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DEPECHE MODE - The Remixes 81-04   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Friday, 22 October 2004

Just can't get enough...?

Try this.By the time you get to the third hour of this, you can’t help but feel exhausted. Sure, Depeche Mode are a criminally underrated jewel-in-the-pop-crown. Terminally uncool, musical visionaries who spotwelded the bleeding edge of Eighties techno-pop with dark, devious pop songs, it’s a fluke that they became famous. And this is what can’t help but feel, ominously, like the final clearing of the decks, the final cash-in, proffering thirty six old 12” remixes in a seemingly haphazard fashion spread across three CD’s.

Despite being possibly the greatest pop act of all time (in so much as they did Pop, and yet, also did Perverse), appear to be slowly drawing their career to a close with yet another Best-Of. They’ve already done the live albums, the singles box sets, the greatest hits (twice), and now they’re on the “Best of The Old 12”s” remix album.

So what is “The Remixes 81-04”, except another untimely cash-in? (A 23rd anniversary is not that much to celebrate – and sometimes it shows). The remixes themselves, by virtue of the fact that they are all taken from vintage 12”s, are determindedly retro : there’s no attempt to recast the band in the light of modern technology or events, and, as such, it all sounds horrendously dated. Like a history lesson.

If you like Depeche Mode though, you’ll love this. No need to buy the old 12”s, they’re almost all here. A reordered, rearranged, reshuffled compilation of old 12”s made by some demanted fan with too much time on his hands : and now it’s on CD!

It’s an exhaustive trawl of truly epic proportions, covering all their hit singles, from their own, old-fashioned extended remixes of “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Shout” through to a DJ Muggs/Cypress Hill revision of “Freelove”, and covering most points inbetween, with a towering sense of near tedious bpm’s. Sequenced out of time, mixes from 1981 shuffle next to ones from twenty years later, and what is surprising is the both how futuristic they used to sound, and how dated they sound now : if it weren’t for the darker lyrics and the dropped-balls maturity of David Gahan, you could barely tell the difference.

By the time you get to the third disc, you get a slew of ‘new’ remixes of old songs. Of the previously unheard stuff, Goldfrapp’s “Halo” shines in particular, whilst “Little 15” (a hazy ambient mist of a track), and Headcleaner’s Nu-Metal reversion of “Nothing” are perhaps the only others really worthy of a second listen. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the only songs that have been newly remixed are from their classic Eighties heyday, but the mixes (and the choices of remixer) are oddly bland and formulaic.

Nonetheless, as the somewhat superfluous Linkin-Park remix of “Enjoy The Silence” draws to a close, there’s no sense of having reached the end of a three-disc epic, it’s just the end of Yet Another Song, and the hollow feeling sinks in. “Remixes 81-04” is just a bunch of remixes, shuffled together and seemingly dropped at random across three CD’s, and lacking entirely in the qualities one would normally associate with a record, such a sense of cohesion and, by it’s end, conclusion.

Individually, the mixes on this set are all generally excellent and often experimental, showing Depeche Mode’s reputation as being sonic pioneers as being more than well-deserved. But as a whole, it’s an uneven collection, especially when you get to the middle of disc two, and a slew of characterless instrumental dub mixes that should have best stayed in the Eighties. The lack of new unheard mixes is also somewhat chastening : there’s little bait for the well-versed Mode fan, and some of the best mixes and the biggest songs in the set are shunted to the ‘limited edition bonus disc’ that will, no doubt, fail to tempt the casual punter.

As a package it’s comprehensive and cheap and tempting (especially when you take into account that an extra 13 mixes are available on MP3 from their website if you buy this), but it’s hardly required listening. Instead, it’s probably the end of the Depeche Mode story, feeling more as a way of tying up the loose ends and collecting together the remnants of their history. Well, until the inevitable “Best Of The Songs That Were Never On Albums + Other B-Sides 81-07” comes out.

If you have their old 12”s you don’t need this. You might enjoy the thought of not getting up every seven and a half minutes to change the song, or the thought of having these mixes finally on CD and not a 12” in your parent’s loft, but overall, “Remixes 81-04” is as exciting as it sounds ; a curio that will never be an essential part of your record collection.

Comments
Felix
Written by Guest on 2004-10-26 14:01:16
:? you don't soud like a dm fan; we fans don't think this is the END!
Written by markreed on 2004-10-26 14:24:32
I am one hell of a fan (have 137 DM cd's, which is a bit sad really)... I just think it's a bit of a haphazard package, and some of the mixes are dreadful, and there's not much reason for it, bar possibly a cash-in. I hope it isn't the end, mind you.

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