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.