Depeche Mode - The Best Of Volume 1
There is that moment in “I’m Alan Partridge”, when the Radio Norwich DJ is asked to name his all time, favourite Beatles album, to which he replies, “it would have to be ‘the best of the Beatles’”. When I was younger, I was huge fan of these compilations – I devoured the first Human League singles collection in my teens, despite never having owned a single album of theirs in my life. I loved the fact that nestling among the songs I knew so well were all those other singles, tracks like Being Boiled and Louise, which did not set the charts on fire but are fine songs in their own right.
Depeche Mode are no stranger to such collections, having released two singles albums already, the first gathering the songs from their first four LP’s, the second from the next five. Each compilation also mopped up extra tracks along the way, either written especially or the odd song that were released between recordings. Americans were also treated to a pair of albums around the time People Are People was a hit, giving them an easy way to catch up on their work to date. This however is the first attempt to provide a complete career retrospective of their output, and is sadly a rather patchy affair.
I guess the biggest obstacle a band who have released 47 songs as singles faces is what to include and what to omit. The other choice must be whether to please the fans, or try to appeal to the casual purchaser. Here, the emphasis is very firmly on the latter, but falls well short, offering up a meagre 17 tracks plus the frankly abysmal current single Martyr (review). All albums bar one account for at least one song, the omission being Black Celebration. The sequence is not in date order, hopping from year to year provoking some violent lurches through history (particularly the jump from the plinky-plonk keyboards of See You to the smooth glamour of Its No Good).
My main complaint about this release though is not necessarily the tracklisting (although I find the omission of Stripped and Get The Balance Right bewildering). To be fair this is a good, varied mix of songs from their history, the ones that achieved the greatest success and the ones you are most likely to remember. The clatter and clank of People Are People is known to many despite the weakness of the track, and the songs from Violator are quite rightly held as classics. My main complaint is how unnecessary this album is. 2006 has been an assault on the wallets of Depeche Mode fans, a rush of product that fails to go the extra mile. Depeche have already released two perfectly good singles collections, and in my mind it would been far better to update, repackage and release these together at a reduced price.
The inclusion of the videos on a second disc for an inflated price is another issue. Here is a perfect opportunity for the band to release all their videos, but instead, these are limited to those that appear on the first disc, plus a small number extra. The band have always been reluctant to release videos from their early albums, but surely now is a good time to put all that aside and just release them. Fans do not want another collection of all the videos they already own – they want a comprehensive compendium, with all the ones never commercially available (plus the videos made for the Strange videos) intact.
I can never understand why bands are so hesitant to go the extra mile for their fans. As good as the repackaged albums are, the inclusion of the videos on the DVD’s would have been an apt addition. It is obvious that one day in the not so distant future another opportunity to top up the pension fund will be seized, but why not do it now in a year where they are clearly encouraging people to re-evaluate their career.
I care passionately about Depeche Mode. Apart from New Order I can’t think of another band who I have felt more zealous about over the years. They are the only band where I would be devastated to hear that they were never going to record a new album. But this release just leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, where nothing remotely new or of any value is being offered. The main comfort is the fact that given the inclusion of so many of their strong tracks, Volume 2 is extremely unlikely. However, given the attitude this album suggests, I wouldn’t put it past them.
Last updated: 03/05/2018 08:15:14