" for example is one of the most stunning Depeche releases ever, never mind in this series alone. With Playing The Angel, there were so many promo 12" singles at the time that to replicate some or all of them would have led to a boxset being produced so big that you'd have to get into your house by removing a wall just like on one of those "I Weigh 87 Stone And Can Only Leave Home By Helicopter" shows. As that was impractical, the brains behind these boxes came up with a cracking idea - a 10 track promo record, PSTUMM260. As you all know, STUMM260 is Playing The Angel's catalogue number and this promo 12" gathers together ten tracks from various releases including promos and is really rather wonderful.

The sleeve mirrors the Precious 12" promo sleeves which I find enjoyable. Here is what is on Side A:

Free and Newborn are outstanding songs and really should have been on the album. Better Days is a decent enough B-Side and the shorter versions of John The Revelator and Lilian are fine, though it could be said that any version of Lilian is too long.

There's the rear of the sleeve for completeness' sake, and here are the tracks on Side AA:

The two remixes of A Pain That I'm Used To are the stars here. The bonus 12" is a great idea all round however.

Is there a poster this time? Of course there is a poster:

I do like it though it seems odd that a single promo poster wasn't reproduced as in all boxes up to this point. 

Finally, you can download all of the music on here via the link you get on this card:

As with all other boxsets in this series, there is a lot to enjoy here. The reproduction is fantastic, the records sound great and inner sleeve issues that have cropped up a couple of times previously are nowhere to be seen this time. Playing The Angel remains a really strong Depeche album and the first three singles from it are fantastic. The B-sides were great too and it's nice to see them included here as the remixes by and large in this era were not that good at all. Still, those who recreate these boxes can only work with the material they are given and they've done a very nice job.

The next one in the series will be the Sounds Of The Universe box which will be intriguing given that there were only two 12" singles released in that period. Ok, three given that one was a double. I'm intrigued to see how that turns out and please be assured that once it is released, I will rip off its cellophane, bin that AND its sticker and tell you all about the contents.

Friday 7 October 2022



It's been quite a week.

Last Thursday (29th September), Halo - The Story Behind Depeche Mode's Classic Album Violator, the book I have written with Kevin May finally came out. It was a surreal day which was spent receiving lots of good luck messages from around the globe and seeing photographs of the book actually in people's hands. It was a real thing at last and the day was a remarkable experience. Thank you to everyone who asked about it, shared info and bought the book. You are all lovely. Kevin and I can't thank you enough.

One of the most surprising things about the book has been the requests for a signed copy. It's not something I've ever bothered with so I suppose I didn't think anyone else would. Loads of people have got in touch about one which is superb though the limited stock Kevin and I have only went so far. Rough Trade advertised the book on their social media and promised signed copies. When they told us they'd sold 51 and needed 100 in total, that presented something of an issue as we didn't have anywhere near that may books. We also live around 400 miles apart so that meant we couldn't just pop next door to sign things. There was only one thing for it - a trip to Newcastle....

Kevin and his daughter Ella had gone to Newcastle to have a look at the University so I headed down from Glasgow. We met up in a pub, signed 30 books plus 100 bookplates for Rough Trade, posed for Ella to take the first official author photo and then we went our separate ways. 

Oddly, no-one in the pub batted an eyelid. If this had been Glasgow, we'd still be there answering questions now.

Becky from our Publishers got in touch on Monday to confirm that sales since release had already exceeded 1000. By this point, everything seemed surreal really.

Then this happened:

Here we go again then.

Seeing Martin and Dave at the press conference was cool though it delivered far less than it promised really. That said, hearing them talk about Andy then and in the subsequent interviews released since was genuinely moving. We'll all miss his presence on the tour, but not as much as Martin and Dave will.

Memento Mori will be out in March next year and we will all then start heading around Europe and the US taking in the gigs. It's been fun watching the various stresses, strains and joys people have gone through over the last few days and I'm really looking forward to my Dublin, London and Berlin trips next Summer. It seems there will be a further leg or two to follow so I imagine those three are only the start as far as my next tour is concerned.

The Depeche Mode machine has started up again the but this time agains the personal background of having released a book about the band. That has made the week even more unusual as Kevin and I find ourselves in a Depeche spotlight of our own making just when the band return. 

What's next then? Well, more book promotion with apologies to those already bombarded with it on social media and the preparation of tour plans.  Until this week, Kevin and I were regularly asked what the next book will be. That has temporarily changed to questions about whether or not I will replicate the Global Spirit Tour Project on this blog and a lot of people have already very kindly volunteered for the role of reviewer.

