Depeche Mode: The Singles 86-98

Depeche Mode
The Singles 86-98

Rating: 7.6

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Simply put, this is an album for a Depeche Mode fan. More to the point, this is an album for two Depeche Mode fans. Aptly titled, The Singles 86-98 is a compilation of 21 singles on two discs from the last 13 years of the Depeche Mode recording career.

The first disc compiles the "old" Depeche Mode covering music from 1986-1990-- that was back before David Gahan became suicidal, when Alan Wilder hadn't yet considered leaving the band (time and again), and there wasn't a huge emphasis on distorted guitars. These are the songs that still fell into that somewhat ambiguous category of "techno-pop," relics left over from the days of John Hughes films and an MTV that actually played music videos. Lord knows why some of these ever wound up on a single, but highlights include "Never Let Me Down Again," "Policy of Truth," and the version of "Behind the Wheel" that doesn't have all the annoying intermixing of "Route 66" in it. Sure, some of the songs were technically recorded in 1990, but nobody'll know the difference when you whip this out at your next '80s party.

Disc number two is when the good ol' DM decided that they were hipster bad-asses. The music became less bubblegum and more groove, less innocent and more leather, less coming- of- age and more "are you experienced?" Perhaps also more raw and less inspired. The sound was reinvented to fit the updated technology, Depeche Mode started making music that was even more dance- oriented than they had been traditionally, and the genius factor that had once littered their albums became a little more scarce. The great DM pushed on, however, and though only two actual "albums" were recorded from 1991-1998, a whole slew of singles made it to the record store shelves. Some of the more recognizable tracks include "Walking In My Shoes," which seemed to be an outlash against critical judgements against the band, or "Barrel of a Gun," which has about the most subtle way of getting permanently stuck in your head as any song I've ever known. Also included is "Little 15," which takes the cake as the worst Depeche Mode song ever written.

Remember that you're buying two discs when you get this. If you're lucky, you're either 16 and have an older sibling that's about 25 and would like that "cheesy" first disc as long as you can keep the insert and the jewel case. Conversely, maybe you're about 29 and think the first disc is great, if only you can find some kid in phat pants to pawn off the crappy second disc on. Either way, you're probably paying a little too much for one half of a two-disc set.

-Skaht Hansen

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