On the basis that a review project has to be easier than another book, it's time to say yes. The Memento Mori Tour Project will start next March.

What have I done.....

To order Halo, go here for a list of all online worldwide retailers:

Tuesday 4 October 2022



After a few weeks of speculation culminating in a frankly frenzied 24 hours when Clash magazine went a day too early with an online article, Depeche Mode have now confirmed some details about their new album and the tour in support of it.

This afternoon in Berlin, Martin and Dave appeared at a press conference moderated by Barbara Charone. Sadly, she didn't do a very good job of it but we got plenty of new information anyway.

It opened with video of various pieces of equipment and Martin and Dave bobbing about in the studio with what appeared to be two new pieces of music soundtracking it. The first was a very electronic track with layers of processed Gore sounds swarming over it. Very nice. The second was a new song featuring the lyrics "Heaven's dreaming" and, I think, "We all end up ghosts" sung by Dave. The music was a combination of the usual Martin guitar twang and very poppy electronics.

When the boys appeared, they both looked and sounded fairly sad as you would expect. They mentioned Andy of course, talking about how much they miss him and how they keep expecting to see him. Martin mentioned walking past the hotel bar in Berlin when they arrived in the city and looking in there fully imagining he would see Andy there with a beer.  It must be very hard for them to do this without him.

The album is called Memento Mori and will come out in late March 2023. They didn't use the word "produced" but talked about James Ford being involved so we can I think presume he has produced it once again. They have recorded at Martin's studio in Santa Barbara and at Rick Rubin's studio albeit without his involvement. The band will now return to New York to finish the album.

The album was planned and started before Fletch died and that includes its title which Martin selected.

The tour dates have been announced too and most go on sale at the end of this week - check for details.

It's great to see them back and I really hope the album is a cracker. I'm pleased that they have finished off the plans they made when Andy was still alive as not only will the album and tour be a tribute to the great man but it will also allow fans to get together and properly celebrate his life. I'm looking forward to doing that and I look forward to meeting up with you all at a few gigs next summer.

Welcome back Depeche Mode.

Wednesday 27 July 2022



A quick update from David and Kevin on the release of Halo:

As Depeche Mode fans will acknowledge, it’s been a sad and unsettling time over the last few months, especially for the family and friends of keyboardist and founding member Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, who passed away suddenly in May.

We were in the process of working through the final edits of ‘Halo’ when the news emerged that week – a massive high for us, which turned very quickly into a shocking and very sad low.

The story behind Depeche Mode’s classic album Violator doesn’t change as a result of Fletch’s untimely death (in fact, many parts in our book that feature him have a certain poignancy now) but we wanted to ensure we respectively give some distance between the grieving among family, friends, the band and fans with the book’s release.

As we write this post, we are also reading proofs from our publisher and getting excited once again about its release.

‘Halo’ will be available from all the usual online retail outlets from Thursday, September 29, via Grosvenor House Publishing in paperback and e-book.

We’re expecting a final pre-order date almost any time soon and a full list of retailers, too. We’ll share that information ASAP!

Tuesday 28 June 2022



On 13th June 2022, the next instalment of the Depeche Mode 12" Singles boxsets arrived with the Exciter era edition landing with a satisfying thud on doormats all over the world. What extras would we get this time? Would there be stickers? Would they bother including Easy Tiger? Read on....

Before we get into it all, as this is the first Depeche Mode thing I've written since Fletch passed away, I couldn't go on without mentioning him. I've held off writing this because it didn't feel right and to be honest it still doesn't really. However, if I have brought one thing to the world, it's Depeche Mode related reviews that annoy people, so it is time to start talking about the band again. I've no idea if Andy ever read the nonsense this blog trots out, but if he did, I hope he enjoyed it. Rest in peace Fletch.

As with the previous boxsets, this one comes in a thick cardboard box with artwork based on the album art as you can see.

The back of the box contains the tracklisting. What's that noise you hear? Well that's the Pedantry Klaxon. It is sounding because there are timing errors on the back. On the newly formed L12BONG32, a new 12" stuffed full of Freelove remixes more of which presently, the third track on side A, Josh Wink Vocal Interpretation, previously only available on a promo 12" is listed as having a running time of 8 minutes 51 seconds. It is in fact 8 minutes 43 seconds long. Also, the first track on Side B, the Deep Dish Freedom Remix of Freelove is shown as being 11 minutes 25 seconds long when it is in fact 11 minutes 45 seconds long. This is EXACTLY the sort of thing you expect on here - admit it.

There is also the usual photo menu piece of paper thing that accompanies these releases. I imagine it has a name but I have no idea what it is.

The first 12" in the box is 12BONG30, Dream On. 

It contains the same three tracks as the original 12" and you can read all about them and everything else Dream On related in my in-depth review of the single here -

The Ultra 12" Singles Boxset introduced us to the concept of new L12 12" singles and the Exciter box follows that trend. We get an L12 for Dream On and it is unsurprisingly called L12BONG30. As there is no 12" single to replicate, it cleverly replicates the outer and inner sleeves of LCDBONG30.

It's a very nice concept but it's unfortunately flawed and that flaw repeats itself on all the new 12" singles in this box. The new inner sleeves are too thin meaning that the heavyweight 12" inside them causes the edges to tear. There is just now tear on my Dream On sleeve but there are two on each of the new I Feel Loved and Freelove 12" singles. I know of quite a few other fans who have experienced the same thing. It is a pity as these new 12" singles are well thought out and rather lovely things.

L12BONG30 is a 7 track record. Side A features Dream On (Single Version), Easy Tiger (Full Version), the sadly inevitable Easy Tiger (Bertrand Burgalat & A.S. Dragon Version) and Dream On (Dave Clark Acoustic Version).

Side B features three remixes of Dream On: Octagon Man Mix, Octagon Man Dub and Kid 606 Mix. The Octagon Man Dub was previously only available on a promo 12" for entirely understandable reasons.

The next single from Exciter was I Feel Loved, the only release from the Exciter era to have two 12" releases. 

12BONG31 is faithfully reproduced. The full review of that single from last year's blog nervous breakdown is here -

One joy of the 12" Singles series has been the attention to detail and there's a nice touch in this 12". The original had a sticker on the front telling you that it contained remixes by Danny Tenaglia and that sticker is neatly tucked inside the record here giving you the option to add it or keep it tucked away.

L12BONG31 turns up just as you would expect it to.

The label on the record is lovely as are all the Exciter era labels. I'm sure you agree.

The second new 12" in the box is XL12BONG31 which mirrors the inner and outer sleeves of LCDBONG31.

If you wanted a bigger picture of Dave's hand than you have on your CD single, you are in luck.

Side A features the single versions of I Feel Loved and Dirt.

Side B has two remixes of I Feel Loved: Extended Instrumental and Desert After Hours Dub. 

Freelove comes next and 12BONG32 turns up just as you would expect it to.

If you think this post goes into unnecessary depth, try the full single review where you will find all the tracklists for these releases -

This 12" contains another treat in the form of another sticker that you can apply should the mood take you.

The third and final new 12" in this box again looks to the LCD release for inspiration.

It is again a lovely thing but suffers from the thin paper/heavy 12" problem I mentioned earlier.

Side A contains three tracks - the glorious Freelove (Flood Mix), Zenstation and Freelove (Josh Wink Vocal Interpretation).

On Side B we have two remixes of Freelove which like the Josh Wink Vocal Interpretation were only previously available on promo 12" - Deep Dish Freedom Remix and Powder Productions Remix.

The final 12" in the box is the Goodnight Lovers 12", 12BONG33.

The original release was available on red vinyl and black vinyl as you can read about in alarming depth in my single review - 

If you ordered the single from Mute Bank in 2002, you got a poster with the record. The original poster looks like this:

As you can see, it's a lovely thing. This boxset gives his another treat by including a reproduction of the poster in the Goodnight Lovers 12" but there is a slight problem. See if you can spot it:

Have you seen it? Yes, that's right. The release date is a year out. Having gone to the wonderful length of including poster, it's a shame to see this error.

As ever, we have a reproduction promo poster, this time for Dream On.

And finally, we have a download card. I have no idea what one would actually download music to these days but it's nice to have the option.

Like the previous boxsets, this one is lovingly put together and the work that has gone into making it sound and look good is superb. The poster mistake can be forgiven I think but it's a shame that the lovely new 12" inner sleeves are easily damaged by the heavy 12" singles. 

At some point soon we will no doubt get news about the Playing The Angel 12" Singles box and that will be interesting. There were 9 official 12" singles plus a few promos so it's bound to be a big one. When that comes along, I'll open it and post pictures here so you don't have to.